Episode 148: Callie Apt on Strategies to Elevate the Impact of Virtual Sales Kickoffs

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs. Today, I’m really excited to have Callie from Domo join us. Callie, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Callie Apt: Sure. Thanks, Shawnna. I really appreciate you having me. I’m Callie Apt and I’m the senior director of global sales enablement at Domo, where I am responsible for the strategy and leading the team that enables our global revenue teams, which is made up of AMs, AEs, solution consultants, customer success managers, and then also our external partners. I really spent my career building out proposal and sales enablement teams, primarily with cloud software and high-tech companies.

For those who aren’t familiar with Domo, Domo is a public cloud software company with more than 2000 customers, including 40% of the fortune 50. We help top brands like Disney, L’Oreal, and Cisco get BI leverage at cloud scale in record time. What I mean by that is we help our customers leverage the data assets throughout their business to innovate and accelerate the way they do business.

SS: Callie, I’m honored to have you. I’ve actually wanted you as a guest on our podcast for some time, but you’ve been really busy lately because you recently got done executing Domo sales kickoff. I’d love to dive in there as our first topic and understand, how was your sales kickoff structured and how did you go about delivering it this year?

CA: I appreciate the partnership and the chance to have this discussion. In terms of our structure this year, our sales kickoff was actually a two-day virtual event a few weeks after the start of our new fiscal year. We designed it really as three distinct segments this year. First, we actually held a manager kickoff before we held our sales kickoff. That was a new thing for us at Domo. What we wanted to do is really set the stage with anybody who manages team members in our revenue organization and let them know what we were planning to focus on, get their support, and really introduce our leaders to the theme, which was “Elevate.” That was also a chance for us to review the operational cadences and the focus areas that we required this year.

Then, the second part was the actual sales kickoff, which was a few weeks later. Day one of that I’ll refer to as our main stage day. That included really a lot of things, things you would typically see in a kickoff event that’s live. We had one of our great Domo customers speak, we got to hear the vision of our chief revenue officer, and we have a leader round table, product and marketing sessions, we recognize top performance by our teams, and we had a keynote speaker, which I’ll talk about in just a little bit. We also got the chance to hear from our CEO about the company strategy.

Then, the second day was actually a half day and it was just the next day. We had a leader-led half day where each leader got to discuss their own operating principles and go to work at plans. They could really focus on the role-specific skills and enablement that they felt were important to their teams and they had the chance to really reinforce their own team culture. Our enablement team actually got to rotate among all of those sessions, and it was really neat to see them put their own spin on our SKO theme and apply it to how they’re running their own business. Then, we were able to share all of those recordings from the different groups with everybody else so they could learn what the other teams were focused on.

That three-pronged approach allowed us for buy-in from the leaders early and allowed the leaders to have the freedom to springboard off of the theme and make it their own. That turned out to be a winning combination this year. Our survey results said 98% of our team members felt inspired and excited and prepared to execute this year as a result of our kickoff.

SS: I love that. That’s definitely the objective. As a frontline manager myself, I can tell you, I always appreciate when enablement rolls things out in advance to me so that I am prepared to answer all of my ICs’ questions on things, so I love that approach. I think a lot of other enablement practitioners might be writing that down as a best practice for their future SKOs. You talked a little bit about the planning process and making sure that you were getting buy-in, but what did that look like? What other departments and stakeholders were you partnering with to ensure that it was a successful SKO?

CA: I think the biggest takeaway for anyone planning a sales kickoff, especially if it’s your first one, is it’s never too early to get started. As you know, the planning process involves many stakeholders, which at Domo was our CRO first and foremost, our sales leadership, product and marketing leaders, creative teams, outside speakers, vendors, and Domo customers. It’s really like an external event almost, except it’s internal. There are a lot of different players involved.

Some of the big milestones that we had that we set out months before the actual event were first setting that theme because it drives all of our content creation and strategy. We leveraged our own internal creative team to bring our theme to life, which I mentioned was “Elevate” this year. We had three parts to that: elevating you, so elevating yourself and your skills and your role, elevating your team and your culture, and then third, elevating what we do for our customers. So, elevate you, elevate team, and elevate customer, that was our theme. It’s really important to get that early because if you don’t have that, it’s hard to plan and to get things done. Set the theme early and then that can help you set your agenda. That’s something where you really want to get sales leadership input, so regular meetings, regular communications. You feel like they’re getting sick of you, but in the end it’s all worth it.

The other big part of planning a successful SKO is building in the time to do content reviews and dry runs of content. At Domo, we had any content that was being presented go through what we call our SKO content review committee, because we wanted to make sure that everything was aligned with our go-to-market strategy, that we had quality control, and just make sure that we had proper representation from all the groups and regions at Domo.

SS: I agree with you that it’s never too early to get started with planning on that front. How did you get leadership involved and bought into your scope, both during the planning process, as well as just throughout the event?

CA: Yeah. As I said, the theme and the strategy and the execution of our kickoff was the result of really close alignment and partnership with our chief revenue officer. But I think there are a lot of other ways, easy ways, to get leadership involved in the process. First was with the content. On the main stage, we had a leader round table where our leaders got to talk about some of the areas that they’re most excited about for this year and the successes that they’re seeing.

Then another thing we did this year that was new is we really wanted to share the love. We asked each general manager or leader to sponsor a breakout session of their choice. As the sponsor, they were the ones ultimately responsible for coming up with a topic that tied into our focus areas that they thought would be valuable to their teams. They got to select the speakers, which might’ve been sellers on their team, to present a session. This really spread out the responsibility for the content, which takes some of the pressure off of enablement. I think that worked out really well. Plus, then they can’t say, “you should’ve had a session on this”, or “I wish we would have done that” because they all got to give an idea.

Then another way we got leaders involved was with the recognition that we gave. A huge part of SKO is recognizing the amazing performance of your teams. We started this last year where we brainstormed with our leaders on what were the categories of recognition that we wanted to give at SKO? You always want to congratulate team members for top attainment and your top reps. You should always do that, but we wanted to create some special categories that were a little bit more of a balanced scorecard and that really focused on the behaviors that we wanted to drive in our sales organization. Those are things such as collaboration, coaching, if you’re a manager, how do you do in developing your team? Then we even had a “most enabled seller” awards as someone who is constantly working to elevate their craft. It’s really fun to look back and give those awards out. The leader’s got to nominate their team members. They got to give input on the categories. As you know, recognition goes a long way. They love recognizing their teams. That was another way we involve them.

Then finally, I mentioned this earlier, but holding that manager kickoff first. The leaders came out of that excited about the plan for the year and really had a good understanding of their own role in the kickoff. They could plan and ask us for support if they needed it.

SS: I think that’s fantastic and awarding behavior change is a fantastic spin from sales enablement. What were some of the key challenges that you encountered in trying to figure out how to deliver an effective sales kickoff virtually? In today’s day and age with everything virtual, I can imagine it’s hard to maintain energy and momentum. How did you overcome some of those challenges?

CA: Yeah, Shawnna. That is a challenge to keep everybody engaged and excited through these. Like you said, we’re all experiencing Zoom fatigue and our teams have been working remotely for a year now. There are a few ways that we address that in our SKO event. First, while it was only over a day, we broke up that main stage day with breakout sessions that were halfway through the day. The teams got to pick the content they were most interested in and because those groups were smaller, they got to really engage, ask questions, and hear from a SME that they were really excited about. We got a lot of good feedback on that, because it didn’t make it feel like a full day since there were some breaks in the way the content was presented.

Another way we kept our audience engaged was with an inspiring speaker. Obviously, speakers are fun to have at SKO, and we looked at a lot of options this year, but some of them were more around sales skills and we knew these areas would be important to our reps. We decided after this last year of being in a pandemic, we needed someone who was going to bring just a riveting and powerful story as a bit of an escape from all the other things going on. We ended up selecting Alison Levine, who you might know as a history-making adventurer and New York Times bestselling author. Our teams were just really captivated by her story, and she took them through a range of emotions in her talk and even some humor as she recounted her experiences climbing Mount Everest. There’s a lot of great speakers out there, and I would just say, build in time for something different, something outside of the norm, not about how to get more leads, but something a little bit fun and different.

Then the last thing we did was we had trivia throughout the day at all the transition points between speakers. We had some trivia on our sales team, our leaders, and our company history. That was a fun way to shake things up and give the next presenters time to set up without losing our audience. That worked out really well. But what was funny is, I’m all about having everything run on time. For this event, we actually were running slightly early almost every single time. We’re so glad that we had prepared this trivia and it was fun. We gave away swag to the winner, so people looked forward to that.

SS: I love that idea of virtual trivia. We might have to borrow that idea for one of our virtual events. Now, Callie, I have one last question for you before we wrap up. I think that sales enablement practitioners get this question often, but it’s around how you think about success. How did you go about measuring your ROI on sales kickoff this year?

CA: Sure. Satisfaction is obviously one of the first things you can measure post-event. One of the tricks we did this year was we did the post-event survey right at the end of SKO in the meeting. We just dropped it into the chat. We left time for everybody to do it because as you know, once they leave, you lose their focus. We just built it right into the agenda. Do the survey now, give us your feedback while it’s fresh in your mind. That worked out really well where we got more responses than you would normally do from a survey. I do that on all my enablement trainings now. We’re excited that our teams felt inspired, excited, and prepared to execute this year. We looked at our NPS, we also looked at each session individually, and that helps us guide future topics for this year for enablement.

Then another thing we’re doing at Domo is we continue our SKO theme throughout the year. We don’t want to limit it just to the event. We actually have post-event virtual backgrounds and templates and slide presentations that everybody can use. It keeps the momentum going on “Elevate.” We use that theme in our monthly all-hands. We use it for lunch and learns and just tie it to everything that we’re trying to drive this year. That’s one thing that you can do to keep the SKO spirit alive.

SS: Callie, thank you so much for joining us. I really enjoyed learning more about how you executed sales kickoff virtually at Domo this year.

CA: Thanks, Shawnna. It was a pleasure.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you want to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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