Maximize the impact of your sales kickoff

7 Steps to a Highly Successful Sales Kickoff (SKO)

The annual sales meeting or sales kickoff (SKO) is a highly anticipated tradition for many organizations. It’s the perfect time to bring your team together, celebrate success and set goals for the coming year.

It’s also an opportunity to equip your sales reps with the training they need to crush those quotas. But for many organizations, the annual sales kickoff is like climbing a mountain. Your team spends a few days bonding, learning new techniques and being inspired. Then they return to the office and leave the “mountaintop experience” behind.

Soon they’ve forgotten most of what they learned, and they’re back to the same old habits.

While the sales kickoff is still a great opportunity for your team to reconnect, celebrate and learn, the most important part of it is what happens afterward. That’s why you need to rethink your approach to planning your sales kickoff for maximum impact and retention.

Identify The Objective Of Your Annual Sales Meeting

As a veteran sales professional, you know there’s an art to setting ambitious-yet-attainable objectives. Before you move forward in the planning process, ask yourself what you want the annual sales meeting to achieve.

Typically, there are three reasons to gather your team together:

To Celebrate
An SKO can be the perfect opportunity to share success stories and recognize key players. But instead of lingering on wins of the past, this celebration will focus on how you can maintain the momentum and repeat your success.

To Provoke
If your team fell short the previous year, or your organization is in the midst of a transformation, you may need to use the SKO to usher in a substantial change. The start of the year is an excellent time to inspire teams to buy into new ideas and see change as an opportunity.

To Inform Or Review
Annual events are a great time to train teams on new products, processes or techniques — and focus on skill-building in general. This is especially true if you have remote reps or teams spread out across different regions or countries.

Whatever your goal, make sure you’re not trying to cram too much into your annual sales meeting agenda, especially if you’re introducing new information.

Professional development matters

In the most recent LinkedIn Workplace Learning Development Report, 94% of employees said they would stay at their company longer if their employer invested in their career. The annual sales meeting is the perfect opportunity to invest in your sales team.

Select a Meaningful Sales Kickoff Theme

Centering your SKO around one theme and maintaining a consistent narrative throughout the event helps make the experience more memorable. After all, our brains are hard-wired to remember stories better and longer than hard facts and stats.

But just because you have a theme doesn’t mean it has to be cheesy or gimmicky, nor does it have to be concrete.

For example, the theme for Unleash 2019 was “Three Steps To Invincible: An Exact Roadmap For Achieving The Impossible.” Conference sessions revolved around meeting your full potential, even in challenging circumstances and with an ever-changing technology stack.

Similarly, the theme of Salesforce’s Dreamforce 2018 was “Staying Connected in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” and much of the conference revolved around immersive and disruptive technology, such as VR, AI and robotics.

Choose a Captivating Sales Keynote Speaker

In addition to lining up the usual cast of speakers (like the CEO, CRO and VP of Sales), you may want to consider bringing in a special sales keynote speaker.

While bringing in speakers from within your organization is more cost-effective, a professional keynote speaker can bring a unique perspective and added excitement.


If you go this route, here are a few things you’ll want to consider:

How familiar are they with your industry and process?

The sales cycle for expensive medical equipment or software is much longer and more complex than selling most products directly to consumers. Make sure the speaker you choose has specific expertise that will resonate with your sales reps.

How will they customize their presentation?

Giving presentations is part of your sales team’s job, so they can spot a canned speech within seconds. Make sure your speaker tailors the presentation to specific organizational pain points.

How engaging are they?

The best sales keynote speakers know how to hold their audience’s attention in a distracted world. They use powerful storytelling, humor and charisma to convey an important message in a memorable way. Established keynote speakers should have videos of past performances and reviews from others.

Do they have substance?

While delivery is critical, there’s no use hiring an engaging speaker unless they also have substance. An effective sales keynote speaker will have unique insights and thought-provoking ideas to share.

Do they provide reinforcement?

You want your sales reps to remember the message long after the speaker is done talking. Does your keynote speaker offer supporting materials, such as a book or online training courses your team can take later?

If you do decide to hire a speaker outside your organization, share your agenda and theme as far ahead of time as possible. This way, you can make sure their message aligns with your objective.

Plan Breakout Sessions According to Sales Training Needs

Breakout sessions allow your reps to take a deep dive into concepts shared during the keynote and throughout the annual sales meeting.


Here are three things you should do to ensure each breakout session hits its intended target:

Identify your biggest sales need

Where can your reps benefit from improving most? Start by determining the top area of opportunity (i.e., prospecting, qualification, cold calling, closing deals).

Review real-life scenarios and applications

Whether it’s listening to an exceptional call or hearing the story behind a notable win, find ways to show sales reps what success looks like “in the wild.”

Include opportunities for sales reps to practice

Give reps a chance to exercise their new skills before they leave their session. Split them into pairs or small groups where they can role play and provide each other with valuable feedback.

Make Time for Fun

All work and no play makes for a mentally exhausting experience. By interspersing intense sessions with fun, stress-relieving activities, you can help foster stronger relationships. This also gives reps a chance to discuss new concepts they’ve learned in a more relaxed environment.

Here are a few examples of memorable and enjoyable SKO team-building activities:

  • Happy hour
  • Team dinner
  • Escape room
  • Murder mystery game
  • Sporting event
  • Hiking
  • Boating trip
  • Cooking class
  • Karaoke
  • Bowling
  • Laser tag
  • Arcade night
  • Wellness activities
    (massages, yoga, meditation)

The best activities for your event will depend on the structure and style of your SKO.

Prepare Memorable Closing Remarks (with a Call-to-Action)

Your closing remarks can be one of the most vital elements of your entire sales kickoff event, so don’t make it an after-thought. Be intentional in how you wrap up the event. Summarize key highlights, and most importantly, end with a call-to-action.

Reinforce Sales Training Post-Kickoff

Make sure you create a post SKO follow-up plan to keep the momentum going throughout the year. Schedule sales training refreshers to reinforce information and bring non-attendees up to speed.

Online sales training courses are ideal for this because your team can take them anywhere at their own pace. The best online sales training courses include a mix of reading materials, videos, real live sales call recordings and practical application your team can use outside the platform.

They share bits of information that’s easy to digest in 20- to 30-minute increments over several weeks, rather than hours-long cram sessions. Each session should give your sales reps an exercise they can practice that same day, such as writing a strong sales prospecting email or asking better open-ended questions.

Finally, be sure to engage front-line managers and the senior leadership team regularly. It may be hard to believe, but most sales leaders don’t receive any formal training. Executives promote top-performing sales reps and hope for the best only to realize much later that those reps lack critical leadership skills. They don’t know how to motivate and engage their teams, hold them accountable or coach them to improve performance.

Ensure your sales leaders are doing their part by enrolling them in sales coaching programs that will equip them to empower their teams.

A powerful SKO sets the tone for the entire year. While many teams look forward to reconnecting after the holidays and celebrating success, the most important part of an annual sales meeting is what happens afterward.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of hosting a Sales Kickoff (SKO) event?

Hosting a Sales Kickoff (SKO) event offers numerous benefits for sales teams and organizations. Specific benefits will depend on the objective and theme you choose to align your SKO with. However, some overarching advantages are important to keep in mind regardless of your goals:

  • Alignment: SKO events help align the sales team with the company's goals, objectives, and strategic direction.
  • Motivation and Engagement: SKO events inspire and motivate sales professionals, boosting their enthusiasm and dedication toward achieving targets.
  • Knowledge Transfer: SKO events provide an opportunity to share insights, best practices, and product knowledge among the sales team.
  • Skill Development: SKO events often include training sessions and workshops to enhance the sales team's skills, helping them improve their performance.
  • Team Building: SKO events foster collaboration, teamwork, and relationship-building among sales team members.
What topics are typically covered during a Sales Kick-Off (SKO) event?

Based on your departmental climate and significant milestones since your last SKO, it is essential to cover relevant topics for your team. The specific areas to focus on will depend on your objective, as outlined above. Here are a few examples:

  • To Celebrate: Emphasize success stories and acknowledge high performers within your team. Sales training should prioritize upskilling and development rather than foundational topics. Highlighting industry trends can also help your team stay ahead of the competition.
  • To Provoke: If your team missed their targets or failed to demonstrate a strong commitment to KPIs or OKRs, your SKO should include a deep dive into sales processes and tools. Provide information on methodologies and proper utilization. Training should involve workshops and opportunities for role-playing exercises to address areas of improvement.
  • To Inform or Review: In this scenario, presentations focusing on your company's strategy, goals, and initiatives should take center stage. Share updates on product and service offerings, including new features or offerings. Training should be viewed as a development tool to enhance sales techniques.
How can a sales kickoff event be aligned with a company's overall business goals and objectives?

To align a sales kickoff event with a company's business goals and objectives, you can start by clearly defining the specific outcomes and objectives you want to achieve through the SKO event. Using your understanding of the company’s goals, you can tailor the SKO event's content, sessions, and activities. This step involves engaging senior leadership in the event to ensure their vision and strategic priorities are communicated.

Once the SKO has concluded, ensure you take time to plan out reinforcement of the core objectives from the event that further align with the company's goals.

What are some innovative ideas for a sales kickoff event that can generate excitement and enthusiasm among a sales team?

As important as it is for an SKO to inform and communicate with your sales team, it’s crucial also to make the event fun and engaging. Here are some innovative ideas to generate excitement and enthusiasm:

  • Gamification: Introduce interactive games, competitions, and challenges that promote team collaboration and friendly competition.
  • Guest Speakers: Invite influential industry speakers or thought leaders to share insights, inspire the team, and bring fresh perspectives.
  • Technology Integration: Utilize interactive event apps, virtual reality, or augmented reality experiences to make the event memorable and engaging.
  • Team-Building Exercises: Organize team-building activities or adventure challenges to foster camaraderie and bonding among team members.

Choosing the right activities and touchpoints for a sales kickoff event can involve many moving pieces. You know your team best, so take the time to decide which of the above ideas may generate the most engagement from them.

How can an SKO event be inclusive of all team members and promote a collaborative team culture?

It’s crucial for your SKO to ensure inclusivity and promote a collaborative team culture. In a world of hybrid and remote working conditions, and considering your team’s capabilities, you might consider incorporating some of the following ideas:

  • Interactive Sessions: Incorporate interactive sessions that encourage participation from all team members, such as group discussions, Q&A sessions, or roundtable discussions.
  • Breakout Sessions: Organize breakout sessions or workshops that allow smaller groups to collaborate and contribute their ideas and experiences.
  • Communication Channels: Establish open communication channels, such as feedback sessions, where team members can express their thoughts and ideas.
What are some effective ways to measure the ROI of a sales kickoff event?

Measuring the ROI of a sales kickoff event can be done through various methods. Considering the objective and the theme of the event, these will likely look different from company to company. Some general, effective ways of measuring ROI include:

  • Pre- and Post-Event Surveys: Conduct surveys to gauge participants' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours before and after the event. This can also include a feedback portion.
  • Sales Performance Metrics: Track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as sales revenue, conversion rates, and pipeline growth following the event.
  • Training Evaluation: Assess the impact of training sessions by measuring participants' skill improvement and their ability to apply new techniques.
What are some tips for developing a theme and message that resonates with our sales team during the kickoff event?

The best place you can start is by knowing your audience. Have a deep understanding of your sales team's demographics, interests, and aspirations to develop a theme that resonates with them. Don’t shy away from collaborating with your sales team, and involve members to get their input and ensure their buy-in early on. From there, the theme and message should directly relate to the challenges, goals, and aspirations of the sales team.

Storytelling can be a powerful tool when used during your SKO. Craft a compelling narrative that connects with the sales team on an emotional level and conveys a clear message. From a sensory standpoint, ensure consistency in visual elements, such as branding and design, and align the verbal messaging accordingly.

What are some effective ways to provide ongoing support and resources to our sales team after the kickoff event?

To provide ongoing support and resources to your sales team after the kickoff event, consider establishing consistent communication channels to share updates, best practices, and resources with the sales team. Creating a centralized repository of sales resources, training materials, and FAQs accessible to all team members can also help reinforce ongoing support. Another option is to offer periodic training sessions, webinars, or e-learning modules to reinforce skills and introduce new concepts.

How can Funnel Clarity help plan and execute a Sales Kick-Off (SKO) event?

Funnel Clarity can assist you in planning and executing a successful Sales Kick-Off (SKO) event that energizes your sales team, aligns with your business goals, and drives measurable results. By leveraging our expertise and resources, some areas we can help with include:

  • Coaching and Reinforcement: We provide ongoing coaching and reinforcement programs to support your sales team beyond the SKO event. Our sales coaches can work with individual team members to reinforce the skills and strategies learned during the event, helping them achieve sustainable growth and success.
  • Sales Training Workshops: We offer a range of sales training workshops that can be integrated into your SKO event. These workshops focus on enhancing essential sales skills, such as prospecting, objection handling, and closing techniques, to empower your sales team and drive performance. Once your event is concluded, we can also work with your team for reinforcement training modules that further support your SKO objectives and goals to maximize ROI.

To learn more about how Funnel Clarity can help you plan your SKO event, reach out to us.


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