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Guide to the Perfect Online Sales Kickoff (SKO) Event

What is a sales kickoff event?

A sales kickoff event is an annual meeting that a company usually holds at the start of the fiscal year. It’s designed to bring the sales team together to celebrate past success, share a new sales strategy, and educate sales reps on what’s to come.

The events are intended to be fun, professional, and, most importantly, inspirational. It's a time to align the sales team with company priorities and the path for the year ahead. The sales kickoff meeting sets expectations, encourages growth mindsets, and inspires your sales force.

These kickoffs have traditionally been in-person events, but that has changed — especially since sales teams increasingly operate remotely. The good news is that it doesn’t matter whether your team is in the same room — a thoughtfully planned virtual kickoff can bring everyone together no matter their locations.

Related: How to Run an Online Management Meeting

Why bring your team together

Sales kickoffs can be hosted for virtual attendees as well as those attending in person — with the right tools. When done right these meetings can serve as great team-building activities. Here are a few reasons your company should host an in-person or hybrid sales kickoff meeting or event:

  • Motivation. Your sales reps need to be stirred up in a grand way to promote a new product or face the new fiscal year. The energized discussion of incentives, milestones, and competition can motivate them to commit to doing their best.
  • Education. You can educate sales reps on your company strategy, its latest sales techniques, key initiatives, sales goals and objectives, and even industry trends. They must know your product through and through. Training and refresher sessions are always vital, and these group events allow team members to share experiences and personal development techniques.
  • Networking. This can be difficult in a virtual event, but your sales team and all remote attendees can network and become acquainted by using breakout rooms, chat, post-event emails, and subsequent video conferencing in smaller groups. Your team can draw energy and positive emotions from one another and build a sense of togetherness.
  • Celebration. Your sales team will enjoy a feeling of accomplishment and appreciate recognition for last year's work. This is a time to celebrate past successes and motivate everyone toward new achievements.

How to run a successful SKO

Consider these ideas for creating a successful sales kickoff meeting or event:

Start with purpose

As you begin your planning, envision what a successful SKO will look like. Decide what knowledge, understandings and feelings you want your sales team to come away with. Then brainstorm sales kickoff themes and pick one that aligns with your company priorities for the coming year. Ask yourself these questions as you plan the event theme and meeting:

  • What do we want attendees to think and feel during the event?
  • What do we ultimately hope to accomplish?
  • Is there any aspect of the sales kickoff that we want to focus on, such as motivation, product knowledge, customer service?
  • What can we build into this event that will help us to maintain energy throughout the year?

Include the sales team in the planning by polling them for sales kickoff meeting ideas. You can even crowdsource your SKO agenda from your team, ensuring maximum buy-in and relevance. You might be surprised at what they say. Be open to their ideas; it's all about them, after all.

Set a clear, balanced sales kickoff agenda

This is your opportunity to drive home points that may get missed as the year begins. Focus the meeting agenda on the most essential messaging. Line up dynamic speakers and informative, interactive knowledge sessions. Plan for time to mingle in chat rooms, and include a couple of breaks to allow attendees to get up and stretch their legs, grab a drink, or visit the restroom. When compared with an in-person or hybrid meeting agenda, an online-only version should have shorter presentations and sessions, and no more than four hours of content a day. That will help keep energy levels up.

Build excitement to ensure a meaningful event

Begin planning your annual sales kickoff meeting early enough that everyone can save the date far in advance. Create buzz with print and digital communications to stir your sales organizations. Show clips of the scheduled keynote speakers and send out overviews of the training sessions. This will whet their appetites for the event and all that they might gain from it. 

Even though some may attend the event online, you can still offer raffles and prizes to be delivered to the winners' homes or offices. Remind folks of that, too.

Related: How to Keep Your Audience Engaged During an Online Presentation

Use tech

There are many tech tools available to engage the entire sales team. Use polls and quizzes, or brainstorm before the event with interactive software like MeetingPulse. This tool provides live Q&As, polls, quizzes, and much more. These may be used to create momentum leading up to your event, real-time monitoring during the event, and feedback after the event.

Pick a theme

Use a theme to unify all the elements of your meeting. The theme can set the tone for the event. If the company is heading into difficult headwinds, you might want a theme that bucks up the competitive spirit. If you are celebrating a great year and foresee continued success, you can go with a fun theme that reinforces what is helping you to succeed. 

Themes make it easier to develop skits, puns, jokes, slideshows, trivia, raffles, and, above all, friendly competition. All those elements encourage team building and help your sales team remember the important information you are trying to convey at the kickoff. Here are a few examples of sales kickoff themes.

Superheroes. Have you had a great year? Want to go beyond a traditional theme like “Champions By Design”? Recognize your top salespeople by asking them to each portray a superhero in a video of a speech, conversation, or presentation in which they explain how they found success. You might draw from characters in The Avengers, Star Wars, Star Trek, Inspector Gadget, The Pink Panther, James Bond, Alice in Wonderland, or Greek Heroes and Gods.

Beat [Your Competitor]. Got a rivalry? Use it to energize people. Rally them around beating the performance of a particular rival.

March Madness. Set up a bracket in NCAA tournament style. Place each of your teams on the bracket and link them to college basketball teams. They can advance through the bracket based on the results of fun competitions. 

Your Company Slogan or Tagline. For example, at MeetingPulse, we’ve built sales kickoffs around phrases like “Crowdsource the genius of your people.

Presentation and laptops on desk

Are you looking for a means of interacting and engaging your online audience? MeetPulse is user-friendly, accessible, and scalable. Contact MeetingPulse today.

During the event

Consider these ideas for achieving remarkable engagement and memorable takeaways:

Include success stories

Acknowledge the successes of the past year and use that as a team building opportunity by focusing on the teams and team members who contributed to your company's success. Create awards — both small and big – and give them to your sales leaders and others who deserve a “way to go” for their efforts. Allow team members who had exemplary achievements or demonstrated best practices to share their success stories. This can be highly motivating to everyone, including the team members who are sharing their stories. This will inspire the rest of the team to aim higher.

A little competition

Sales teams are fueled by healthy competition, so why not include a sales game to get people inspired? This will keep them engaged with the presentations and each other throughout the event. An interactive activity like a virtual escape room is one of the many popular options for team-building.

Invite your best customer

A panel of some of your best customers could reveal aspects of your customer service, sales strategies, and products that your marketing team needs to know. Ask them questions like,

  • Why did you decide to work with us?
  • Is there anything our competition can offer you that would entice you to switch?
  • How is our customer service?

Encourage and support honest feedback by fostering an open and transparent discussion. By using MeetingPulse features that provide anonymity, you might find yourself getting frank, valuable information that isn’t available from other methods. If a panel isn't appropriate, consider video clips of customers sharing what they love (and don't love) about your company.

Don't forget to mingle

This can be tricky for those attending remotely. Still, it's possible to encourage team members to talk about different portions of the training sessions or share feedback concerning the presentations and panels. Depending on the video conferencing platform you are using, you can create "rooms" for breakout sessions that allow people to talk in smaller groups. Some people might be more comfortable in that kind of setting and open up to provide useful information and creative ideas.

Announcements

Announce new products, product updates, and training that are planned for the year, as well as any marketing updates.

Breaks 

Virtual events can be a little overwhelming, especially long ones. Make sure you build in breaks so your attendees don’t feel fatigued. Allowing for brief breaks between sessions or activities will let people take a quick breather so they can come back refreshed and ready to tackle the next part of the meeting. 

Answer questions 

You should always include time to answer questions from your team, whether it’s at the end or during the event. And encourage them to ask questions, too. MeetingPulse offers different ways to invite participants to ask questions and weigh in as the meeting unfolds.

A strong ending

At the end of your event, gather as much feedback as possible. It's a great opportunity to gauge if the event was indeed a success. Plus, you can use the insight to plan your next sales kickoff.

MeetingPulse is a user-friendly software tool that can generate surveys and quizzes for feedback. Once you have the feedback, you can create a plan to act on it. You'll get more specific and honest feedback if your team sees that you take their views seriously by using it to structure future meetings.

Related: Top 6 Audience Interaction Tools for Virtual Meetings

Final thought

An SKO can be a truly memorable and inspiring event. Holding it online or as a hybrid event gives you new ways to make an impact on your sales team. Going the extra mile to make it informative, exciting, interactive, and engaging will reap yearlong benefits.

Want to gather surveys and other feedback? Find out why MeetingPulse is trusted by Fortune 100 companies.

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