Motivating your sales team when the kick-off goes virtual

Garrett Bess - President - Two River Pictures By Garrett Bess, President and CEO

Sales kick-offs have always offered organizations a once-a-year opportunity to rally the geographically dispersed troops, unveil new products and plans, and set the tone for sales success. When the pandemic hit last March, all that changed. Dramatically.

After a year of creating effective virtual get-togethers for companies around the globe, we’ve uncovered some key insights that may change the way we approach sales kick-offs once it’s safe to travel and gather in large groups.

Create engaging experiences, but keep it simple

Virtual and live events are fundamentally different, and you have to design them differently. That means finding ways to engage your team. You also need to ensure they’re part of what you’re creating – not just passively observing. Coming from the world of broadcast production, I know what it takes to create a compelling experience. And keeping it simple is rule #1.

When one technology company tried to recreate their live sales kick-off for the virtual world last year, they ended up with an overly complex event that had too much content. This year, they’re streamlining. Instead of consuming everyone’s day in front of a computer, they plan to weave in bonus content that’s more motivational. And the days revolve around a shorter program–but with more rigor.

You can still apply the best of live events to your virtual sales kick-off. Just be sure you don’t overcomplicate the experience.

Don’t lose the humanity—or the immediacy

Your teams look forward to sales kick-offs as a way to come together in a physical space and be human with each other. It’s all about camaraderie and team building. And when your sales force is spread out around the globe, coming together in person is especially exciting. It’s a big deal. Understanding this motivation—the desire to gather for a common purpose—is key to making virtual sales kick-offs work.

Take a human-first approach. The best virtual platforms can facilitate intimate immersion into an augmented reality environment. They allow people to present and dialog with each other in a way that creates a natural experience. Think coffee round tables. This approach replicates the human elements of a live event much more effectively than a Zoom call, where participants are just a bunch of boxes.

Don’t forget to give attendees opportunities to socialize—it’s part of being human—but take into consideration that it’s not natural for people to sit in front of a computer all day. Finding the right mix is key.

Get physical (where you can)

Motivating your team virtually is a bit more challenging than doing it in person. Bringing in some physical elements can help.

Pre- and post-conference communications with your team offer great opportunities to engage your team in a more tangible, physical way. Sending welcome packages before the event, with things like swag, gift cards for lunch delivery, and other fun items can go a long way to make the conference feel more real. Once the sales kick-off is wrapped, you can send post-event packages to remind teams of the new products you unveiled and plans for the upcoming year.

The future is hybrid

The benefits of gathering your team together in one physical location mean that sales kick-offs will most likely be held in-person again once travel restrictions and health concerns recede. But like most areas of business, sales kick-offs may never return the old, pre-pandemic “normal.” A new hybrid approach—combining the best of both physical and virtual—is starting to take shape.

When the pandemic hit last year, companies scrambled to shift gears for their sales kick-offs and most had no contingency plan. Now that virtual events have become more commonplace, I believe they will remain a permanent part of the landscape. Even when live events resume, the virtual component offers both an insurance policy and a way to be more inclusive for team members who can’t travel.

The hybrid approach requires a complete re-think of the sales kick-off environment. Maybe the event is in-person and virtual follow-up events help reinforce goals and keep motivation going. Or maybe the live event has virtual elements—allowing for more team members to get engaged. Whatever your hybrid solution looks like, a hybrid event agency like Two River Pictures can help bridge the gap between live and virtual to ensure your sales kick-off is a success.

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