I met a guy named Dan on the plane the other day. He was on his way home from something his company calls ThinkFest. He had a laser tag trophy, a book about teamwork and a two-day pile of unread email to show for his trip. “I used to hate some of my coworkers,” he told me. “Now I hate all of them.” I changed seats.
I’ll bet you’ve got one of these Q4 offsite things in your calendar, don’t you? Did they make you “whiteboard” the challenges of the day? Are the flip charts your breakout group spent hours filling still sitting in some hotel meeting room? Or did you cheat and use the flip charts left behind by the previous group? Don’t worry; nobody noticed.
Did they outsource your engagement to a motivational speaker? How was the team building mini-golf? I thought so. Now that you’ve solved the United Way campaign, was your creative genius used to raise the bar on executive PowerPoint presentations? Well at least the food was really excellent, right?
Friends, I have terrible news. While you were busy trying to build a submarine out of pencil shavings and a shower cap, the 2013 ball was being snapped to you. All those strategy meetings, budget fights, organizational charts and urine-soaked corners come to this: the beginning of the year. And, if we do nothing else, we need to get this sucker off the ground in a big, big way. Which means only one thing — break out the big tent and clear the cow patties off the common, it’s time for a revival meeting!
Yes, Brothers and Sisters of the Spin Cycle, iron those vestments, tune up the choir, wipe off the babies and rent some chairs. Marketing needs to climb into the pulpit and start preaching the gospel of business growth and profitability.
We need to bring our flock into the great tent of Sales Kick-Off and show them the Promised Land of the New Fiscal Year. And what’s more fun than a flock of squirrels with a crushing quota?
Forget about the milk, leave the honey for the vegan tea drinkers—you need to give your flock the religion with pulpit-thumping sermons from your product development people, branding guys, market research gurus, marketing geniuses and even the Squirrel Kings themselves. Heck, that Q4 leadership thing was just a dress rehearsal for the thundering Shock & Awe Ministry Quota Crusher Crusade you’re planning.
Put away the flipchart markers, hire the light and sound guys and make really, really pretty presentations with lots of video and a thumping bass and make sure you include this stuff:
Start with this and don’t let the product guys weasel out, and they will try. Sales sells to a future state, never to a present one. They need to know what’s coming and more or less when. Of course you’re going to miss some launch dates. Of course half the features will be de-scoped before the thing ever hits QA, but that’s not what you’re selling here. You’re selling the ability of the company to innovate and respond to the market. Squirrels love that stuff because they need to believe that stuff. It’s what gets them out of the hot tub and into their suits every day. Wishy-washy Gantt charts don’t cut it here – this is demo time, folks! Make the geeks put on a clean shirt and a tie without spray cheese residue and do their best Steve Jobs glower.
Brand value propositions:
Value propositions are like old-fashioned toy cars. You need to pick them up every so often and turn the key a bunch of times to remind everyone what they do and what they sound like. Sales Squirrels spend a lot of their time in the nasty details of deals and meetings and sometimes they forget the higher-order mission of the whole endeavour. You need the choir to make this joyful noise over and over and over again throughout your Shock & Awe Ministry Quota Crusher Crusade.
This is the part where even your amazing PowerPoint prowess is simply not enough. It doesn’t matter if your creative consists of three banner ads and an updated press release template, you need to make it look like the King James version of the media buy. It needs to crackle with passion, creativity, newness and moving pictures. Get the agency to earn some of its retainer by putting together a reel for you. Better still, make the agency present it.
Compensation plan details:
By the end of the first day, the Squirrels will be so tired from witnessing, they won’t know which end is up. This is where you walk them through the compensation plan. It’s boring, highly political and almost never goes well. That’s why you need to get someone from Finance to do it. Coax them in with a pretty robe and a hymnal, then lock the door and run. You never liked the finance guys much anyway, did you?
The keys to salvation or at least a spot on the Sales Champs cruise are in the marketing programs. All those special discounts, bundles, extra quota credits and free toaster ovens with every purchase are what the Squirrels believe close deals. We don’t need to correct this thinking because then we have some existential explaining to do. Our job is to sell the marketing to sales. Make your Marketing VP spend a morning walking through all the fun programs for Q1 and Q2. Speak quickly, ask questions, throw golf shirts into the audience and make sure you play some Pointer Sisters music and it will all end well.
Here is what the Squirrels know about the competition: They are waaaaay better than you are. Their products have more features, their sales quotas are lower, their commissions are higher, and their products are practically free. They know this based on a sample size of one – that being the last deal they lost. This is where you dust off that research person and ask them to put some very little words on a slide and explain very slowly, once again, who the competitors are, what they sell, how much they sell it for and why, despite such towering opposition, we continue to fight the powers of darkness and lead our customer segments to Revenue Ever-Lasting.
The lesson, my friends, endeth not there. Now that we have laid out the manifold sins and wickedness of the competition, we need to arm our Squirrel Soldiers with the gospel that will lead bring the customers to our enlightened corner of things. This is a job for the Squirrel King. Only he or she (oddly they’re still Kings when they’re women) will shake the tent poles with incandescent rhetoric bright shining as the sun that will have them on their feet and ready to fight for the nuts of righteousness. If they end up speaking up in tongues and aspirating an olive, you’ve probably got a winner on your hands.
Go unlock the church.
Onward, Squirrel Soldiers.