Sales kickoff (SKO) events address many different objectives, such as energizing the sales team, communicating goals, and keeping everyone up to date on product releases. Education is one of the top seven objectives behind a well-run SKO event. Traditionally, this training would take the form of hands-on demos and in-person role-play scenarios.
However, conventional sales role-play exercises have other challenges ranging from low engagement to the time demands they place on trainers. Adopting a wide range of virtual sales enablement tools, including a cohesive portal, AI-powered simulation exercises, and online prep work, can more than simply take the place of conventional practices—they can help your organization thrive.
While every sales kickoff should include a wide range of activities and learning opportunities, not all of them need to take place in crowded conference spaces. Instead, consider the possibilities of powering your quarterly and annual SKOs with simulation tools that eliminate the challenges your team has faced in the past.
Common Challenges With Traditional SKO Prep
As vital as sales kickoff events are for informing and energizing your teams, there are significant barriers to overcome. These problems include:
- Rushed Training: When your SKO has a definite start and end time, that ticking clock puts pressure on everyone involved. Trainers need to complete their modules and activities within the assigned time blocks, which may mean cutting Q&A periods short and skimping on new product information. During training activities like sales role-play scenarios, no one gets do-overs, in-depth feedback, or a chance to experiment. The event becomes more like a series of fast-paced drills.
- Reps Can’t Always Retrieve Details Later: It’s not simply the schedule that’s under pressure. Sales reps learning about new product details are also feeling the stress, which means they won’t be able to retain all the information they learn. During onboarding, 84% of information is forgotten within the first three months. During SKOs, which are hectic and exciting, you may see a similar lack of retention. A traditional SKO also won’t preserve all the new information in a format that’s easy to use later. The details may be in PDFs, handwritten notes, and presentation docs, which very few reps will review later.
- First Sales Processes With New Information Will Be Clumsy: Practice is a vital part of incorporating new product information and sales tactics into each rep’s repertoire of go-to approaches. During the first handful of times they provide new messaging or need to give updated product information, they’re going to stumble. They may use the wrong phrasing, hesitate before recalling a metric, or not deliver a new sales tactic with the right amount of polish. Luckily, through simulations, some of those first few times can be in front of a coach or rep instead of a prospect. However, when lacking resources for multiple practice sessions, some of that practice will inevitably be in front of real clients.
- It’s Hard to Measure the Value: SKOs are vital—but how vital are they? What’s the impact on sales volume, revenue, and employee turnover? Traditional SKOs don’t give organizations the data they need to perceive trends and the ROI of each event. In the age of big data and machine learning, that’s a lapse in insight that can be incredibly costly.
All of these problems may have previously seemed like an inevitable part of running an SKO. Limited time, attention, and personnel mean information will be forgotten or underutilized before actual sales interactions begin. That doesn’t have to be the case when stakeholders incorporate virtual tools like sales simulations into the processes.
Improve Your SKOs With AI-Powered Simulators: 4 Benefits
Organizations can substantially improve sales reps’ knowledge retention and the overall positive impacts of SKOs by having virtual simulator training tools. These platforms can provide microlessons organized as personalized modules that account for the new information sales teams need to know and their current capabilities. Then they can simulate real-world scenarios with different types of prospects, allowing reps to practice common scenarios again and again with minute variations until they feel confident.
Virtual simulators take the place of trainers to give one-on-one sessions, and the AIs can instantly assess the sales rep’s performance, give feedback, and save the scores for later review. Every rep gets as much personalized attention as they need, and event organizers can see the extent to which learning was a success.
Already, this may bring to mind several striking advantages over traditional SKO training processes. Consider these core benefits and how simulators can train every sales rep so they feel more confident and ready to close deals.
1. Sales Reps Receive Personalized Product and Services Training
Simulation-driven training offers a greater concentration of practical exercises than in-person training can facilitate. Through a simulator, each sales rep can practice scenarios to a key concept, such as:
- The messaging of a new or updated product
- Updated responses to common client queries or prospect objections
- How to implement new sales tactics
Simulators can generate an endless array of realistic scenarios for each learning point until the rep demonstrates competence or mastery of the skill. This is more than simply repetitive practice. AI tools can analyze how a sales rep poses questions and listens to the virtual simulation. Then it can provide instant feedback before generating a scenario that targets exactly where the employee is struggling. The content delivery, training scenarios, and feedback are all personalized and repeatable for as many simulations as the employee needs.
2. Sales Reps Get Instant, Objective Feedback
Instant feedback enhances learning and reduces the risk of misunderstandings. Consider these common scenarios in SKO prep and training:
- A rep mishears or misunderstands new product details. They don’t have an opportunity to correct the information, so they develop a flawed understanding of the entire product.
- Reps participate in practice training scenarios in pairs, taking turns as sales rep and customer. While this style of practice can develop muscle memory and familiarity, it doesn’t provide expert feedback or guided instruction.
- Reps get assessed one-on-one by a training manager. They likely only get one or two opportunities, and the trainer can only provide some degree of feedback. By the time reps can review more in-depth feedback, the learning moment is gone.
Virtual simulators address all of these problems and implement solutions. Organizations can provide new information through a combination of in-person teaching, resources, and virtual learning modules. Simulators test each sales rep’s knowledge and ability to apply the information. Any misunderstandings will be caught immediately. Also, reps get instant, actionable feedback about how they can measurably improve performance. There are no delays that allow bad habits to form.
3. Learning Happens in a Risk-Free Environment
All learning takes time. Just like entry-level salespeople require weeks or months to feel comfortable with the basics of sales strategies, even the most experienced sales reps will need to use new information or tactics multiple times before they truly feel comfortable. It’s just a matter of whether that practice takes place with real customers, an in-person trainer, or a simulator.
Practicing on clients can have immediate financial and reputational risks. However, trainers aren’t available to the extent reps need for practice before they’re released to their usual selling schedule after an SKO. Using virtual simulations is the only way to provide ample practice time in a risk-free environment.
4. Managers Can Assess Readiness at a Glance
Virtual simulator tools amass enough data to create a detailed learning profile for every agent. Not only do the reps themselves get instant feedback and insights that can power their performance, but managers can also measure their progress and see how well everyone is learning (both as an individual and as a group). With this insight, managers can verify that reps are trained on new information and ready to begin working with new leads or quotas.
Decision-makers can also use this data to evaluate different activities in the SKO, determine which sales enablement resources have the most value, and identify which areas need improvement for a more profitable quarter or annual period.
Boost Your Sales Team with a Simulator-Driven SKO
Experiment with the potential of virtual simulators during your next SKO. You can give each rep a personalized learning portal for practical assessments, virtual role-play scenarios, and AI coaching. Reps will benefit from the additional practice and objective feedback while the SKO runners can focus on holistic projects and jumpstarting the next sales season. Then you can ramp up the use of simulations to meet the needs of your growing sales teams or to scale up your L&D program. At Quantified, our AI simulator creates real-world practice scenarios so organizations can effectively train their reps on product information, messaging, and sales tactics. Schedule a demo to start preparing for a more dynamic SKO in 2024.