How to lead a sales kickoff

The Ultimate Guide to Sales Kick offs (SKOs)

Learn the ins and outs of hosting a successful sales kickoff meeting! Keynote speakers and leadership meetings help to build a team camaraderie!
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October 7, 2022

Sales leaders are responsible for not only making the top sales at the company, but they need help to bring all of the employees together. Each year brings new beginnings, but also new challenges. Hosting a sales kickoff (SKO) is the best way to motivate your employees and get everyone on the same page. 

What Is A Sales Kickoff?

A sales kickoff, or SKO for short, is a meeting held annually where the sales team goes over the sales performance from the previous year, sets goals for the upcoming year and reviews any new strategies! These meetings are typically held over a one to two day period, and they set the tone for the whole year! Sales kickoffs can align your team with the goals you set, educate your team and celebrate any wins you may have had on the team. These meetings are typically held in January or February, but feel free to hold them whenever your company feels the need to have one! 

Why Host A Sales Kickoff Event?

While a sales kickoff event is a big investment for your company, it is completely beneficial for everyone involved. These events, typically held over a day or two, will help to inspire and engage employees and set them on the right path for the year ahead! When planning a sales kickoff event, the main 3 benefits you should include are as follows: 

1. Education 

As discussed above, sales kickoff events are a great way to educate your team on any subjects that may have come up in the new year. Depending on your company, there may be new products that sales reps need to educate their team on. Having your entire team in one place at the same time will help everyone learn about the new product and how to use it! Clearly communicating to your team about the items on the agenda will ensure there is no confusion about anything you may discuss! 

2. Engagement 

While your team is all gathered together for the sales kickoff meeting, this is a great time for guests to voice their concerns and thoughts. There may be some people who don’t have an opportunity to voice their opinions, so these meetings can be a great place to express themselves. They might have the same thoughts as someone else, and once one person voices those opinions, the sales managers can answer them to the best of their ability. Having sales managers engage with their team members can bring everyone closer together, that way working together will be a breeze! 

3. Energy

An important piece of the planning process is making sure that everyone, from the sales managers to the team members have high energy. These events, while they’re educational and informative, can be fun and engaging for everyone! The use of a high profile keynote speaker can help to motivate your team members, while providing them with useful information and relevant stories. If the budget allows for a high profile guest speaker, try to find guests who align with your company goals. They will also be able to give great insight into sales performances and how you can improve them! 

10 Essentials For A Successful Sales Kickoff Agenda

Setting the agenda for your sales kickoff will clearly outline what is going to be covered and what your team can expect from the meeting. Using energy and motivation will help bring employees together and allow them to have a fun and successful event. Following these 10 steps will help sales managers lead a productive sales kickoff event. 

1. Celebrate Wins

Wins can come in many different forms and from many different people! Individuals, groups or teams can all have wins, both personal and professional. When your team chooses to celebrate those wins, everyone will feel comfortable and appreciated. Celebrating wins makes everyone feel good, knowing that they did well for the company. Recognizing the individuals who worked so hard to achieve their goal will boost morale and encourage the other team members to work just as hard. 

2. Keynote Speakers

As discussed above, keynote speakers will help to motivate your team members as they share their success stories. Keynote speakers from outside your company can give a new insight into your team goals and projects. Their perspective may be something that nobody on your team had thought of before, and using their knowledge can help you achieve your goals. If time allows within your event, hosting a Q&A session between the keynote speakers and your team members will allow the speakers to understand the team better on a more personal level. 

Why your event needs a keynote speaker

3. Hold Leadership Meetings

Within every company, there are leaders whose main goal is to motivate employees, help them reach their goals and be a mentor to them. In order to have leaders who meet these criteria, hosting leadership meetings will ensure everyone receives the same training and are all on the same page. Leaders will learn how to effectively manage their team, problem solve and answer any questions that may arise. 

4. Breakout Sessions 

While sales kickoff meetings typically gather large groups of people, the use of breakout sessions can help team members gather with smaller groups to share thoughts. Each breakout session can have one or two team leaders who will moderate the group and guide the direction of the meeting. Be sure to take notes of what is discussed during the meeting, and these notes can be shared with the larger group once everyone has gathered back together. 

5. Align Your Meeting With Company Goals

Your company has goals that it wishes to achieve year to year. Your sales managers are aware of these goals, and should bear them in mind when planning your sales kickoff. Creating an agenda to follow for your meeting can directly coordinate with the goals you want to achieve. An open discussion regarding the company’s goals and how they can be achieved will ensure everyone on the team understands their part in the goal achievement. 

6. Allow Sales Managers To Share Their Success Stories

Sales managers tend to be upper management, and have worked at the company for a significant amount of years. They understand how the business world works, and they can share these stories with their team members. By sharing any success stories they may have, team members can get a better understanding of how the team leaders turned their hard work into success. Team leaders can channel their efforts into success as well by taking these practices into account. 

7. Encourage Networking

Networking can encourage team members to talk to their colleagues and make connections they may not normally make. These connections can be professional or personal as well! A networking event can be held right after your sales kickoff, and light refreshments can be served! When team members are in a more relaxed environment, they will be more likely to talk to others. Other departments may be attending these networking events, and team members may get the opportunity to chat with someone they have never met before! 

8. Invite Other Departments

As stated above, other departments may be invited to join your sales kickoff event. These people could be from any department, such as marketing or human resources. The members of these departments may be able to help with the goal achievement! If this is the case, invite them to the networking event as well! This will give all team members from every department the chance to meet one another and build stronger connections.

9. Collect Feedback

Feedback from your guests can determine if your event was a success and even how to plan for the next event. Sending out post-event surveys and asking questions to your guests will allow them to be honest about what worked during your event and what didn’t work. Once the feedback data is collected, be sure to read over it carefully, and from there you can begin the planning process for the next sales kickoff event. If there is something that a majority of your guests didn’t like, be sure to avoid that for next time! 

10. Reinforce What You Taught

Sales kickoff events review the sales performance plan for the upcoming year and the plans that each team or individual has to achieve those goals. Once the event concludes, it is up to the team members to set off on their professional journey to achieve the goals set. As team leaders, your job is to reinforce the teachings from the sales kickoff meeting. Doing weekly check-ins to see how everyone is doing will help understand where your team members are. If there are any questions, they can be asked to team leaders and they can be answered right away. The weekly check-ins will ensure your team members are following the teachings taught at the sales kickoff. 

How to host a sales kickoff

How To Host A Sales Kickoff

Now that you have created a perfect agenda, it’s time to put those plans into action! Hosting a sales kickoff can be fun and easy, but rest assured, it’s hard work! Gathering all of the team members together is the easy part, but providing them with the right tools to be successful can be challenging. In order to pull off a successful sales kickoff, your team members need to feel comfortable. These 4 steps will help you host a successful sales kickoff! 

1. Choose The Right Venue

If your sales kickoff spans over the course of a few days, start with finding the right venue for your event! Your event can be held  in a conference or meeting room right at your place of business. If the conference room is large enough, your breakout sessions may be held in the same room. Small groups can gather around the room and work together. If your budget allows, your sales kickoff event can be held at an external location, such as a restaurant. Depending on how many people are attending your event, one venue might be better than another. 

2. Daytime Or Nighttime Meeting

Your company’s sales kickoff meeting can be held during the day or the night- whichever you prefer and works best for your company! If your event is a multiple day event, your best bet is to start in the early morning on the first day. Breakfast can be provided to start the event off on the right foot, too. The same thing goes for a nighttime meeting; if you choose to have a nighttime meeting, dinner and even drinks can be provided! 

3. Set A Theme

Themes for events can tie the whole event together. A theme can engage members and heightens the entertainment of the event! A theme helps to keep the event running smoothly, as it also falls in line with the agenda. An engaging theme can boost overall morale, which in turn will help your team be successful. Themes can be fun and silly, like a superhero theme or a movie character theme. A fun theme can allow your team members to relax and have fun while working and learning. 

4. Choose The Right Platform

The great thing about sales kickoffs is that they can be held virtually. If this is the case, choosing the right virtual events platform will be the difference between hosting an ordinary event and an extraordinary event. Virtual hosting platforms like Hubilo take the guesswork out of planning your event! You are able to build excitement about the event through marketing and even collect your RSVPs! 

5 Sales Kickoff Ideas

Like most corporate meetings since the start of the pandemic, a sales kickoff can be held virtually! If the situation for a virtual sales kickoff arises, choosing the right platform will help you create a successful event. One of the main goals of the event is to keep your team engaged, and by having fun ideas for your sales kickoff will have your guests remembering the event long after it’s over. 

1. Create An Awards Ceremony

With sales performances, there are many things to celebrate at the end of every year. Team members making their sales goals or even going above and beyond the goal. Celebrating these achievements should be celebrated by everyone! Hosting an awards ceremony, complete with a host and small trophies to give away will be a fun evening for all! Having different categories for team members to win will boost morale for the upcoming years! 

2. Virtual Or In-Person Cocktail Hour

A cocktail hour can double as a networking event, and is a great way to allow your team members to relax and feel comfortable. This can be done both virtually and in-person! If your guests are staying at home for this event, invite them to grab their favorite cocktail or mocktail and join in on the fun! If you use an event hosting platform for this event, the use of breakout rooms will allow team members to interact with their colleagues and learn more about them! 

3. Game Sessions 

A gaming session for your team members is another great way to engage with one another! Games can be as simple as board games or even get fancy with virtual reality (VR) games! Virtual reality is such a popular way to gather team members together, as they can all play the same game together, thanks to VR headsets!

4. Create A Hashtag

A great way to market, promote and also remember your event is by creating a hashtag! When creating a hashtag, think of a unique name, directly relating to your event! By creating this hashtag during the early stages of planning, sales leaders can use it to promote the event! Throughout the event, encourage your guests to use the hashtag on social media! Once the event is over, look through the hashtag on social media to collect pictures and use them as a highlight reel to send to your guests! 

5. Attend An Escape Room

Nothing bonds a team better than trying to escape a room! Escape rooms are growing in popularity within teams, as they put their brains together to work on the solution to escape. Working together with people you may not normally work with can be the best way to escape! The time limit on these rooms adds the added pressure of working together to escape! 

5 Sales Kickoff Tips

You now have all of the tools you need to host a successful sales kickoff meeting! You know how to fully engage your guests and how to choose the right entertainment for them. By following these 5 sales kickoff event tips, you can be sure that your guests will remember your event forever! 

1. Make It Interactive

If your sales kickoff is virtual, you may not get as much engagement as you would if it was in-person. In order to prevent this, encouraging your team members to actively participate in games, chats and Q&A sessions will help them interact! If your event is in-person, letting your guests stand up and doing something as simple as stretches and breathing exercises will keep them engaged and interacting throughout the event. 

2. Make Your Presentation Count

Sales leaders spend weeks or even months creating informative presentations to give to their team members. In order for the information to stick with your team members, show true and real time data! These facts will show your team members how the goals can be achieved if they follow the training being taught at the kickoff! 

3. Set Clear Goals

While goals are an excellent thing to have as a company, not being clear about those goals may not get them achieved. In order to set clear and precise goals, think about what your company wants to achieve both short and long term. Be sure to differentiate between the two, and make a timeline for when you wish to have these goals achieved! 

4. Select Out Of The Box Catering

This may be an overlooked piece of planning! If you are hosting guests for your event, they are going to need to be fed! And while a boxed lunch of a sandwich and a bag of chips is appreciated, it gets a little mundane! If you require your guests to register for your event, be sure to ask if they have any allergies or dietary restrictions. With this information, you are able to look for out of the box catering options for your guests! Food trucks are becoming increasingly popular for corporate events, and if your budget allows, getting a few food trucks can ensure that there is something for everyone’s taste! 

Unique catering options for your sales kickoff

5. Send Your Guests Home With Swag

Swag bags are a great way to thank your guests for attending your event, and it makes  a great memento for them as well! Filling your swag bags with items such as t-shirts, reusable water bottles and portable phone chargers will remind your guests of the information they learned at the event! Swag bags also give the opportunity to your company to brand all of the swag with their logo! 

Here are a few additional tips to try at your next online sales kickoff meeting to host a truly audience-friendly and impactful event.

Conclusion

Sales kickoff events have the ability to bring together the sales team and unite them as one with the hope that the next sales year will be better than the last. Reviews of sales, building team camaraderie and providing the tools needed to have a successful sales year will help bring everyone together. Investing both time and money into hosting these events can help sales leaders get a better understanding of their team members and vice versa. Sales kickoff events can be tailored right to your type of company, and what works best for everyone! 

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