Why Your Sales Kickoff Meetings Are A Waste Of Time And Money

U.S. companies spend $20 billion a year on sales training and yet, according to ES Research Group, 90% of these initiatives have no lasting impact after 120 days.

In the old times of printed sales materials and limited team collaboration and interaction, sales kickoffs certainly played a valuable role to organizations. However, in today’s digital and mobile world, where sales reps have more and varying content to sift through and utilize but less and less time with prospects, it’s unrealistic (and quite frankly impossible) for kickoffs to make a lasting impact. When you consider how many organizations dedicate significant time–often up to a week–and money for sales kickoff meetings annually, are organizations really generating the value and sales performance improvements they need from this investment?

We’d argue the answer is no, and when you consider the following, you’ll see that now is the time for CMOs to challenge this seemingly age-old tradition:

We forget: On average, people forget 70% of what is taught within 24 hours of the training experience, and they forget 90% within one week. While it’s understandable that organizations cram as much learning as possible into these kickoffs, the reality is our brains are not built to take in this much information and retain it for long periods of time. The result is a drained sales team that walks away recalling little.

The complexion of the workforce is changing: By 2025, Millennials are expected to make up 75% of the workforce. These younger workers thrive when they have the ability to decide how and when they will consume content and acquire knowledge, a contrary approach to traditional training. Rejecting instructor-led classroom trainings, Millennials prefer to collaborate with fellow employees and acquire knowledge in small, digestible chunks in the moment of need.

On-demand content is preferred: Millennials increasingly are demanding technology that matches their skill sets. Smartphones and tablets are the computing devices of choice for this generation, who grew up with touch screens, broadband, and limitless on-demand content. Known as the Google and YouTube generation, they learn in the moment of need by watching video instead of formal classroom training or text-based instruction. This more productive style requires organizations to deliver content and knowledge to the workforce in the time, place, and manner needed without the burdens, costs, and processes of legacy technologies.

Salespeople don’t want binders filled with content: Sales teams today are more mobile than ever before and increasingly rely on varying types of content, far beyond the traditional binder. Reps find that they retain information better when it’s presented as a video. Social media is the new platform, and mobile is the new portal, with salespeople daily accessing information on their smartphones.

While it might seem more efficient to book training sessions in long blocks, studies show that people prefer learning in shorter bursts. By replacing the training-heavy kickoffs with training that fits into sales reps’ schedules and can be viewed wherever they are, a sales rep’s down time becomes an opportunity to consume training content–whether it’s during a train commute, at the airport, or waiting for a child’s soccer game to start. The key is breaking up the content into digestible bites to account for today’s microscopic attention spans and busy schedules.

Ensuring that training content is quick and easy to find (and consume) also increases the likelihood that reps will complete training and go back and review a course to refresh their knowledge when needed. This fosters a culture of self-learning.

A few key tips to keep in mind:

Make the content relevant to what a rep is experiencing at any given moment: While there will be some generic training that has to be delivered across the board, add prompts to help reps make the connection to their real-life experiences in the field.  

Make sure content is specific and actionable: If a rep is working with a prospect in the healthcare industry for the first time, suggest that the rep watch a video on “how to sell to healthcare professionals.”

Think of learning as a journey, not a checked box: Given the experience and the courses already taken, what skills should the rep acquire next?

This approach, which recognizes training as a continuous effort, not as an event, will also help improve sales productivity by providing ongoing support versus a one-and-done mentality. That said, rather than eliminating kickoffs altogether, look for ways to use the time to focus on team-building and motivation. You’ll reap the benefits from the enhanced communication and increased interaction amongst the team without burning them out on back-to-back trainings.

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