The annual sales kickoff is a major event for any sales organization. It sets the tone and priorities for the entire year, and is often the only time the entire sales team meets up in person.

That makes the sales kickoff the best forum to introduce new concepts, strategies, and techniques to your sales team.

The hot topic for sales kickoffs? Social Selling.

Crossing the Chasm

As LinkedIn’s Mike Derezin said at CEB’s Sales & Marketing Summit recently, social selling is quickly going from “early adopter” material to mainstream. From high-tech and media to manufacturing and facilities management, B2B companies are putting social selling on the corporate agenda.

Social selling is about more than just the tools. It’s about behaviors and mindsets. It’s about showing salespeople how to work smarter, and then following up to make sure they’re doing it.

And it all starts with the annual sales kickoff.

So if your company is looking for ways to move the needle on sales performance in ’16, I would strongly encourage you to put social selling on the kickoff agenda.

Here are my top 5 pieces of advice on how to plan for social selling at your sales kickoff:

1. Get Sales Leadership on board—before the sales kickoff. To change sales behavior, you have to start with sales leadership. Get the entire sales leadership team on board. Make sure they see social selling as a priority. Clean up their social profiles and expand their networks to model good behavior. Their participation and support will drive everyone else’s.

2. Get the right speaker(s). There are lots of great outside speakers like Brynne TillmanJill Rowley, Mario Martinez, Jamie Shanks, and many others. Whomever you pick, make sure they know sales. Many social media “experts” come at the topic from a marketing/consumer/digital angle. That perspective just doesn’t resonate with salespeople. They want to hear from someone who understands the ins and outs of sales—targeting, prospecting, qualifying, nurturing, closing. Your speaker needs the knowledge and credibility to relate social media to the nitty gritty of selling.

3. Sell the “why”. A lot of salespeople still don’t “get” social selling, and they need to be convinced. Start from an assumption of zero knowledge, and explain why salespeople should be using LinkedIn and Twitter. Show them statistics on how buyers are increasingly self-educating, and decisions are more consensus-driven. Explain to them how social networks allow them to get into the conversation earlier. Finally, relate it to their own experience by reminding them how much they use Google and LinkedIn to diligence the people they do business with.

4. Give hands-on training and guidance. Once salespeople understand the “why”, they still need guidance on what to do. The more hands-on the better. If your kickoff meeting runs for multiple days, consider doing some hands-on training during the event itself. Take professional headshots and walk people through the upload process. Help them clean up their profiles. Show them how to run advanced searches. If you don’t have time for that level of detail at the kickoff, make sure you follow up after the event.

5. Reinforce over time. This isn’t a one-and-done. You’re changing mindsets, behaviors, habits, even culture. Reinforce the key messages in the weeks and months after the kickoff. Keep delivering hands-on training at all skill levels. Measure activity and recognize achievement. Broadcast internal success stories.

Social selling is a journey, and your sales kickoff should be the first step. Contact us to learn more.