Blink your eyes, take a breath, and in a moment it will be time for your Q1 Sales Kick Off. Some of you already have a team in place working hard on your event. Good. For the rest of you, we are going to cover in the next 5 minutes some FAQs about how to make sure that your Sales Kick Off produces results without wasting time and resources.
Why do you hold a Sales Kick Off?
The purpose of a Sales Kick off is to unify your entire revenue team around success in the upcoming year. This may by focusing on new messaging, product roadmap, specific skills, or encouraging internal networking between globally dispersed teams. Your teams should walk out of Sales Kick off feeling energized and confident about the direction of the company this year, knowing what is new this year, and able to use new skills to close business.
When should we hold Sales Kick Off?
Your Sales Kick off should be as close to the beginning of your fiscal year as possible. If your fiscal year begins in January, that means your Sales Kick Off should be as early in January as possible.
How many days should we have Sales Kick Off
There has been a trend towards longer Sales Kick Offs as of late, which I think is a mistake. Remember that every day that you have your reps in a conference room, they are not closing business. An ideal Sales Kick Off has managers attending a Manager Kick Off one day in advance of Sales Kick Off, followed by two to three days of sales kick off. Ideally Sales Kick Off should end on a Friday, since people will largely be too tired to work the day after Sales Kick Off.
When should we start planning Sales Kick Off?
One of the big mistakes I see is not giving enough time to plan a good sales kick off. If you have a simple kick off with under 50 people attending, give yourself around a month to plan. If you have closer to 100 people attending, give your team closer to two. If you have more than 100 people attending, give your team closer to three months to pull this event together.
Who is in charge of Sales Kick Off?
While many people will be involved in Sales Kick Off, it’s essential that there is a single person who is ultimately responsible for the success of the event, and that person is most likely not you. Ideally, Sales Enablement should own Sales Kick Off, with Sales Ops, Product Marketing, or an Event Manager being other options.
What is your role, as an executive?
Just because you will have someone owning Sales Kick Off doesn’t mean that you get to kick back and relax until the day of the event. Your role is to develop the vision for the event. Don’t hold a Sales Kick Off just because everyone else is doing it. You should have a specific objective that you are trying to drive with this event, whether it’s something broad like unifying sales and marketing around the buyer journey, or something specific having your team walk out of Sales Kick Off prepared to use a new sales process. Once you give your project lead the vision and the objective, much of their job will be around stripping out anything that does not drive that vision forward.
How much budget should be set aside?
When you are planning your Sales Kick Off, the first thing you should plan is the budget. Before objective, before agenda, before theme, there has to be an agreed understanding on the estimated budget for the event as well as the firm budget per person. Why per person? Because people get added to this event last minute, due to hires or an executive decision, and your project lead will need to show that the budget per person was held to.
There is no budget that is right or wrong. I’ve worked within budgets that are huge, and budgets that are tiny. You can get to your results either way. The important thing is knowing what the budget is, and sticking to it…. Which means that if you get an awesome idea to add something expensive a week before sales kick off, just know that you are giving your project lead heart palpitations :)
Who should come?
This is a big decision to make, as it impacts budget, the agenda, and the theme. If you only have quota carrying sales attend, the overall budget can be smaller, the theme is easier to figure out, and you can have a single track agenda. If you have multiple groups attend, from pre to post sales, it’s important to have an inclusive agenda and tracks that are a good use of time for everyone who is attending.
My personal preference is to have everyone who touches the customer attend, in addition to the recruiters for those orgs.
How often should we have Sales Kick Off
There is another trend to do semi-annual and quarterly Sales Kick Offs, which concerns me. Done well, Sales Kick Off is expensive in terms of both cost and resources. My strong suggestion is to do one annual sales kick off, and then do other, smaller, leaner, team focused events throughout the year.
Coming up next: Stop Kidnapping your Sales Reps, or the Dos and Don’ts of Sales Kick Offs.
Breathing and Wiggling and Sales
A big call is coming up. You tell your boss that you are looking forward to moving the deal forward, but your stomach is in a knot and your hands are slick with sweat.
You do your prep before the call, but your mind is all over the place.
You finally jump on the call and you get started. A nervous laugh slips out in the beginning. Your mind goes blank a couple of times. You notice that a couple of times that you were able to focus on your question, but not on your prospect’s answer.
You jump off the call, and you can’t remember everything that happened, but you tell your boss that overall the call went well and you expect the deal to sign in a month.
On the next call you go on, you find yourself checking websites - initially their website and LinkedIn, but then a social site, a sports site, or the news (seriously, another natural disaster?). You hear at least half of what the prospect is saying, which you think should be enough. I mean, all clients sound the same, right? You look at the calendar and realize that you are halfway through the month, and only 15% to quota. Your heart rate races with the stress of it all.
Does this sound familiar? If you are a seasoned pro, you hopefully have already learned how to stay present during meetings, but as a newer sales rep you might find that you have a hard time staying calm, focused and present.
If you are a new sales rep, know that being nervous before a big call is fairly normal. Losing your attention is a terrible habit, and too common. Both will make you significantly less likely to hit your numbers and your goals. The good news is that breathing, wiggling, and finding focus before your calls will help you become present again.
How to breath and wiggle your way into your next sales call
OK my selling friends. Get out there, take a breath and a wiggle, and then make your best calls. Do you have other practices for calming your mind, and staying present during yours calls? Please share in the comments. If you have coworkers who you think will benefit from this advice, please share.
Why you need to decrease sales staff churn
As someone who has been in sales enablement for a long time, I spend most of my time looking for problems around the bend. One problem that I worry about is the increasing amount of sales staff churn, and how much that is costing us.
Sales staff churn is often considered a necessary evil. Some leaders even take a bit of pride in their sales staff churn, mistakenly believing that it shows how elite their team is. While you never want to hold onto low performing sales reps, the question is why are you hiring the wrong candidates in the first place, and how much is that costing your company?
Opportunities lost, and dollars walking out the door
I suspect that one of the reasons why sales staff churn has not been taken seriously enough is that cost almost seems cartoonishly high. You’ll find plenty of articles that claim millions of dollars are lost due to sales staff churn every year, but your company isn’t losing millions, is it?
When looking at the cost of churn, it’s important to take everything into consideration. There is the cost of recruiting. There is the cost of interviewing, with your sales managers and top performers taking hours away from their job to interview dozens of candidates per role. There is the cost of training the new hires. The largest cost, however, is in the cost of lost opportunity. Every sales rep that gets hired has a number attached to them. Whether they are a good rep who is ramping, or a mismatched rep who will never hit quota, deals are simply not being closed while your new hire gets up to speed on your product, solution, tools, and culture. For a SDR (sales development rep), that might be 3 months missing full efficiency. For an Enterprise Account Executive, that cost might be closer to 9-12 months.
Three things that you can do today
Your churn rate doesn’t have to be as high as it is today. Here are three things that you can do today to start reducing churn, decrease ramp time, and increase your profits.
Make Optimizing Your Investment a Priority
The first step is understanding the unique and real cost of your sales staff churn. Hearing stats means nothing if it’s not connected to your company. Determine your real cost, per job type, to hire and ramp new sales staff. This number should include everything from recruiting cost, training costs, hours spent interviewing, and the unsold quota attached to the ramping rep. Determine how long each new hire will have to stay in order for your investment to pay off and then track these numbers on a quarterly basis. By consistently reporting out on the numbers, and paying attention to how many reps are getting hired and fired before the investment in them pays off, you will be able to determine the how high of a priority it needs to be for you to decrease sales staff churn.
There is no single group or person can that can decrease your sales staff churn. This isn’t a problem that sales enablement, sales leadership, or HR can solve. The only way that you will actually decrease your sales staff churn is through thoughtful and consistent collaboration.
So, who should be involved in understanding the problem and putting a solution in place? Every company is different, but I recommend that the following groups be involved with this project: Sales Leadership (including front line managers), Sales Enablement, Sales Ops, HR, Recruiting, and Sales AEs. With at least one member from each group represented, you will very quickly be able to get to the bottom of the causes of and solutions for reducing sales staff churn.
There are so many reasons why sales staff churn might be too high. Your recruiters might be painting an unrealistic picture of the job. Your hiring profile might be wrong. Your sales managers might not know how to interview well. Your training might be not tied to reality. Your sales culture might be poor or even toxic. This group will be able to find the weak links that are allowing either the wrong reps to be hired, or allowing great reps to walk out the door.
Track your results
Now that you know your cost, and you have a team in place, the next key thing to do is to track from recruitment to fully ramped employee, and potentially even through the exit interview. For every hire, make sure that you have a record of where they were recruited from, the results of the hiring matrix, the feedback from their onboarding, the data on their ramp time, and the feedback from their hiring manager. While all of these things are often tracked already, they are very rarely tied together which means that we miss out in understanding where things are breaking.
Hopefully this was a helpful first step in helping you understand how and why to decrease your sales staff churn. Next week we will dive in deeper to understanding how to tie your onboarding program to your hiring profile to make sure that you are setting your new sales staff and your company up for success.
In the meantime, what has your company done to decrease sales staff churn? What's worked for you, and where are you still struggling? Do you think we need to focus more on hiring and keeping the right salespeople? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
Putting Sales Enablement in a box: Why it’s time to stop defining Sales Enablement.
Raise your hand if you’ve read a definition of Sales Enablement recently. If you follow Sales Enablement closely, you probably have seen the race for the perfect definition of Sales Enablement.
It’s time to stop defining Sales Enablement, and time to start focusing on actually taking Sales Enablement to the next level.
Why we keep defining Sales Enablement
Ok, there is of course a good reason why we keep trying to define Sales Enablement. Product Marketing, sales leaders, sales trainers, hr… ok, at the end of the day, everyone within the company enables sales in one way or another, so it even the title “Sales Enablement” is confusing. Sales Enablement as a field is new(ish), and it’s unusually broad. Most of the push to define Sales Enablement has been to help the C-suite and hiring managers to figure out how to utilize it efficiently. I salute the groups who are trying to bring order to chaos.
Why we need to stop defining Sales Enablement
Sales Enablement evolved because B2B selling became more difficult. As we moved from on-prem solutions to SaaS, we suddenly had rapidly changing products and solutions to sell. Release cycles increased, as did the need to inform the field force on what made their product or solution different from others. As customers became more sophisticated in their research, our sellers needed to be armed with something greater than features and benefits. As collaboration became more of a corporate norm, sellers needed to learn how to sell to a group vs. a single decision maker. As marketing and sales tools erupted, we suddenly needed to figure out how to utilized utilize those tools more effectively. As millennials flooded the workforce, we needed to learn how to support a workforce that had different expectations and needs than previous generations. Sales became more complex, and Sales Enablement rose up to make sales more predictable, scalable, and useful.
Grey Area Sales Enablement
So what does Sales Enablement do? Sales Enablement should remove the road bumps to sale’s success. What kind of road bumps slow down sales success? Your salespeople might be talking to the wrong people, or you might be hiring the wrong people. Your sales reps might be ramping too slowly, or they could be stalling out before the close. There are multiple reasons why revenue is being impacted. Putting sales enablement into a box of being focused on a set group of problems sets them up for a fight when they notice new problems arising. The best sales enablement professionals are nimble professionals with a sharp understanding of sales and marketing, hr and product fit. More than that, great sales enablement professionals can pivot into new areas as needed.
Stop Defining Sales Enablement.
Here’s the biggest problem with defining Sales Enablement. The definition doesn’t take into account how sales, or the customer, will continue to change over the years. Definitions of Sales Enablement that focus on content, skills or messaging only are addressing the very real state of sales today, but not taking into account what may be the biggest problems in the coming years.
The customer, and thus sales, will continue to evolve. The problems we face will continue to change. Let’s make sure that Sales Enablement stays nimble, and not boxed in.
Coming next… decreasing the the cost of high turn over in sales.