The changing role of “sales” kickoffs & why marketing should drive
It’s “Sales Kickoff” season. The time of year company “keggers” are thrown for every sales org to celebrate (or drown their sorrows about) the past year, hand out self-congratulations, share plans for the new year and, of course, party like college coeds.
I had the pleasure of hosting Integrate’s 2018 “Revenue Meet-Up” and just returned from participating in Marketo’s RKOM (“Revenue Kickoff Meeting”) as a partner. And while many kickoffs are simply company rallies, I’m convinced that, done well, these gatherings have a direct impact on business outcomes.
With the kind of time and money being invested, kickoffs can no longer simply be events to fire up sales reps or just a reason to get the team together. “Sales” no longer refers solely to the roles and responsibilities of bag-carrying sales pros.
More people touch the customer, have revenue quotas and determine the fate of the business today than ever before. Customer experience and all forms of revenue are the focus of the business. The modern kickoff needs to better reflect this reality and new mission.
The sales org should no longer be the only driver of the kickoff and all that comes with it. A cross-functional, interdepartmental team is required to define goals and outcomes, develop the theme, set the agenda and lead the experience.
And, marketing must move beyond simply coordinating events and handing out swag; it must take a proactive, leadership role that reflects marketing’s customer and revenue mission.
Here are some thoughts on how marketing can drive and collaborate with their colleagues to create a more impactful kickoff that sets course for a successful year.
1. Co-create to build company momentum and confidence
In the modern, customer-driven world, the CMO needs to rally their executive peers and proactively lay out the kickoff goals, mission and agenda based on revenue and company go-to-market targets. This is an unprecedented time to get the best marketing assets you have – your employees – behind the go-to-market plan.
Kickoffs shouldn’t be internal and about your company, but what the market requires or the team needs to aspire to. For example, the Marketo team this year announced a new concept around how they’re committing to enabling their customers to be “fearless.” In my opinion, it’s the perfect tone to set for what will be required by both Marketo’s customers (B2B marketers) and their team to succeed in a dynamic market.
If your meeting is in January, you should start planning in August with the company strategy and budgeting process. Co-creating the sessions with sales leadership and the customer success team is an excellent way to start.
It gets the core revenue-driving groups on the same page for planning and prep for the year ahead. This leadership group can then pull in ops, product and others as needed to assure an impactful kickoff.
2. Rollout new strategies, company and transformational moves
Revenue kickoffs are the ideal time to (re-)set the mission and introduce the charter for the year(s) ahead. If you’re going after a new market, new geos, pivoting or rolling out a new brand or expanded market position, do it here.
You’ve got a unique opportunity to communicate on a big stage and several methods to communicate and involve people and teams in discussion from all different angles.
3. Don’t overload sessions with product features
Rarely, do we B2B teams get the opportunity to come together with such purpose and focus. Significant moves can be brought to life on stage, in breakouts and during 1:1 sessions. These aren’t the ideal venues to announce a bunch of new product features.
With so much going on, the detail and importance will get lost. This can be handled by having sales, customer success and marketing pros sit down with product and development in smaller breakout sessions or save these announcements post-kickoff in another venue.
4. Bring customers and partners to keep it real
One of the best things you can do to make your kickoff real is to infuse customers, prospects and partners. Share their stories, bring their world to life and let their voice be heard by all. The sooner you make it about them and not just about the company, the better the points will be received and acted on by your team.
At our company, we always have customers (often customer teams) on the main stage to share what they’re working on, their challenges and how they’re working with us and other providers.
Partners – channel, technology and alliances – are often your best market representatives and revenue drivers. Get them participating, learning and contributing. If your business is largely driven by partners and you have a separate partner gathering/conference, still showcase their work, how you’re working together and new strategies and tactics to make this stronger in the year ahead.
5. Sit down with sales, customer success & partners
For marketers, revenue kickoff is a gold mine. Your sales and customer success colleagues, partners and customers are all together over a few days.
Capitalize on this by setting aside time with key sales leaders to get input, run your ideas by them and/or share what’s rolling out in the coming months to get buy-in.
We use the opportunity at our kickoff to sit down with the customers who attend, first and foremost, to thank them for their business. We then use this an opportunity to get their feedback on our strategy, capture their story on video and/or to develop a case study.
6. Once a year is not enough
Revenue kickoff takes significant energy, time and resources. But done right – focused on customer themes, joint company revenue and go-to-market targets – the ROI is huge. And when the kickoff is wrapped, we’re reminded we need to do it all again, soon.
Gathering once a year is not enough. Organizing regional sessions or taking advantage of quarterly business/revenue review gatherings is a must to keep the momentum you built at kickoff going all year until the new year dawns and we get to do it all again!