The typical sales kickoff will have information sessions that are relevant for the whole sales team and/or company. However, some things must be accomplished in smaller groups. These are known as breakout sessions.
Breakout sessions during a sales kickoffs are used to help a particular group of sellers focus on one topic or skill.
While the concept of breakout sessions is not new or innovative, they are very important to get right if you want a successful sales kickoff. Here are the three steps you need to take to ensure the breakout sessions at your sales kickoff are effective.
The first step in hosting effective breakout sessions is to determine the purpose of the sessions. Ask yourself, “Why are we holding these sessions?” and “What exactly do we want the participants to walk away with?”. The more specific you can be with your answers, the better.
You might be holding these breakout sessions to introduce new skills, techniques or a process that you want some members of the team to adapt. Perhaps the team is having challenges with a particular area of the sales cycle and you want to address that skill gap. The purpose of the sessions might be to introduce a new technology or product line to your sellers. Whatever the purpose of the breakout sessions, be as specific as possible and determine what positive outcome you’d like to see from these sessions.
After determining the purpose of the sessions, you can now begin to plan and prepare for the sessions. Having a clear idea of the positive outcomes will guide the planning process. For example, if one of your goals is that the sellers in the break out sessions will apply their new learned knowledge to existing opportunities, you need to make it clear that participants need to bring their computers with opportunities to work on. This seems elementary but when planning a big event, keeping track of the small details and instructions will ensure that breakout sessions accomplish the goals that you set for those sessions.
If you are going to have attendees work through scenarios together and do role plays, plan out when and what you are going to ask. Determining an appropriate time during the presentation to ask participants to work through certain scenarios will help to break up the monotony. You also want them to work in a breakout group after an important point or technique has been introduced. This helps to ensure they are grasping, applying and mastering the topics covered.
It can be a real momentum killer during a session if participants didn’t come prepared and need to spend time doing things that should have been completed beforehand.
The second step in hosting effective breakout sessions at your sales kickoff is to consider the composition of the groups in attendance. Try to keep the number of seats at a table or groups to a maximum of 6. This ensures that all participants have the opportunity to share their thoughts and insights with their peers.
Participants that share the same title and responsibilities should be seated together so that it’s easy to go into breakout sessions. This will maximize the takeaways and effectiveness of the sessions. It is more challenging to work through a scenario with someone with completely different roles.
Once the groups are chosen, it is also helpful to select a breakout group leader to lead the sessions and report the results. This could be someone who is looking to take on extra responsibilities or is a leader of the team. This person will also ensure that the group stays on task and completes all assigned activities. There is also no need to choose a leader beforehand – the table itself can select a leader for their small group.
The last step for hosting effective breakout sessions at your sales kickoff is to be involved during the group scenario, role plays and practice assignments. After giving the participants a task to complete in the session, don’t use the time to check email, or to grab a drink. This is the most valuable opportunity to gauge the progress of the participants.
Walk around the room and stop by each group. Silently listen as they work through the task at hand and give coaching to any group or individual that is struggling. This is also an opportunity for participants to ask questions in a 1:1 environment.
Actively monitoring the group’s performance as they work through breakout sessions will enable you to effectively gauge the competency of your sellers.
Breakout sessions are an important element of any sales kickoff. To make the most out of every breakout sessions, make sure you find a specific purpose and plan, keep the groups small, and actively monitor the breakout sessions.
Jill Ulvestad is the founder of Funnel Clarity. Jill applies her expertise in driving sales performance and results, developing sales strategy and streamlining skills development to the Funnel Clarity team. With nearly 20 years of business development and consulting experience, Jill provides valued sales performance insight to her roles as co-founder and managing partner of Funnel Clarity. Previously, Jill spent 8 years with the sales performance firm Huthwaite where she served as the Vice President of Sales. She most recently was co-founder of Business Performance Partners, a sales and strategy consulting firm and led the coaching practice.