As a revenue operations leader, Q4 is the busiest time of the year. You and your team are doing everything possible to contribute to a strong close in Q4 while running all planning activities for next year. Your planning activities likely also include organizing a big sales kickoff. SBI’s recent research report concludes that the traditional sales kickoff is dead, and the top 16% of sales and operations leaders are now holding an Acceleration Summit. Read on to understand why the traditional sales kickoff is dead and how to ensure your team is on track to delivering a successful Acceleration Summit in January.

It’s that time of year, crunch time for the revenue operations team.  I am sure you have said to yourself that next year planning will begin months earlier.   Either way, we are now less than two months from January 2020.  A mountain of work sits in front of you, including territory assignments, quotas & comp plans for your sales organization plus running a world-class sales kickoff event.  SBI recently published our Q4 research report detailing how market leaders have flipped the script on the traditional sales kickoff event.  Sales and operations leaders that continue to use the traditional SKO format are less likely to make their number.  The top 16% of sales and operations leaders, on the other hand, hold a distinctly different type of event. SBI calls what they are doing an Acceleration Summit.  Refer to our Acceleration Summit Toolkit to help plan your successful event in January.  The toolkit features 8 downloads across the on 3 planning phases: pre-summit, summit agenda focused on value creation, and post-summit momentum building.



Download the Acceleration Summit Toolkit


Traditional SKO’s focused on four key objectives:


  1. Acknowledge top performers from the previous year and boost morale heading into the new year (what role should your CEO play?).
  2. Communicate the companies’ strategic goals and objectives.
  3. Introduce new products/services.
  4. Exposure to new training or selling technique.


These are not wrong objectives and should continue to be worked into your Acceleration Summit, but the summit needs to have a different setup and feel.  Your Acceleration Summit needs to focus on 2-3 big bets for FY20 with clear action plans for everyone in the room to understand what they need to do on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis to help achieve them.


Why Is the Traditional SKO Dead?


  1. Too Expensive with Questionable ROI


Companies are spending $1,982 per rep in hard costs. However, with the value of reps salary and benefits, the cost per rep can cost as much as $5,281. SBI’s recent survey of B2B sales leaders found that the average company spends $674,500 on this event — but adding the “soft” costs of 2.4 days of sales rep time increases the total to $2,436,761.


The easiest way to boost the ROI on an Acceleration Summit is to assign pre-work to make the most of your time together.  The pre-work could include completing win strategies for select accounts, previewing product roadmaps, and reviewing the company and sales strategy.  The goal here is to ensure the first time the sales teams see something isn’t during the summit.  This will result in more meaningful collaboration and alignment discussions.


Another way to boost ROI is increased interaction and engagement during the summit.  Leveraging technology to administer polls and quizzes, gather real-time feedback, and improve collaboration are all ways to ensure the sales team gets the most out of their time at the event.


Lastly, the post Acceleration Summit reinforcement activities are critical to boosting ROI.  Continuing the narrative and themes in all 1:1 coaching interactions, monthly all-hands calls, and training/enablement sessions will ensure everyone stays locked in on the big bets and plays the role they need to to achieve those bets.


  1. Speakers Do Not Connect with Sales Strategy


Traditional speakers at SKO events focus on motivation and information.  Rather than having Marketing and Product leaders “talk at” the sales team, collaborative sessions provide actionable insights back to those leaders so they can tailor their approaches in an agile manner.  Replacing traditional keynotes with experiential learning sessions will ensure the sales team retains the information and is in a better position to leverage it.  These experiential learning sessions can take many forms – a few examples are win/loss reviews, deal clinics, and customer interactions.


  • Win/loss reviews – your revenue enablement team summarizes 2 wins and 1 loss (based on customer interviews) and leverages those deal teams to present the insights. The Enablement team facilitates these sessions so the insights can be leveraged at scale.
  • Deal Clinics – Reps should bring their win strategies for 1-2 active opportunities. Breaking into groups of 5-10 reps, a facilitated session will be led by an A-player rep, but from a different region. Learning from a peer creates a safe environment, and ensuring it’s someone from a different region or team helps provide emotional distance from the opportunity and scales best practices.
  • Customer Interactions – Hearing directly from customers has tremendous value. These sessions must be well designed. They must include promoters, neutrals, and detractors. Market leaders don’t need customers telling them how great they are. They want to hear how they get better. These sessions are best facilitated by someone who is close enough to the field to ask contextual questions on the good, bad, and ugly from the customer experience.


  1. Sales Reps Leave the Event Without Knowing Their Territory, Quota, or Compensation Plan


The sales team needs to know what is expected of them from day 1.  Not clearly defining territories, quota, and comp plans until mid Q1 or later is a huge mistake.  For market leaders, the Acceleration Summit is a vital part of getting everyone on the same page. Sales reps see how they are measured and how their performance impacts the larger organization.


To create this alignment, territories, quotas, and compensation plans should be delivered and reviewed with all sales reps before they leave the event.


Now that you understand why the traditional SKO is dead, you can use our Acceleration Summit Toolkit to help plan your successful event in January.  Remember, a successful Acceleration Summit starts with highlighting 2-3 big bets for next year and defining action plans for everyone in the room to play their role.  Ensure you do not fall into the traditional sales kickoff pitfalls of high expense with low ROI, speakers who do not connect with sales strategy, and reps leaving the event without knowing their territory, quotas, or comp plans.


Download the Acceleration Summit Toolkit


Additional Resources


For a further discussion on this topic, visit my friends and I at SBI’s Studio.


Located in Dallas, TX, our facility offers state-of-the-art meeting rooms, lounge, full-service bar, and a studio used to record our TV shows. SBI provides the location and facilitators to help with all Acceleration Summit planning activities, including purchase intent modeling, coverage planning, territories & quotas, compensation planning, summit agendas, win-loss interviews, KPI dashboards, and strategic alignment.


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Andy Hastings

Leverages expertise in operations, sales and marketing to implement new strategies that help clients make their number

Prior to SBI, Andy spent 8+ years at Constant Contact in a hyper growth SaaS environment. He brings significant expertise in direct sales, channel sales, marketing, operations and project management. Most notably, he delivered results on projects that included sales and marketing strategy, CRM design and implementation and sales productivity / enablement. Known as a problem solver who can quickly diagnose sales and marketing gaps, develop a strategy and lead cross functional teams during implementation resulting in organizations making their number.

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