Traditionally, a commercial kickoff is a milestone event — part of a company’s DNA, and the place to reignite and recharge the field by celebrating accomplishments, driving excitement among sales reps, and building alignment around the organization’s future.
It provides an excellent opportunity for organizations to advance their objectives and strategic imperatives. Unfortunately, through our experience, these events often miss the mark in expectations from leadership, the field, and overall return on investment. We find that critical elements to plan and execute a commercial kickoff successfully are overlooked at some point during the process, creating friction among those responsible for planning and managing the event.
These three critical elements are: (1) ensuring alignment across relevant, diverse stakeholder groups, (2) maintaining a focus on the target audience, and (3) recognizing the impact of changes on event design. Attending to these elements ensures a balance between executing a memorable event, making the event relevant to the target audience, and driving business outcomes for the future.
Designing, developing, and executing a sales event: does this happen to you?
Typically, a commercial kickoff starts when a sales leader sees a need to celebrate accomplishments, drive excitement among sellers, and build alignment around the organization’s future. A committee is quickly assembled with representation from stakeholder groups such as marketing, sales enablement, and operations; they then develop a budget and announce the commercial kickoff, and everyone involved in planning quickly shifts into execution mode.
The committee comes up with a plan and assigns responsibilities. Committee members then go off on their own along with their respective teams, conducting periodic check-ins as a full committee to gauge progress. It quickly becomes apparent that groups are working in siloes with different priorities. For example, one group focuses on event program management, including venue choice or platform identification, event objectives, agenda, speakers, and communications. Other members of the commercial kickoff team are focused on content development.
Inevitably, something always happens that leads to minor and, in some cases, significant changes to the event. For example, sales leaders who are sponsoring the event are not always involved until a few weeks before, when they begin to realize that minor changes are necessary. However, there are other instances when organizations need to make drastic changes to their commercial kickoff plans. Whether adjusting for minor or significant changes, these changes lead to re-work, stress, and late nights for the people putting the event together – all major contributors to friction between team members and others in the organization. More alarming, these challenges can ultimately impact the ability to achieve the desired outcomes from a commercial kickoff.
There are three common mistakes organizations and planning committees make that lead to unnecessary friction when launching a commercial kickoff. By avoiding these mistakes, you will experience better planning, coordination, and alignment between sales leaders, marketing, event planning, sales enablement, and operations, which will help you achieve the desired business outcomes for your commercial kickoff.