11 Essential Components of a Successful Sales Kickoff (SKO)

2020 is officially here. A successful sales kickoff can set the stage for success throughout the entire year. An SKO is a great opportunity to communicate important messages and updates to the team, and get them pumped up. Ideally, your team members should leave the kickoff feeling motivated, armed with new knowledge, and excited about the year to come.

To reap these benefits, your SKO must be well-planned, with a full slate of engaging events that provide real value to your team. 

Here are some must-have components of a sales kickoff: 

1) Clear goals for the SKO

A successful SKO starts with clearly defined goals. Send an agenda before the actual kickoff, so your reps know what to expect.

Your goals should be big enough to sustain an entire event, but they shouldn’t be so broad as to fill the entire day.

Here are a few key goals: Celebrating your successes, overview of new annual goals, pivoting to new strategies, and reviewing the sales process. All the activities you have planned should support the main goals in some discernible way. 

2) An entirely offline experience

SKOs are a great opportunity for your team members to bond with each other. They can’t do that if they’re constantly checking email or social media feeds. Ask your team to remain offline during the event.

However, you can build a few email breaks into the schedule so your team members can catch up on work. You want to set the expectation that for actual SKO events, everyone is fully present. Activities should engage your team with each other and your customer community. Try to avoid activities that require people to use personal devices.

3) Gamify to keep it fun and competitive

A little healthy competition can make a kickoff fun and engaging. Include gamification elements when you can. Preferably, your salespeople should be competing as teams rather than as individuals. This is a great opportunity to build team camaraderie and expose your team members to new people. You can even up the ante a little by giving the winning team a small prize, like movie tickets.

4) Kick-off the event with some icebreakers for team bonding

To send the message that the SKO is for team bonding—not simply sales training—begin with fun activities that encourage your team to form bonds. These activities do not have to be sales-related. Even something simple like competitive Rock/Paper/Scissors games can get people to loosen up and get in a good mentality for the day ahead.

5) Keynote from management on why the SKO exists

Towards the beginning of the SKO, a sales leader should give a keynote speech that explains what the kickoff is hoping to accomplish. This helps the team to buy into the event by giving them a concrete reason why they should be invested in it and how they will benefit.

6) Specific sales skill sessions 

To provide strong value to your team members, the SKO should include sessions to work on specific sales skills. These sessions should be hands-on and give plenty of opportunities for team members to interact with each other. Giving people the chance to practice sales skills in a fun and non-conventional way is a valuable teaching tool and will make the event memorable.

Some possible skills to focus on: researching prospects, building rapport in unique ways, giving a great product demo, and handling prospect objections.

7) Q&A with industry expert or customer

The SKO is a great opportunity for your team members to learn from people outside of your organization. Bring in an industry expert for a Q&A session. This works because it allows your reps to learn about the subjects that are most pressing to the community, rather than having management dictate the agenda.

Customers can also make great Q&A guests. They can provide unique insights about how they use your product and interact with your company. Video conferencing can work if needed, but an in-person visit is always best.

8) Breakout sessions for people to tackle major issues in the sales process

Giving salespeople some choice about the agenda improves their engagement. It also provides opportunities for interaction in smaller groups. Plan for several breakout sessions that are focused key sales process issues your team cares most about. You might even ask them to provide suggestions for topics.

Potential topics for breakout sessions include how to effectively reduce long sales cycles, improve customer journey, and increase sales productivity.

9) Preview of product and service updates in 2020

Get your salespeople excited about 2020 through a presentation about upcoming product and service updates. This imparts valuable information to your team and lets them know that your company is progressing.

10) Final sales game 

People could be getting a bit restless towards the end of the day. Mixing things up with a final sales game that allows people to engage their sales muscles in a fun, low-pressure approach is a great way to close things out. At CloserIQ, we had a blast by asking people to pitch small cities as the next great place to live.

11) SKO closing and happy hour

A strong closing is critical for capping off a successful SKO. Remember: A good SKO has an arc. It continues to build throughout the day before ending on a positive note. People may remember the opening and closing activities more than anything else.

Conclude with a happy hour that lets people relax and allows them to cement the bonds developed during the day. This communicates that you want your team to have fun while meeting sales goals throughout the year.

By including these elements in your SKO, you will provide your team with an experience that is both motivating and memorable.

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Jason Lalk

Jason is the VP of Sales at CloserIQ and a Venture Partner at CoFound Partners. Previously, he was the Head of Sales at Bindo.