Sales kick-offs – how to create an immersive experience in three stages: before (gamification), during (motivation, networking, inspiration), after (reinforcement) | SUBMERGE

Hubilo has launched a deep-dive events series to share the latest trends, tips and tricks, and next-level ideas for various virtual and hybrid events. It’s called SUBMERGE

Each event will look at a different business area, the first exploring the topic of sales kick-offs (SKOs), specifically, Beyond Sales Kick-Offs: Immersive Sales Training.

Whether we like it or not, we are all in sales, and this event reminds me why I love sales so much. Negotiating, preparing the proposal and closing the deal build adrenaline and propel the company forward. These and other skills need regular training and reinforcement. SKOs bring stockholders together to create stronger bonds as well as to connect, motivate and empower employees to achieve better results. 

Stemming from the pandemic, there are now new ways to take SKOs to a whole new level, which were presented at the initial SUBMERGE event by Hubilo on 20 October 2021. The event brought together experts in the fields of sales and gamification and was expertly moderated by Rachel Moore, Director of Global Campaigns at Hubilo. This blog post has been edited for clarity and brevity, and the full recording is still available here.  

Gamifying sales kick-offs 

The first presentation, Gamifying Sales Kick-Offs, was by Stephen Baer, Chief Creative Officer at The Game Agency. 

Stephen shared that games can be used in a corporate training space to engage employees, change behaviour, improve performance and drive sales.

There are different objectives when playing a game, including focusing on achieving, exploring and socialising. The employer needs to tap into those different motivations from a game strategy perspective to guarantee effective training. It’s not just about how to motivate, but also about how to celebrate those things of importance to the players. 

Advantages of gamification, according to Stephen Baer

  • People play games over and over again, which provides learning through repetition. This learning can be applied in individuals’ fields in the long run. 
  • Games change learning experiences from passive to active.
  • Games allow for simulation and application of skills in a virtual environment; as they improve, these skills can be applied in the real world. (Examples of some soft skills are coaching, communicating and listening, intuiting, making connections, empathising, critical thinking and problem solving).
  • A key differentiation between games and other training formats is that data is available in real time. This enables employers to see what people know and how they behave and converse based on results.

If you are interested in learning more about gamification, I can provide a full blog article dedicated to gamification: ‘The Best Gamification is Gamification that is Unnoticed’. 

Get the Most Out of Your Sales Kick-Offs with Greg Volm, SVP, Sales and Success at Hubilo

Greg shared three common mistakes that happen frequently with SKOs:

  • Aiming to fit everything in 48 hours: Instead, think of SKOs as an ongoing series of events. They don’t have to be a one-time thing. 
  • Flow of information: There’s often a vast sea of information flowing into a distracted and tired sales team with low retention rates. The information is very valuable, but it can become repetitive, which can be problematic without variety or a contextual setup. In reality, this content evolves over the course of the year, so it’s about creating an SKO experience throughout the entire year rather than in one big moment.
  • Differentiation between skills training and creating experience: People often leverage SKOs for skills training, but for the most part, people attend SKOs to build relationships, interact in person, network, get energised and determine how they will make money and find success that year. That’s a different mindset than skills training. Memorable experiences don’t have to revolve around building skills, however, so each can take place separately.  

Better sales kick-offs

Afterwards, Greg welcomed a panel of sales experts to share their recommendations and advice for better SKOs.

Elay Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder at SalesHood, said, ‘Don’t think of SKOs as an event; think of it as an experience. An experience can be before, during and after the live event. Before is a great opportunity to get the teams thinking about topics and have them practice and understand where they are at. During the event is for inspiration, energising and networking, and after the event is for reinforcement of what has been discussed at the SKO.’ 

Alana Ballon, Director, Sales Strategy and Operations at Wiz, shared, ‘Think how to make it true to your company. Your company culture might be different than of a keynote speaker.’

Ralph Barsi, VP, Global Inside Sales at Tray, drawing on his experience as a drummer and pulling inspiration from events like Coachella, added, ‘Motion causes emotion: It’s critical to get up and move around and meet the people that are at SKOs. A lot of individuals go to SKOs expecting things from the company when it works the opposite. Individual attendees are just as accountable for bringing the energy, mental state, mindset of wanting to win, thinking bigger and wanting to act better than they did the previous fiscal year.’

Current SKO trends

According to Elay, regarding operations and logistics, ‘First and foremost, we need to ensure that our people are safe. Second trend is hybrid, where part of the audience attends in person, and the other half attends remotely. We are seeing a combination of central company SKOs and a hybrid experience, post event reinforcement taking place locally.’

According to Ralph, ‘You want the audience anticipating the event that’s coming up. You want to make sure you have your theme, you get everybody fired up and you give a pre event assignment. If you’ve identified a certain problem in the sales funnel, you apply a specific sales training at the SKO. As long as you are providing the “why” and the context, it’s going to make sense to everybody.’

How to establish the energy several months after the great event has subsided

According to Ralph, ‘Provide structure for employees, whether it’s a skills training during the kick-off or the theme you kick things off with. You as a leader within your organisation must maintain that reinforcement model’ Holding a monthly meeting or call with employees to discuss the goals established at the SKO and the progress is a great way to do this. Set goals for the next catch-up meeting and determine what preparation is expected from employees. Ralph added ‘That’s the framework that needs constantly to be reinforced and is that North Star that you need to keep pointing to as a leader that the team knows which direction they are going.’

How to encourage competition and reward individual performance in sales teams while still building camaraderie and deep coordination and encouraging the sharing of knowledge 

According to Ralph, ‘Make clear to A players that “we are one team”. There’s a difference between being on the team and being a team. When the team acts like one, everybody moves forward and that’s a win-win situation. If someone is doing well in their silo, they should feel responsible sharing their insights with the entire team.’ Elay added, ‘It’s possible to gamify and contest almost everything, so if there’s a behaviour a company wants to drive, such as knowledge sharing and collaboration, then turn this into competition and create opportunities for people to collaborate.’ 

Opportunity for sales kick-offs

With the pandemic introducing us to the opportunity for virtual and hybrid events, there’s a big chance for SKOs to follow suit, reaching a larger audience. Raymond McCarthy Bergeron, Digital Experience Director at InVision Communications, shared the trends he sees in SKOs.

‘In the past 18 months we’ve seen a tremendous disruption in engagement. It’s a time that is referred to as a “great pause” where many people reevaluated and reshuffled their priorities. The way we used to produce for our events has changed and most likely for the better. Today, audiences expect better content and quality of messaging. We need to reconsider how we engage. Ultimately we need to shift our audience mindset from “this could have been an email” to ”wow, I was part of this moment”.’ 

SKO trends: broadcast, regional events and content absorption, according to Raymond McCarthy Bergeron

  1. Broadcast: Popular news networks successfully combine information and entertainment into attention-grabbing segments. There are several key fundamentals of this broadcast style. First, multiple camera angles combat zoom fatigue, enhancing production value. Second, a professional broadcast host enhances the experience for the audience. Third, including TVs and LEDs behind the presenters and hosts provides opportunities to integrate virtual audiences into the background, elevating engagement, humanising content and enabling dynamic discussions. 
  1. Move from the typical mega event to regional events: Aligning on strategy, motivating reps and injecting an energy boost to prepare for the year no longer has to be a single high octane, one-off event. Create a ‘hub and spoke’ model with the right virtual and hybrid technology. This concept provides a central location for a select group of attendees to help set the stage with top leadership and then hosts regional watch parties and additional smaller events.
  1. Content absorption: Increase content absorption through new attention-grabbing methods. Teams can be engaged and receive information in new and fresh ways, such as with gaming technology, for example.

My takeaways

My biggest takeaway from this event was the inspiration to prolong SKO lifecycle with gamification in the pre stage and reinforcement in the post stage. From what I see, many events offer gamification throughout, but instead, there’s big potential to increase engagement and learning with gamification tools in the lead-up.

Before the pandemic, the pre, during and post engagement strategies usually evolved around content. For example, the lead-up to the event involves releasing teasers, videos and interviews with speakers and sponsors; during the event includes sharing live coverage and live-streaming from the event; and after the event involves sharing insights from the event and a highlight video with testimonials. Content, content and more content. 

Now, with new technology tools available, we can alter this traditional method of event engagement. 

If you’ve never implemented gamification before, consider working with a professional who specialises in gamification and can help design gamification strategy based on achieving your desired goals. Virtual and hybrid event provider Hubilo can also advise on this subject and has its own gamification suite on the platform. 

Finally, reinforcement post event is essential for keeping the attendees engaged after the live event is over and keep them applying what they learned. I loved the topic ‘How to establish the energy several months after the event has subsided’. I know that feeling of going to a live event, initially being inspired and motivated, but then later forgetting the event after business returns to normal, the next occasion fast approaching. Events are an expensive communication tool, so it’s important to provide a framework where attendees can evaluate their progress on a regular basis.

To conclude, this event was very inspiring, providing fresh ideas for SKOs (and other types of events) in a hybrid format to create an experience for the entire year rather than just something one-off. ‘I look forward to the next SUBMERGE event, Increasing Employee Engagement in a Hybrid World, coming up on 17 November 2021. You can sign up here. See you there

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