Everyone used to assume that most people were primarily motivated by money. If that were true, they wouldn’t be leaving high-paying jobs in the wake of a global pandemic. Yet millions of U.S. workers left their jobs every month in 2021, and you can bet your bottom dollar plenty of them were professional sellers.
What’s causing talented sales representatives to leave? For many, it’s a nagging feeling of personal uneasiness. Generation Zers and Millennials have historically been perceived as being driven by a strong purpose. After almost two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more Generation Xers and Boomers are following suit. They’re re-evaluating their sense of purpose in terms of family, their place in society and their careers – likely in that order.
If you’re alarmed, you’re not alone. Your organization needs to acknowledge this new reality and find a way to activate each seller’s sense of purpose. More than ever, organizations need committed sales representatives; employers must seize every opportunity to align a seller’s talents, interests and passions with the strategic imperatives of the organization. That’s why your next sales kickoff (or SKO) and how you design that experience are so crucial.
Sales Kickoffs That Solidify Alliances and Alignment
Traditionally, SKOs have been used in a variety of ways (think celebrating the previous year’s wins or educating sellers on new products or go-to-market approaches). Your post-pandemic SKO should be more thoughtful to ultimately bring alignment to your team. Making alignment a major focus of your SKO can fuel a sales culture that values individual empowerment, rewards enthusiasm, and welcomes deep conversations.
Don’t be surprised if you get a little pushback. It’s tempting to design your next SKOs to reflect pre-pandemic standards. But that’s not what your team deserves.
Your sellers need to understand how what they do makes a difference for your customers, society, and their individual goals and objectives. They need to see themselves as an important part of the whole. Plus, they need to understand the expectations placed upon them. When they have this information, a sense of purpose fosters the necessary resilience to effectively navigate challenges back in the real world.
Designing an SKO That Promotes High Performance
What design principles should be considered to create a purpose-driven event?
Ownership is a mindset that drives accountability and creates opportunities for sellers to consider concepts that excite them. To have a sense of ownership requires a seller to author the way forward, which leads to empowerment. Reflection goes hand in hand with ownership. It offers a space where participants can make sense of their experiences and see how those experiences connect to larger purposes.
Intentionality holds salespeople accountable. When you show your team members the practical, meaningful, and measurable steps they can take to achieve success post-SKO, you foster clarity. Your employees understand their place in your company’s future and see a purpose in every action they take.
How do you bake purpose, ownership, reflection, and intentionality into all facets of the SKO? Mix it up. Whether you’re hosting an SKO online, in person, or one that’s a mixture of the two, vary your sessions. Some might be purely celebratory, whereas others might involve activities regarding purpose (such as “finding my purpose” and “aligning my skills to an audacious purpose”). Still, some might involve hands-on workshops to solve problems or explore new approaches.
Feel free to do traditional things such as bringing internal and external subject matter experts into your SKOs, too. The right SME can provide fresh perspectives, but make sure the presentation still supports your overall SKO themes and purpose. Customers can be SMEs, too. Hosting a panel discussion with long-term loyal customers can give everyone a rare opportunity to connect with buyers directly — and possibly forge even stronger bonds.
Of course, team-building experiences can also be part of a successful SKO. Just be certain those sessions have meaning and contribute to your goal of creating a purpose-centric SKO instead of “forcing fun.” After all, the goal is to help your sales reps feel more engaged.
Once the SKO is completed, there’s still plenty to do to motivate and engage your sellers. You can keep helping your sellers feel connected to their purpose and roles by taking the following few steps:
Follow a post-SKO road map complete with new, repeatable workflows. To align what happened at your SKO with expectations for the coming year, map out your strategy. Your road map should include specific goal posts and milestones that make sense to sellers based on what they authored or co-created in the SKO. Its content should also be reflected in your CRM. The more tailored and connected your road map is to your SKO content, the easier it will be to continue the sense of alignment among team members.
Keep in touch with your team. Communication is key – you already know that. In addition to scheduling regular peer workshops, coaching sessions, and one-on-ones with your team members, plan for mini-SKO events quarterly. These events should tie together your yearly SKO messaging and the road map you created.
Accept that alignment happens in baby steps. You can’t expect to launch your SKO and see immediate results. People don’t change that fast, and especially sellers who have been successful over time. For example, most sellers love to problem solve and build trusting relationships. Yet the past year might have affected your biggest extroverts psychologically by removing face-to-face interactions. Sitting alone in front of a computer might have tempered their sense of belonging. Help them take structured risks and make progress toward regaining mastery in a changing environment. Above all, be patient.
The past 18 months have caused some sellers to reevaluate their careers. Help your representatives understand their purpose and alignment with your company with a robust SKO and intentional follow-up. A little reassurance, shepherding and refocusing is what everyone needs right now.