FEATURING: Jason Baldree (CCO at Alida), Nicole Alrubaiy (VP of Customer Success at Ping Identity), Emily Garza (VP of Customer Success at Proton), & Emilia D’Anzica (Founder of GrowthMolecules).



You’ve heard this one too many times: “Nothing beats face-to-face time.” Indeed, many of us are Zoom fatigued and virtual Happy Houred out. But with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases around the globe, you might again be finding yourself scrambling to pull off another virtual Sales Kickoff (SKO) or Revenue Kickoff (RKO) for 2022. 


A great Sales Kickoff sets the tone for your year. So does a bad one. The good news is that running an effective and motivational virtual SKO is possible with some prep. That’s why this week we’re featuring advice on how to run Customer Success’s portion of a virtual SKO in a way that’s (almost) as good as in-person. 

1) Update your session format for a virtual setting 

Chances are your week-long, in-person SKO of the past is too long of a time for your GTM team to be sitting in Zoom calls. It’s important to consider your event’s length and the cadence of sessions. Consider designing your SKO agenda using a healthy mix of the following elements:

  • Inspirational and motivational talks by guest speakers
  • Aligning on strategic initiatives for the year
  • Discussing new product offerings
  • Celebrating last year’s successes
  • Sharing customer stories
  • Previewing upcoming GTM motions


For example, here’s Emily Garza’s solid plan for Proton’s 2022 Revenue Kickoff: 


Day 1

  1. Mind Warmup / Ice breaker
  2. 2021 Recap: Attainment of goals; lessons learned
  3. 2021 Awards and Recognition: Celebrating deals and heroic efforts
  4. Customer win stories (ideal if this can be a partnered presentation between marketing/sales/CS)
  5. 2022 Planning: Goals and objectives, including how each team is critical in their own and peer teams' success
  6. How Marketing is positioning to help sales and CS
  7. Product training
  8. Compensation plans


Day 2

  1. Workshop: Objection Handling
  2. Workshop: Marketing events and strategy feedback
  3. Sales: Business plans to get to quota
  4. Customer Success: Account strategy plans

2) Don’t forget to invite your customers to the party

If you want your team and company to continuously improve, nothing beats hearing feedback straight from a customer’s mouth. In this year’s Sales Kickoff, make sure to bring a customer on stage and ask them about their full customer journey. You can get them talking about Sales, Services, Product, Pricing, Onboarding, and Content with questions like these: 

  • Who is your main point of contact here?
  • What was the buying process like? Who advocated for the product, and who was responsible for implementing it? 
  • How quickly did you receive value from the product? 
  • What features do you like the most, and what features are on your wish list? 
  • How severe is the problem our product solves for you? 
  • What challenges are you thinking about in the coming year?

3) Be intentional about helping team members build personal connections

Humans are designed to be “in-person”—teamwork and connection are a whole lot easier to foster when we’re not confined to little 1x1 inch images on a 12 inch screen. But since we can only play with the hand we’ve been dealt, it’s up to team leaders to do as much as they can to help facilitate building personal connections during virtual SKOs.

Here’s some advice from Jason Baldree, CCO at Alida:  “We do a global Field Kickoff (vs. traditional SKO). This comprises all customer-facing functions in the field (primarily Sales, CS, Solution Engineers and Services). We have virtual networking sessions interwoven into the agenda for FKO. Our event is over 4 days (4-5 hours per day) since it is virtual. That is a lot of Zoom to consume, so we spread it out. On one of the evenings we are doing small team dinners where we send an UberEats to everyone and then get together to enjoy a dinner together virtually. We also are using some various tools to facilitate networking sessions (Hopin as the primary event tool, it has networking capabilities, Wonder.me for the Lunch & Dinner sessions). For my team's tracks we are separating the CSM's into small groups to have work assignments together and build some bonding.”

4) Establish Sales <> CS guidelines for the upcoming year

If in 2021 your Sales team had issues with setting customer expectations, for example, about how much CSM time customers get, or if the CS and Sales team need to level with each other about customer handoffs, there’s never been a better time to address the problem or iterate on processes than at your SKO. 


Emilia D’Anzica, Founder of GrowthMolecules says, “Customer Success is responsible for segmenting the different experiences customers get which helps create some boundaries to help the team stay efficient. But they’re also responsible for making sure Sales is able to 1. understand how their deals map into the appropriate segments, and 2. communicate to the customer what type of support they will receive. 


“It takes regular communication to make sure Sales is in-tune with Customer Successs engagement models. But one tactic I’d note that I’ve seen work is running a session on this during your SKO. Map out your engagement models, train Sales on customer segments, explain the levels of support provided for each, and share that in a presentation to the entire Sales org—and do it again at every Sales summit.”


Nicole Alrubaiy, VP of Customer Success at Ping Identity, says, “Our sales process leverages a framework where Sales captures the customer’s challenge, impact of the challenge on their business, what solution we’re implementing and the expected outcome from that solution. That becomes the primary handover asset for our CS teams to lead the customer to those outcomes. Soon after SKO, we’re rolling out some new handover packages including this CISO framework, an org chart, and more.”


And for those who don’t have a challenge in Sales <> CS handoffs: Jason Baldree, CCO at Alida adds, “[At Alida] the CSM's are part of the majority of the sessions at our Kickoff event, including the sales process sessions with the AEs. Since we don't really have a challenge on the handoff side, we’re doing a number of sessions to further strengthen the bond of CS / AE alignment - joint account planning workshops, etc.”

5) Up-level your CS team’s skill sets

We’re at a point in time where employees are extra motivated to look at other companies if their current company isn’t helping them grow personally and/or in their careers. In place of the fun, but nonessential concerts and trivial events of SKOs of the past, give your team the gift of leveling up. Coach them for the upcoming year, provide them with new skill sets, and work through scenarios so they leave the SKO ready to face the challenges ahead. 


Advice from Nicole Alrubaiy, VP of Customer Success at Ping Identity: 

“Up-leveling the CS team is core to our 2022 strategy. We started in 2021 with understanding the skill and comfort gaps in our current team to where we need to be in 2023. We built a roadmap to “CSM of the Future” and rolled it out to the team. Some of the key elements we’re focusing on are engaging decision makers in our accounts, improved success plans, and a deeper understanding of our product use cases and the value they drive. The team have also done personal assessments so their managers can work with them on tailoring learning plans to their needs. 


“Our CS Architect team has done a similar self-assessment, but their learning plan is more focused on the products they each have as a speciality, as well as learning our newer products in depth.”


Advice from Jason Baldree, CCO at Alida: 

“Our dedicated CSM sessions are focused on 2 themes this year—1) Value Discovery and 2) Solutioning. For Value Discovery, we have a couple of sessions on "how to" - e.g. questioning strategies, customer/industry research, Command of the Message tactics, etc. For Solutioning, this is all about upskilling the team to understand the customer tech landscape, as it relates to how we enhance and play a role in the martech stack/CX stack.  We are going to be training on the types of tools, data, integrations, etc. that enhance the customer value from our tech and create greater stickiness.”

6) Tips for making your Kickoff memorable

From Jason Baldree, CCO at Alida:

“The main thing my team has appreciated after an SKO is that it is a true field event and not just focused on Sales. There are sessions, training, awards, etc. focused on the entire field teams.”


From Nicole Alrubaiy, VP of Customer Success at Ping Identity: 

“Hands down, our CS team members rave the most about the personal connections they build with their Sales counterparts. Sitting next to someone at a dinner or collaborating on an activity goes a long way to building trust that we can draw on throughout the year. Of course, the team also loves being part of the awards celebration, and getting the cool swag. The event helps us feel like we’re all on the same team.”



The best resources for Customer Success teams this week



The Best Managers Don’t Fix, They Coach


Here’s a message for any manager out there exhausted from being a “solution vending machine”—your over-reliance on fixing problems “constrains [y]our ability to lead and robs [y]our team members of growth opportunities.” This piece is a great place to start if you’d like to learn how to be a better team coach, not team manager. Worth sharing with directors on your team.


Read the full post






These Are the 5 Best Data-backed Sales Tips of 2021


Gong Labs’ research team set out to uncover the best-kept secrets of 2021. This post presents their findings, shares tips like “never negotiate over email”, and highlights trends like “longer emails are significantly more effective at booking a meeting”.


Read the full post






Hugging the X-Axis


If you’ve accomplished anything big in your career, you’ll know that it took sacrifice, hard work, and above all, a commitment to a goal. But as David Perell’s essay argues, most people in Western culture suffer from some degree of commitment phobia. “People think they’ll be happy if they don’t have any obligations. In actuality, total optionality is a recipe for emptiness […] The challenge is that the greatest rewards generally go to people who are tied down in certain ways.” This piece will make you think deeply about responsibility and ownership.


Read the full post





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