I was wrong – and here we are – navigating the first months of 2021 in a similar fashion as we did for most of 2020. And while there are signs of light at the end of the tunnel – a world of in-face meetings and in person team building activities still feels light years away. Which led us to our internal dilemmas around planning a productive and inspiring sales kick-off. How would we celebrate last year’s accomplishments and tremendous effort from our team and get everyone fired up for the new year. How would we power the win?
As our CEO, sales leadership and I started talking about how we might orchestrate a successful event, we honed in on 3 key strategies:
- Break it up
- Bring the inspiration
- Be personal
Break it up
One of the strategies that we aligned on was setting just a few hours every day, versus death by zoom or other longer blocks. This allowed us to achieve two things – first, we were able to support most of our global workforce and second, we were able to give teams time to do their regular work. The feedback from the team was that this was greatly appreciated – sure, some folks had to get up a little early or stay online a little later than normal, but for the most part the team felt this was actually better than flying to a meeting and sitting in a conference room for hours on end – for the content, at least.
Bring the inspiration
Or as I now like to say, “Bring the Bronwyn”. I am very lucky that when I moved to San Jose 7 years ago, I lived on the same street as Bronwyn Saglimbeni, an outstanding presentation coach who has built her reputation on guiding people to their most authentic selves. I had been wanting to bring her into RetailNext for a few years, but training priorities that focused directly on selling skills always won out. It was definitely a big departure for us to have a training singularly focused on presence and presentation. While we chose this topic this year because of our collective feeling that digital meetings are wearing us all out, we will likely repeat it in the future because of the long lasting impact. More than a month after SKO the team still references it on Slack and in 1-1 conversations. P.S. if you don’t follow Bronwyn and her podcast, you certainly should.
Yes, this is hard when you are working with a team that is physically separated and only engaged through digital tools. But we made it work. The two tools we used to keep the meetings personal were leveraging time with smaller, more focused groups and the meeting chat function. Before the SKO our leadership team spoke to several other companies to survey what had worked the best for other SKOs and oddly enough, engagement in chat was a big hit. We took the advice, and it really did work. Having our CEO and other leaders engage with the team during the sessions kept everyone engaged and contributing – probably more than in real life. The other tool we leveraged was smaller breakout sessions. We set aside small chunks of time for smaller groups to connect with leadership in a more intimate setting (albeit still on a screen), with a very light agenda. This proved to be a great way to get feedback and reinforce the key themes of the meeting.
In the end, the feedback from our team was pretty incredible. Everyone felt celebrated and invested in, the time was productive as we worked on planning for the new year and some of the inspiration has carried through and lasted weeks after we finished the event. Coming out of SKO and the momentum we were able to harness there, we now have a record pipeline and are on pace for an outstanding Q1 – setting the stage for a winning year. And after 2020, wouldn’t that be amazing!