5 Tips for Creating a World-class Sales Kickoff

By Daniel Kuperman

sales onboarding

world class sales kickoffI’ve had the opportunity to attend the sales kickoff and annual sales meetings of some of the best companies in the nation and have witnessed first hand what makes a sales kickoff (SKO) world class.
Whether you only have a dozen reps or a sales organization of hundreds of employees, the following five key takeaways are worth thinking about as you plan your own sales kickoff.

Tip 1: Pre-SKO preparations help set the tone

One of our clients had their COO record a 1-minute video on why the sales reps should be excited about the upcoming sales kickoff. This was followed by SKO pre-work sent by different teams (marketing, product, sales engineering, etc.) to help sales reps prepare for what was going to be covered during the SKO sessions.
As a result, energy levels were high leading to the sales kickoff, and some companies reported that over 90% of their employees had engaged with the pre-SKO content before the first day of the event. I can’t emphasize this enough – the pre-work leading to the SKO was a great way to get everyone excited about the live, in-person event.

Tip 2: Have a theme to drive the message home

Marketing folks know that a cohesive theme can help deliver an impactful message. Much like having a theme for sponsored trade shows, having a specific theme for a sales meeting can help create the right environment. For example, one of our customers had a theme “We Will”. Not from the Queen song “We will rock you” (although there was a hilarious opening session based on it), but for the meaning of the word “will” which communicates that the company is rallying around an aggressive growth plan. This theme of “will” as an action (as in “I will”), as an attitude (as in “willpower”) and as a statement (not “try” but “will”) was used and referred to throughout the event.

Tip 3: Make sure to add opportunities to socialize

At the end of each day have a social gathering, preferably at a different place, with plenty of drinks, food, and entertainment. You don’t have to overspend to create a quality social event if you pay careful attention to the venue, service, and food. These evening occasions can help put different teams together, remote employees finally meet their co-workers, and executives spend time with people they typically don’t meet on a daily basis.

Tip 4: Look for ways to reinforce your message and learning

As you plan the sessions for your sales kickoff, make sure it is contextual for your sales reps. Invite reps to relevant sessions based on what team or group they belong to (some sales engineers and salespeople may have different sessions). But it isn’t enough to just break people up, the content delivered is more impactful if it includes:

  • Tailored pre-reads for each session to the audience
  • Making sure all the presenters are experts in their particular fields
  • Leveraging technology to help deliver information, motivate people, and help them remember afterward;

For example one of our customers used the Mindtickle mobile app to push out the session slides to all mobile devices. They followed it up with quizzes and polls to measure feedback and engagement from the team. More importantly, each content, quiz, and the poll had points associated and the more a person participated the more points they earned.
These points translate into a digital leaderboard that was updated and shared daily. This got reps more engaged and drove up participation during and after sessions, helping maintain the energy throughout the SKO.

Tip 5: Focus on alignment and energy

Sales kickoffs are a good opportunity to align the team for the coming quarter or year’s strategy. While this is important, it’s critical to combine strategy with energy.
Time a strategy session towards the end of the event, to help reinforce key messages from the top ranks about where the company is heading, the market opportunity, and key wins. Throw in plenty of awards and recognition for the top sales reps and lead into a “grand finale” that gets everyone energized and ready to start the year strong.

Your path to a great SKO

As you plan your own SKO think about your overall goal, how to tie everything together with a theme, and ways to keep your reps engaged throughout. There is one more thing to think about – what to do post-SKO.
One final piece of advice would be to keep the momentum going after the event by continuing to engage with the team. Give employees access to videos shown during the event, additional footage that was not shown at the event, and any other relevant content. It is never too soon to start thinking about your next SKO and I hope this blog has given you some good tips.
To learn more about planning for a successful sales kick-off meeting check out this eBook and webinar on 5 SKO best practices that are proven to work.