For many companies, an annual sales kickoff meeting is an 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.
Yet even the best-laid plans by your management team can be foiled if they don’t incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into your sales kickoff meeting. Without an emphasis on DEI, you’re setting your sales team up for failure and persistent missed opportunities.
Failing to integrate DEI into your initial kickoff 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 twelve 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. It’s your foremost opportunity to ensure your sales process reflects the values of DEI at every step.
Start by taking a look at your team
First, it’s important to assess the diversity of your sales team because – whether you realize it or not – your increasingly-diverse customer base wants to see similarly diverse teams. Customers are seeking a personalized experience, which requires understanding and respecting their diverse perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds.
Further, research shows that DEI practices drive tangible payoff for sales organizations. In fact, according to a LinkedIn/Forrester study, sales teams that employ these practices experience 28% higher conversion rates, 12% higher sales attainment, and 6% higher customer satisfaction.
Clearly, this information is helpful if you already have a diverse sales force, or if you are in a phase of talent acquisition. But what if you happen to find yourself leading a sales team that lacks diverse representation?
A team that is lacking in representation requires DEI initiatives just as much, if not more so, than diverse teams. The elements of DEI training that provide practical solutions to countless businesses by teaching about inclusive language, multicultural communication strategies, and unconscious bias can also increase the profitability of your sales team for the entire year… if you successfully embed them into your sales kickoff meeting.
To help convince you of the efficacy of this approach, here are three reasons to add elements of diversity, equity, and inclusion training to the curriculum of your sales kickoff meeting to improve the competency of your team, along with their ability to appeal to diverse audiences and clients.
1) Feeling Heard
One of the key components of inclusion is ensuring that people feel heard. This doesn’t exclusively mean listening and hearing, although listening is one 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, 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 ensure your customers develop trust in your salespeople, which is of vast importance considering the critically low level of trust that many people have in sales professionals.
2) 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, did it distract you from the topic of discussion, alter your impression of the person who uttered the term, or cause you to feel less inclined to continue the interaction with them?
The thing is, the person using that outmoded term may not even have recognized its obsolescence, let alone realized that this term is now considered offensive in contemporary society. Their lack of awareness doesn’t mean they’re a bad person or that the product or service they are selling isn’t worthwhile, 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 – and often, they won’t even know why. 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 https://thediversitymovement.com/say-this-not-that/
3) Unconscious Bias
Unconscious bias is difficult to root out on account of the very adjective used to define it. The unconscious nature of these biases means that people are usually unaware that they have it and will need to learn how to mitigate these natural brain functions. However, it is important to note that a lack of awareness does not make this kind of bias any less pernicious, as the victims of the bias are likely to pick up on it and are likely 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 subject them to unfavorable treatment, whether that treatment is intentional or not.
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, expose them to DEI – and specifically, unconscious bias training – as early as possible.
For more information on combating unconscious bias, visit https://thediversitymovement.com/unconscious-bias-the-secret-disrupter/
These are just 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 integrating DEI principles like inclusive language into your sales kickoff meeting will boost your success and profitability by ensuring your team is better equipped to connect positively with all customers.
Shelley Willingham, CDE, is Vice President of Business Strategy at The Diversity Movement. She is an entrepreneur, business strategist, and marketer who uses an equity lens to help clients achieve better business outcomes. Connect with her on Linkedin.