Why Invest Time and Effort in Q4 Planning for Sales Kickoff?
It is Q4, and for most people in sales that means an all-out effort to hit year-end targets and post a strong close the fiscal year. At the same time, we find ourselves pulled into planning for the new year, and that often includes a Sales Kickoff (SKO) for the Sales and Go-to-Market (GTM) teams.
Throughout the years, I have participated in my share of SKO’s and have viewed it from all angles. I started as a participant on the sales team, then cut my teeth as a member of the SKO production team, and ultimately moved into leading the execution of GTM Kickoff events. I am often asked how to justify the time and investment spent on the event, especially in the Q4 planning phase, and how to make the effort most impactful.
Why is SKO important?
SKO is typically the biggest investment the organization will make on the internal team all year. When done well, SKO can have a huge multiplier effect on the long and short-term productivity of the Sales and Sales and GTM teams, as well as significant boosts to employee retention, team building, and job satisfaction.
It has become common practice to include the entire GTM team in SKO. By expanding beyond Sales to include Marketing, Success, and Support at the event, a more comprehensive approach can be used and the important aspects of culture and cross-functional team building can be leveraged. SKO brings remote teams together to build skills and even if you do not have remote teams, getting out of the routine of working in the office sets the stage for deeper collaboration and team building. Let’s not forget the opportunity to recognize hard work and celebrate wins!
SKO should be viewed as an experience within the broader context of the annual objectives and is a unique opportunity to:
Create energy to start the year off on a high note
Advance your sales enablement agenda with executive sponsorship to underscore the importance of the messages delivered
Level set the GTM organization
Roll out new corporate initiatives
How can I ensure SKO success?
Define your focus:
One of the first SKO planning questions should be, “What do we want to accomplish through enabling the GTM organization this coming year?” The answer to this question should support all the points listed above and form the basis for your identified outcomes and agenda. By doing this, you set a focal point for all your enablement efforts and ensure alignment with your broader initiatives in the new fiscal year.
To fully reap the benefits of a great SKO, you must prioritize proper planning during Q4, the busiest time of the year. Without proper planning, you will not be able to deliver a memorable, impactful, world-class SKO for the GTM teams. Alignment, preparation, and session building work cannot be done without the support and input of the extended team and subject matter experts. Key stakeholders, especially your frontline managers, need to understand that you will need their partnership and they must be willing to prioritize their time so they can assist in the planning phases before the event.
To be clear, the enablement team and the sales management team will have different immediate priorities during Q4. The quota carrying team will be focused on closing the fiscal year, but they also want their SKO to happen first thing in the new year. Given this context, the enablement challenge becomes one of creating a project management plan that accounts for the revenue generating needs of the business while also making steady and consistent progress towards building an impactful SKO event. This will mean starting early in the quarter, being strategic about how and when to engage stakeholders, and setting clear expectations around the commitments required to create a successful event for their teams.
Is it worth it?
It amazes me how often sales reps and GTM teams refer back to SKO learnings and experiences long after the event has wrapped up. It is clear to me that, despite the long hours, juggling of priorities, extensive coordination, and financial costs, SKO is one of the most important initiatives for Sales Enablement and Sales leadership each year. There is a lot riding on it and a lot to gain from the event, so investing time in the planning and execution of SKO is critical. Doing so ensures you will have a memorable and impactful event to start off the fiscal year and that you will see the ripple effect of the learning and celebrations for a long time to come.
If you find yourself with additional questions or need guidance specific to your company’s SKO, we can help. Join us for SaaSy Sales Kickoffs led by two SKO execution veterans, Misha McPherson and our very own Roz Greenfield in San Francisco on Tuesday, October 23. During this interactive workshop, you will learn the best practices for planning and running your event and will walk out the door with the foundation of your event created. Registration can be found here.
Happy SKO planning!