Sales Kickoff and Recognition

I attended a sales leadership kickoff for the company I work for Gartner who just recently broke into the S&P 500 in 2017 following the acquisition of a large competitor. If you’ve never attended a sales kickoff or been in sales there are a couple of key components. First, in sales, there is often high stress, lots of rejection, and ever moving performance targets. Thus there is often a lot of burnout and a high percentage of turnover within sales that is higher than in other parts of the organization. The tone of a sales kickoff is really important in order to drive high energy and excitement for the sales organization to get to work and crush their quotas. 

A few key components are recognition & recapping top performers. This piece serves the function of highlighting greatness, exciting your top performers, and getting everyone else in the room a target to shoot for. Another key piece is to instill the strategy for success. What is the best of the best doing to be successful and how can I apply that to my sales process. This should highlight strategies and tactics on how to successfully execute and crush your sales targets. The next crucial piece is to provide a vision for the future. What does this year look like whether you were a top performer the year before or a bottom performer? What makes this year special and different.


The tone throughout the event should be upbeat positive and motivating. You have to keep the event fun and cultivating a positive energy in order to maximize a large event for sales folks. This is likely one of the key pieces because every salesperson wants to know they are a part of a culture that drives for success and continuous improvement. One of the ways in which Gartner did this was through a series of events in the evening that included nice dinners with your smaller team, a private indoor go-carting event for new sales leaders, and to top it all off renting a portion of universal studios at night just for our sales associates. The park night included free food, drinks, and karaoke for all to enjoy.

To wrap up the entire event the last day focused on actionable insight to leverage when we go back to our teams. This included specific coaching frameworks for us to implement with our team and highlighted how to implement the priorities of senior sales leadership. Ultimately it wrapped up with wider recognition and the reveal for the 2018 incentives to motivate everyone for the upcoming year.

In 2012 I attended Isagenix‘s sales kickoff/recognition called Celebration. It was put on in a similar fashion at a conference center highlighting top achievers and focused on being upbeat and motivating. The difference between Gartner and Isagenix is the business model and company structure. Gartner being an S&P 500 company that sells B2B (Business to business) versus Isagenix a network marketing company that sells C2C (consumer to consumer) affects the way they run their compensation structure, recognition, and kickoffs. Gartner requires all of its sales leadership to attend and covers their expenses to attend the event as it is very important to the company to be a unified team. Isagenix is more self-starting and dependent on the individual sales associate who is also a consumer of the products. Isagenix, therefore, does not pay for you to attend and its event is less structured and rigid due to the more Darwinian nature of network marketing.

Overall I find sales kickoff and recognition events a fun place to people watch and feel the energy of the event. The atmosphere and rhetoric at the event are quite telling of how the organization is run and the way in which it operates. Additionally, as someone who enjoys large events and meeting new people, it is a great place to learn from others and ultimately come away motivated.

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