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For many companies, the annual sales kickoff meeting is a critical and essential jumpstart to the sales process. It represents the time when sales strategies are discussed, cutting-edge techniques are evaluated, goals are set, and team camaraderie is developed. 

Despite the best-laid plans by your sales management team, failing to plan for the integration of diversity, equity, and inclusion principles into your sales kickoff meeting is setting you up for failure and missed opportunities.

Moreover, not seizing the opportunity to integrate DEI into your initial kick-off makes it harder to do so later in the year once sales initiatives are underway. Even the most successful sales teams seldom meet as a unit, with roughly three quarters of the top-performing sales teams meeting 12 or fewer times each year. This means the sales kickoff meeting is often your best chance to properly plot a course for a successful sales year, and your foremost opportunity to merge DEI fundamentals into the sales process.

The value of diversity is important to review with your sales team because – whether you realize it or not – your customers like to see it. Ninety-one percent of both buyers and sellers responded to a survey by indicating they wished to see more racial diversity in sales teams, and a matching 91% said they desired to see more women in sales.

Even more importantly, diversity is of tangible value to sales teams. According to Harvard Business Review, sales teams containing at least one member who shares the ethnicity of the client are 152% more likely than another team to fully understand the needs of that client.

Clearly, this information is helpful if you already have a diverse sales force, or if you are in a phase of talent acquisition. Nonetheless, how should considerations of diversity, equity, and inclusion be tackled during your sales kickoff meeting if you happen to find yourself leading a sales team that is lacking representation of diverse groups?

Fortunately, the elements of DEI training that provide practicable solutions to countless businesses by teaching inclusive language, multicultural communication strategies, and understanding unconscious bias can also increase the profitability of your sales team for the entire year… if you are able to embed them into your sales kickoff meeting. 

To help convince you of the efficacy of this approach, here are three measurable means to add elements of diversity, equity, and inclusion training to the curriculum of your sales kickoff meeting that will improve the competency of your team, along with their ability to appeal to diverse audiences and clients.

Feeling Heard

One of the key components of inclusivity is that people feel heard. This doesn’t exclusively deal with the act of listening, although this is an essential element to the overall perception of feeling heard. Instead, inclusion has more to do with back-and-forth interaction, through which the participants in the conversation believe that they have been listened to, fully understood, and that their perspective has been adequately expressed, received, and respected. 

In your kickoff meeting train your salespeople to ensure that customers feel as if their needs have been fully heard. This can help for your customers to develop trust in your salespeople, which is of vast importance considering the critically low level of trust that many people have in sales professionals. 

Using Inclusive Language 

How many times have you been immersed in a conversation with someone, and they let slip an outdated term that may once have been common, but is now considered offensive? When it happened, how often did it distract you from the topic of discussion, alter your impression of the person who uttered the term or phrase, or cause you to feel less inclined to continue the interaction with them? 

The thing is, the person using the outmoded term may not have recognized its obsolescence, let alone that it’s considered to be offensive in contemporary society. This doesn’t relegate them to being labeled as a bad person, but it does need to be corrected. The use of terms or phrases that are perceived to be offensive can cost your business substantial revenue if your sales team is inadvertently using them. For the sake of your company’s reputation, your bottom line and your salespeoples’ day-to-day interactions, incorporate DEI training into your kickoff meeting to preemptively polish your sales team’s speech.

For more on inclusive language best practices, visit

Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is difficult to root out on account of the very adjective used to define it. The unconscious nature of the bias means that the people in possession of the biases are unaware that they have them. However, this lack of awareness does not make these biases any less pernicious, as the victims of the bias are likely to pick up on it, and are prone to resent the unfair treatment they receive as a result of those biases.

Unquestionably, the recipients of bias will be averse to offering business opportunities to salespeople who are subjecting them to unfavorable treatment. Likewise, unconsciously biased salespeople may unwittingly jeopardize viable sales opportunities through the attitudes they project. To safeguard your organization against the harmful effects caused by the presence of unconscious bias propagating within the members of your sales team, expose them to DEI, and specifically unconscious bias, training as early as possible.

For more information on combatting unconscious bias, visit


These are a few of the ways that infusing your annual sales kickoff with a healthy dose of diversity, equity, and inclusion training can boost your sales team’s close rate, and enhance your profitability in the process. Whatever you opt to do, just remember that failing to address DEI principles like unconscious bias in your sales kickoff meeting ensures that your organization will remain unaware of the amount of money that its sales team is leaving on the table.

To learn more about implementing a DEI program into your sales training, contact Shelley Willingham to schedule a call.