In this session, Chuck Marcouiller joined The Collaborator to share his thoughts on sales kickoff best practices and how to plan an amazing event.

There was pure gold throughout this conversation, but my piece of advice revolved around the lessons learned for putting on a great remote sales kickoff.

Planning for a great Sales Kickoff

  • Plan early
  • Your platform matters and get an event partner unless you build events regularly
  • Force rehearsals
  • Build longer breaks than you think you need
  • Think interactive and force smaller groups
  • Expand the net and get outsiders to talk to your team that they wouldn’t talk to normally

Give a listen and remain curious.

Audio Transcript

Unknown Speaker
Chuck that works great, right?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, that’s right.

Unknown Speaker
Mark who you’re

Unknown Speaker
close. I didn’t get it. Right, right. Very good, right.

The Collaborator
But my five years of high school French, I did take five years, told me that I got it wrong, but I’m not I’m not good enough to fix it. Chuck, do me a favor. Tell all of us who you are with

Chuck Marcouiller
yo. My name is Chuck mon coulier. I am the Senior Director of revenue enablement for job byte, the leading recruiting talent acquisition platform out of Indianapolis, but I live in Seattle, Washington. I’ve been with job bytes since August and excited to be here.

The Collaborator
I was gonna say we’re talking about a subject today, which which honestly, I could talk about all the time, because there’s always so many subtle nuances that are a part of it. We’re talking about SK O’s today. Chuck, how many scales have you been involved with over your career so

Chuck Marcouiller
far? Oh, john, I’ve been in sales, sales, leadership and sales enablement for 25 years. And on the sales enablement or sales operation side, I’ve done 12 sk O’s from, you know, I started my career off at ADP. So I’ve done some, you know, in sales ops, it was sales ops at that time. Yeah, I’ve worked on some really big ones with you know, several, you know, 1000 people to, you know, some small ones. So I’ve, I’ve done them all, but, but I counted them up before the thing, but I’ve done 12 of them.

The Collaborator
That’s crazy. You know what it’s like I think about not to start religious holy war here. My team is the New England Patriots. They were the my favorite football team was the Patriots even when we had the 70s and the sea dragons and the horrible teams of all that before, but I always think to myself, well, Tom Brady’s got six Super Bowl rings, or is it seven now? Whatever it is that you’ve been to 12 sk O’s, that’s probably just as hard as earning those those six or seven Super Bowl rings. That’s crazy. You know, you’ve been to all different kinds and sizes, though, like you said, Yeah. What goes into making a great scale?

Chuck Marcouiller
Well, I think for ESCO, it’s, you know, an ESCO has got to be motivational, inspirational and educational. I think it’s a combination of those from the very big ones, to the smaller, more intimate ones, you know, they always have that same sort of recipe. They’ve got to have that motivational piece to get your sales team at, you know, energize. They’ve got to be a little inspirational to let you believe that you can go I mean, sales is a tough, tough sport.

Unknown Speaker
And so

Chuck Marcouiller
you know, to get set back to zero, your hero, you’re celebrating Hey, congratulations, here’s our president’s club, our top performers but your your quota set back to zero, do it all over again. And then educational on hey, here’s all this new stuff. Here’s what we’re gonna give you to help you climb that mountain one more, one more time than suspicion task of you know, rolling that boulder back up the hill one more time.

The Collaborator
Any points for using systemness 20 points for that. You’re right though. It’s a crazy game. It’s a crazy job sales. And I was just thinking about that you lying on the beach enjoying your my ties, because you just hit president’s club, and somebody’s back at the office is put the numbers back to

Chuck Marcouiller
zeros and start adding 10%.

The Collaborator
And and as you know, we all went in, I mean, no surprises, you know, we all went virtual, we all went remote. Back in March or whenever it hit our areas. What did you perceive as the biggest points of confusion or misunderstanding from people about the SK Oh, as a result of that? I know, for me, I saw people both panicking, that was going to be impossible. And some people say, Oh, this is stupid, simple. Now, you know, what did you hear? You know, it’s

Chuck Marcouiller
one of those things when you when I was talking to sales leaders, and I was talking to my my counterparts, you know, I think the biggest mistake that people make when they think of a virtual SKU is they think it’s going to be easier. It’s going to be cheaper. And that all we have to do is turn it on to zoom. We just we just do another big massive zoom meeting. And it’s all gonna be done that way. And I and I think that yes, you could do it on the cheap. And yes, you could do it on zoom. But if you want it to be motivational, inspirational and educational, if you really want to get all of the great things that make for a fantastic sales kickoff, you gotta look at it differently. You’ve got to say yes, we it is going to be cheaper in the sense that we are not going to put people on airplanes and we’re not going to be paying for food. And we’re not going to have this huge bar tab that we have in the past. But we’re going to have to do you know, you know, instead of zoom, we really should look at it events platform or virtual vents platform to put this thing on, so that we can run it into an event environment. And that’s one of the things that, you know, I was scrambling when I was looking to put our ESCO online, is I was asking everybody what platform, what platform, what platform. And there really wasn’t, you know, there was events, platforms that were designed for events to host, you know, if you were going to do a huge conference and sell a conference, and they were 18, to 50,000, see events and other things that were 18 to 50,000, to do these professional events where you’re going to charge for tickets. But there wasn’t something that no one has had the niche where they sat there and said, Hey, you know, we’re gonna be the sales kickoff event platform of choice, or

The Collaborator
the beginning of all this, especially at the beginning of all this, you’re right, it was just like crap, I can either spend all this money for a platform that doesn’t meet my needs, or I use them. It was it was a real black and white and a hard place to be.

Chuck Marcouiller
Exactly. So I searched and I searched, and I was talking to a lot of other people, what are you doing, and you really do need a platform to be able to do these things from mainstage. Because we need to make a great sales kickoff, you’ve got to have that mainstage environment where you’re having the big event or big speech kind of things. And then you have to have the intimacy of the breakouts, where the small rooms. So you do need the collaboration or the interaction, especially in the virtual environment, where you’re using interesting technology, but you still want the ability to get your message out in mass. And how do you do that? And control that, and then be able to use the advantages of technology? Because there are certain things you know, it’s different in an ESCO than a live ESCO is that you can make it a bigger tent, in the sense that, you know, for our SK Oh, normally we would just because of cost of travel and other things, we would just have our sales team and our account managers. Yeah. But in our SK o which normally a job site we have, you know, our sales team and account managers would be about 5060 people, we had 140 people because we were able to have all of our marketing and all of our CSS and all of our SDRs. And we had some of our product developers, and we had our professional services,

The Collaborator
and our seniors, Austin that opening it up, though, to the rest of the world, though, in terms of sharing the material from different perspectives. And all that did did did it result in extra cost in terms of the content creation, in terms of the planning, or any of that? Or was it pretty flat,

Chuck Marcouiller
it didn’t read and it it allowed us to be in the virtual environment. It allowed us to be selective. So as far as the CEOs, you know, keynote, have everybody let them hear that company kind of stuff and open them up to that. But if, you know, I, we brought in corporate visions, for example, to do a specific skill. And we had limited licenses, where we paid a specific, you know, agreement where we said, we’re going to have so many licenses, and we narrowed it down and we set that out into a breakout, where we said all right, you’re we’re only going to have so many seats and love your mark, love your marketing, you know, the my my person who does content writing or I love, you know, you’re my professional service person. But this is not for you. This is these are not the droids you’re looking for. So you’re not going to be this is not you’re not going to be part of this, but you’re going to be part of another piece. Okay? And they were fine with it. They were like, okay, that’s great. But we communicated ahead of time that the big tent and and how you structure your ESCO. And one of the things that we found is we put our keynotes every First of all, we spread it over several days. So we said Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, keynotes for two hours in the morning, so anything that was big tent was so everybody could could predict it. And we did it on East Coast time 10 to 12, East Coast. So we had everything from London to LA people. So those people from 10 to 12. East Coast, were in that period of time, and then anything that was breakouts, that was role specific, or anything that was paid content, where we had the limited down was then in the one o’clock to, you know, about five o’clock eastern standard time, you know, in the afternoon, and small things. So, you know, that kind of in using the technology and setting those expectations of when we could have the broader audience and when we could have the limited audience. Now what that takes and what we learned is that you have to have a lot of lead time and you have to plan things out and communicate that broadly across the whole company because everybody’s gonna run with

The Collaborator
is, was it a big difference in lead time Chuck in terms of between virtual and in person

Chuck Marcouiller
from people are gonna sit there and say, well, you don’t have to buy You know, you don’t have to lease the hotel, and you don’t have to do those things. But if you want to do take advantage of, you know, virtual means I don’t have to fly people in, which is good. But it also means Hey, I can get people who I normally wouldn’t be able to get to an ESCO to now speak at my scale. And that’s nice.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. prospects,

Chuck Marcouiller
one of the things unique things that we were able to do, which I’m so thankful that we did was we said, hey, what if we did something that we’ve never been able to do? What if we invited prospects or people that we’ve always wanted to talk to, to come into a panel and just share with us? What do they think about what is their average day? What are their challenges? What are they seeing in the marketplace? and vision that to

The Collaborator
them? Because I could see you saying, we want to sell to you come talk to us? And that’s never gonna work? But how do you actually reach out to them?

Chuck Marcouiller
Well, what we did was we, we had their peers reach out to them. We said, yeah, we said, Hey, you know, we had our head of HR talk to their head of HR, we had had our head of recruiting, because we’re recruiting platform, talk to them. And we said, Hey, what do you know? And I, you know, one of the things is, I had one of the guys that I had worked for who’s now the head of recruiting at Oracle? Well, we’re not selling it to Oracle, Oracle’s not a current customer of ours. But we partner with them. And I said, Hey, buddy, you know, would you mind coming in, you know, share, why not? You know, we used to have beers together 20 years ago. And so he said, Sure, why not? And so we got a couple of, you know, sure, why not? And it’s surprising, they say, you know, you’re always two degrees of separation from anybody you want to talk to. So we went out, and we just said, Hey, who do you know who could? And using the virtual platform, we got enough of those together, but it made for one of the best sessions that we had, because we set the expectation is we’d love to have you come in and share your expertise. And we promise not to sell to you. We promise it’s not going to be a pitch Would you mind

The Collaborator
and a welcome relief when they realized it was true?

Chuck Marcouiller
And it was and and we we had them on? And the thing is, is that they had fun in the sense that we said, Hey, you know, what do we need to understand what’s the most pressing issues, and we allowed them to talk amongst each other. And the key to these panels was to, you know, you and I have been on panels together that you’ve LED, you get the panel together, and you allow them to, first of all, you let them know what the panel is going to be about. You prep all the questions, you let them influence the questions of what they want to talk about and lead, they feed off of each other. And then the magic happens. And so being in a virtual SKU environment, we were able to bring that in, we were able to bring an analyst who may not have gotten on the plane to tell us, you know, hey, here’s the future, the direction of what we see your industry going in. So we had analysts who were speaking to us, which we normally wouldn’t have access to, we had, you know, prospects who were coming in and saying, Hey, we haven’t bought from you. But we are your your targeted customers. And we’ll tell you what’s on the mind. We had customers who came in and telling you telling us why we bought from you or why we stay with you. And, you know, it’s those kinds of things that in a virtual environment, we were able to bring together people who wouldn’t normally say, Hey, I’m not going to get on an airplane and travel to your part of the country. But we had people from Florida and LA and New York and Chicago,

The Collaborator
who all they You said you made the event, longer shots a little bit longer changed sort of the cadence of it all? What would a normal sky look like in the past? What had been like a one day all day? Couple of days?

Chuck Marcouiller
No, it would have been a couple of days. Yes. But yeah, what we would have done, the one thing that we did do is the cadence of it, because you get people in you, you set them down at 8am in a seat, and you run them all day long, as hard as you can until you put them back on a plane and you put them in a very controlled environment. But in a one of the things in the virtual sky that we realized that in order to do is have sessions and long breaks between sessions, which you would never do in a real environment. Yeah, exactly. You don’t you don’t let them wander. That’s that’s one of the rules, if you’re in a hotel is you just don’t let them wander off because you’ll never be able to corral them back in. But in a virtual environment, you absolutely shouldn’t. And I’m so glad with the technology that we did, because having back to back sessions in a virtual piece where you’re having people go from one agenda item to the other just doesn’t work. Whereas we would have an hour and then a half hour break and then an hour and then an hour break and then an hour and then a half hour break and you did these these half hour breaks in between gave that little bit of breather for the technical staff to get people back in to the area make sure that everybody was queued up so that when things went live, it went live with no hesitation. Nice because there’s Yeah, you’ve probably attended the virtual events where you’re going to the next session that’s back to back and your speakers in They’re yet and you don’t know. Or the link hasn’t been turned on yet. Because we built those those breaks in between, we didn’t have a single session that didn’t go on on time, we didn’t miss a cue that was going on, you know, all the way through. And we were able to have control. Now one of the other things that I learned is don’t go cheap on your, your SKU in the technology. And, you know, normally you would have an AV group, if you were in a hotel, you pay for an ad group. My recommendation, and I’m so glad I did this, I paid for event, marketing partners, which is we use these guys for our professional outside piece, we had them be my stage managers, because I know I can do technology, but for me to run around in sessions, and also to make sure that all people were in my breakouts. I had a backstage manager, technology backstage manager to help run the technology. And that’s all they did. They built my technology. And I’m a one man sales enablement shop. Okay, yeah.

Chuck Marcouiller
So for me to run all of ESCO and manage ESCO. And try to build the technology and make sure all the butts in the seats. And you know, I had five concurrent breakouts going on at the exact same time, with me running one of the breakouts, I couldn’t do it.

The Collaborator
So love that I love that Chuck, let’s otology did he use in the first place. And then tell us a little bit more about this, the the partner they use.

Chuck Marcouiller
So bizible was the tech was the platform that we ended up using, I looked at hop in. And I wanted to use hop in and hop in. No disrespect to hop in. And if you guys are watching and listening to this, you’ve got a great $18,000 model. And you’ve got a low cost model. But the support for the low cost model just was too restrictive for us. But visible was the support model that they did their customer support for event planning group was fantastic and outstanding. And was just flexible enough that it was the sweet spot and did a just an outstanding job for us. And so we use visible with event marketing partners as my backstage management group. And they gave me two ladies who did an outstanding job who helped project manage everything, you know, from the technology, they built the back end technology with me and my marketing group. So that I could do the strategic planning, and I could make sure and corralling all of my people internally, while they did the making sure that each of the technology piece and then I had to technology people on the back end. So you know, every time everybody came in, and they came in and did a dry rehearsal, and all the lights were on and everything. So we didn’t miss a beat. And, you know, it looked professionally polished

The Collaborator
to you chalk and everybody involved because teams have won one of the biggest problem, I’m sure you see it, one of the biggest challenges I see too is it’s so easy to think you got to do it all. And sometimes budgets mean, you got to do it all. Sometimes they do. But if but you made such a smart choice there to let somebody deal with the tactical details, why you can make him the big picture and make sure it was a great event took place that then hit the company’s polls, that’s smart.

Chuck Marcouiller
Well, it’s 1212. It scales I know where my failure points.

The Collaborator
Fair, and I have a bad few behind yet.

Chuck Marcouiller
And I failed at those points before. So I know where it’s where and I and kudos to my chief revenue officer that when I laid out the plan, I said, Hey, boss, this is where I do well for you. These are the things that I’m good at. And I will excel at these things. Here are the things if you asked me to do it, I can do it. But it’s going to cause me to fail at these other things that you want me to do. So you’ve got to choose one or the other, which is the one that’s most valuable to you. And he said, yeah, it makes sense. So this is going to cost you, I’m going to take what you had in flight before. And I’m going to move it over to this line item here. That’s why our SK was going to cost this, you thought we would be here but it’s actually going to be here, it’s gonna be half of what you had in prior skills, but it’s still gonna, this is this is why I have this line item for x, you know, 1000s of dollars, because we factor

The Collaborator
but it’s not as big as the previous year.

Chuck Marcouiller
Yeah, I’m gonna be I’m gonna be half of what an in person SKU is. But I’m not gonna be, you know, a quarter of what you had had thought before. And the good thing was, is that in the end, they came back and they said, this is still one of the best SK O’s that we’ve ever had. And we probably should consider doing one virtual event a year like this, where we can get the big tent, even when we have the opportunity to go back in person in a more intimate, you know, face to face. So we’ll probably be to two events a year one, you know, that’s just a concentrated in person because they there’s value in having face to face with the sales team. But to get everybody on, educated on the broader brushes, and to be able to do take advantage of, you know, analysts and customers and board and all the value there,

The Collaborator
yeah, so much value in the chat. And I still love the fact that, whether it was because you have the experience that experience of the past 12 or not, I love that you gave this era of the option. And really one of the options just being really smart. Let me do what I do. Well, we’re going to make these tactical tactical decisions, go away by having somebody else render them so smart. Let me ask you this, I’m gonna shift gears on a little bit, one of the biggest pluses of escale, or one of the biggest things that people always remember, on the 37,000 martinis that they have at the bar, and the great conversation they had with Sally, or bill, or Joe or Jane or whoever. It’s all that bonding and conversation and relationship building that happens. How did you if you did, how did you replace that? In this new world?

Chuck Marcouiller
I think you still can I, you know, it’s it’s the way we’ve all adapted to this new world of COVID. And virtual, it’s just takes conscientious effort. And what we did was we still have the award ceremony where we recognize people because people still crave to be recognized. And here’s the thing, if you’re going to invite a population to the ceremony, the award ceremony, make sure that they’re recognized, at least one of their tribe is recognized.

The Collaborator
Do not comment. Oh, important comment.

Chuck Marcouiller
I may a Copa I, I had one tribe group that was not recognized. And boy, did they skewer me on the survey results. So I had eight, eight, you know, eight that were recognized. And the ninth one said, what about us, and I was like, ooh, you know. And so you got to make sure every tribe, if they’re invited to the party, they’ve got to be, they’ve got to be recognized. And sure, though, for any kind of contribution, you got to make sure that at least one of that tribe is recognized. So we had the recognition and then one of the things that we did was we had a virtual Casino Night. And we had an outside partner, who you know, it was surprisingly affordable that did a Vegas casino night. And they they have a host they break you out into casino give me virtual money. And then you go into smaller intimate blackjack and Texas Hold’em pieces. So they, they scramble them, and we intentionally scrambled, so people that they wouldn’t have, and we had about 120 people who were playing, you know, casino gets

Unknown Speaker
awesome.

Chuck Marcouiller
And they got they loved it, because they were all competing. And we said, All right, you know, you play for an hour and a half, and then whoever has the most money, the top 10 people according to you know, revenue of what you what you want to get to compete and choose from the top 10 and fantastic company prizes. And so we had, you know, a $500 400, you know, all the way down prize, and then they got to two around. So we had great attendance, people had a lot of fun. You know, nobody ended up drunk in the hallway afterwards. And

Unknown Speaker
it ended up drunk in their own right. As you identify

Unknown Speaker
response,

Chuck Marcouiller
the other things that we did, so that was one at a whole team level. And people really appreciate and really enjoyed that. So that was a hit and really grabbed got great survey results from that. The other thing was, is that we used other tools, like for example, we every break that we had, you know, coming in to start a kickoff two minutes beforehand, we had music that played with a countdown clock, and we played name that tune each day. So everybody had to, they had to remember what tunes were being played. And you submitted that for the gift card of the day. So people were showing up to sessions to be on time, so that they could write down what the tunes were. We had, you know, we used kahootz, which is a great technology that that you can do. So for product knowledge, we had a session for coats where everybody got on their phone, and they played we had 35 questions of product knowledge that everybody played against and competed for, again, fabulous, you know, it didn’t cost a lot, but their salespeople and they competed. And so we had, you know, different groups and different breakouts that would do different Cahoots games. So it’s interactive technology, you look for opportunities to have more interactive technologies, you have the ability to have little competitions and you just make that fun for participation or being there and people really really enjoyed it.

The Collaborator
Yes, Spencer. Spencer Weiss is one of the people listening especially throughout the poker blackjack sound like a lot of fun. It did sound like a lot of fun. Was it a third party you’d recommend or

Chuck Marcouiller
I usually don’t like to push out product and people but if it anyone out there, there’s there’s a couple of team bonding groups that go out there. And do. You know, one of the things that I would say is make sure that your casino group is I looked at several different ones, make sure your casino group has experienced doing groups larger than 1000, I mean, larger than 100. And that they have a zoom license for larger than 100. I was talking to a counterpart who did have a vendor who only had a zoom license for 100. And they had 120. And that’s the limit. And they they they ran into a challenge where some other people got locked out, they forgot to ask whether they had a zoom license large enough to be able to come in.

The Collaborator
That’s a good reminder check. That’s a good reminder. Was there any you know, in terms of like the Cahoots? You know, productive product knowledge, his stuff? Was that an opportunity where you work closely with the product team to get them involved in the questions, or I did?

Chuck Marcouiller
What I did was I turned around to my sales engineers, and I said, What are the most common screw ups that you wish this? You know, because I had my sales engineers turn around and say, oh, and they loved it. And then I also went to my, you know, my CS team, and for, you know, I said, What do you wish your counterparts who were feeding you stuff? Which what do you what did they miss mistakenly tell customers or prospects that you wish they got? Right?

Unknown Speaker
brand news brand idea,

Chuck Marcouiller
they were like, add, tell him this time, this time, this time, this time, this wasn’t this was. And so that was fun, and they loved it.

The Collaborator
We are 29 minutes in Chuck. So I want to be sensitive to your time or anybody else’s. And there’s been so much good stuff in here. I’m loving man, let me ask you this. What are any last minute tips for great virtual SK up that we haven’t yet hit upon?

Chuck Marcouiller
I think one of the things is that with a virtual Escape Plan early. The other thing is, is that you know, like any other SKU, you’ve got to especially if you’re trying a tech that they haven’t played around with before, is you have to force the rehearsal in the tech. So we had visible and I am so glad that we did this with my event partner is the week before we took every leader and they will scream and kick and give you all the reasons why they can’t go pro I don’t need to do Oh yeah, you’ve never been in this technology before buddy. Get your focus into the technology. Yeah. And so you make them click and you make them go through their slides. And you make them do the thing. So because you’d be shocked how many times they go, I can’t get into the tech, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. You know, how do I make this do that, know that the technologies will act differently, they don’t all act like zoom. So you’ve got to make sure that videos sound the right way that sound comes through the right way. So have someone play you know, participant someone play presenter, so that you thoroughly test the tech and do like a theater dry run on everything, at least the week before so that you can fix those things, we came up with certain things that we had no idea until we did it, to be able to turn people on camera and off camera and, and have people figure out and we were adjusting things up to the fly. But if we did not have the tech rehearsal, we would have been sunk.

The Collaborator
You know, we all think about that when it’s when it’s in person, Chuck. But for some reason, I think a lot of people get lazy about it when it’s virtual. So that’s really smart.

Chuck Marcouiller
Yeah, in person, you can fake the funk. You can have people you know, tap dance on stage and do other things on the fly, which is so much easier. But in a virtual world. When there’s blank screen time, there is no one who you know, I can’t reach across zoom that’s not working. And all of a sudden take over that dead space is just a killer. Building longer breaks than you think that you need. And think interactive and force that for some smaller groups, and expand the net and get people from the outside that you wouldn’t normally get. You know, looking back, I think one of the next things that I’m going to do is to get the perspective of my board and invite certain board members to have a board’s perspective. You know, where do you Where do you see our business going? And why are you excited about our business? I think it’s one of the things so to balance that inside perspective and outside perspective. Why do you like salespeople? And what do salespeople do to you know, annoy you? Those kind of things, and salespeople love that stuff? Because they don’t get that that on a regular basis. So the interactive piece plus the informative piece just makes for a great sales kickoff. But, you know, don’t think that it’s going to be easier, cheaper or faster. It’s going to actually take a little bit longer and build that in.

The Collaborator
just tremendous advice all the way through. I mean, I really learned a ton and it helped everybody else did to Chuck, last question for you. If anybody wants to reach out to you and ask you a question, okay to do so just on LinkedIn. Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Chuck Marcouiller
Please do. You know, I’m happy to help in any way that I can please reach out to me at LinkedIn. I’ll share anything that I can with you.

The Collaborator
Anytime. Nice. And you and I have already agreed you’re going to come back because we got some more fun topics to talk about and yeah, future. And I’m looking forward to that Chuck, especially after this one. I feel like I want to keep going on this one, but I’ll be respectful. I’m here to thank you so much. Thank you, everybody for listening. Have a

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