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The ultimate sales kickoff guide for marketers

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It’s a busy time of year for marketers, especially those of us that are tasked with planning a sales kickoff (or SKO). To make your life easier, we’ve compiled our tips — including ideas for SKO themes! — and agenda items to get you started.

First, however, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. A sales kickoff is an annual meeting or event (usually held at the beginning of the fiscal year) for an organization’s sales (and often marketing) team. The purpose is to align around strategy, goals, and priorities for the next year and to celebrate the wins and share the lessons from the previous year. It’s also to pump some renewed energy into the sales org and get them motivated  — from top to bottom — to hit goals. 

If that’s what you’re here to plan, then you’re in the right place. Carry on!

4 tips for a successful sales kickoff 

A successful SKO can be the difference between a focused, motivated and productive team, and one that lacks the clarity and drive needed to hit their goals. It’s also the difference between sales and marketing working well together, and being worlds apart. 

So, while planning your SKO might feel a little bit like planning your own birthday party (it’s a celebration, after all!), you’re simply the best person for the job. Here’s our tips for a successful SKO:

1. Pick a theme

SKO event 2022In marketing, there’s a “Rule of 7” that states a prospective buyer needs to hear a message seven times before they buy your product or service. The same goes for your sales team. They need to hear the same message multiple times for it to stick. So, if you want to deliver a memorable message at your SKO, pick a theme that will help you communicate it repeatedly. 

Here are some messages you might want to send your sales team at SKO:

  • Go beyond. Encourage your sales team to take [insert metric here] to the next level. Maybe you want them to push beyond their quotas this year and your SKO revolves around that theme. Or maybe you want your sales team to take their skills up a notch and become a more sophisticated arm of the organization. A few ideas: Above and Beyond, To the Moon, Infinity and Beyond, Liftoff. 
  • Win. You can spark a competitive spirit with themes like In It to Win It, Power Up, Leading the Pack, or Achieve. 
  • Synergize. You might need to share a message around harmony and working well together at your SKO (especially after two long years of feeling disjointed). Or, this may be about synergizing around your company values if culture has gone a little off the rails. Themes can be, Onwards and Upwards, Connect, or Believe. 
  • Expand. Looking to enter new markets in 2022? Make that loud and clear with themes like New Frontiers, Unleash, or Breakthrough. 

2. Pull in additional support

Depending on the size and scope of your marketing team and their responsibilities, you may need to pull in additional support so your SKO can go off with a bang. 

A lot of the SKO prep is more about event coordination than about marketing content or strategy, especially if you have a big team. For those larger events, you may need things like: 

  • A rented space
  • A sound system
  • Presentation screens
  • Catering
  • Name tags or badges

You may even need to book accommodations or travel for remote employees. And, depending on your budget and the culture of your organization, you might need to hire entertainment (DJs, live music, performers) or speakers. 

If that’s not your jam, then see if you can hire an event coordinator or planner. Or, tap someone on your team (or elsewhere in your organization) who has strong organizational skills to manage this part of the event.

 

3. Follow a sales kickoff agenda

Most SKOs are a day or two long, so it’s important to keep things organized with an agenda. It’ll also help set expectations for attendees. We don’t recommend events that are longer than two days, otherwise, your teams will start to feel anxious about getting back to work (and life!) and start tuning new information out.  

Here are the key elements to include in your SKO agenda:

  • State of sales presentation: an overview of where your organization stands today in terms of sales. Share key sales metrics here, and discuss any trends or changes in your organization. 

  • Customer feedback: This could be in the form of stories shared by sales team members. However, if you’ve conducted any case studies, customer interviews, surveys, or done any new persona research, that can also be interesting and valuable information to share with your sales team at SKO. 

  • Wins: Celebrate the achievements of your sales team over the last year. If you have a small team, you can simply go around in a circle and share your highlights from the year. For larger organizations, a video or slide deck with the major wins of the year can be shared on the big screen.

    Tip: Wins don’t always have to be about deals that have closed. You could (and should) also share achievements like promotions, new hires, and new tools. Use this as an opportunity to make your people feel valued and appreciated.

  • Product updates: Invite a member of your product or product marketing team to share any new product developments that they should be highlighting over the next year (or quarter). Ask them to focus on how reps can position any new features or offerings, not necessarily how to use them. 

  • Competitor updates: Your sales team needs to be armed with insights into how your product or service holds up to the competition. Have your sales enablement team share the latest news from major competitive players in your field at your SKO. 

Pssst! We love creating sales enablement materials, including battlecards. Drop us a line if you want us to produce this type of content for your organization.

  • Sales skills development sessions: Host breakout sessions where reps can get into small groups to develop or build upon skills. 

Sales kickoff breakout session

  • Internal speakers: People have a hard time remembering statistics, so make time to share stories. Ask key members of your sales or marketing team to share a personal success story from the past year. You’ll also want to close out the event with a speech from a leader in your organization (likely the CEO or VP of Sales) to summarize highlights of the past year and the opportunities coming their way in the year to come.
  • Breaks: If you’re hosting a remote event, make sure to schedule breaks more regularly than you would for a live event. Putting a countdown timer on the screen makes it easy for people to know when to return for the next session.
  • Fun and games: SKOs are intended to be motivating, entertaining, and engaging, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! We highly recommend integrating live polling to get a pulse on your audience during sessions. Platforms like Poll Everywhere or Kahoot can help you make that happen.
  • Team building: Happy hours and dinners are always good. If you want to offer team-building opportunities sans-alcohol, then cooking or painting classes, laser tag, a baseball game, or karaoke are a blast. Use your marketing prowess to get into the head of your sales team and choose an activity they’d be jazzed about. 

4. Share a summary

Ever heard of the “forgetting curve”? Hermann Ebbinghaus was a psychologist who studied memory and hypothesized a phenomenon where humans forget things over time. Turns out, there’s a mathematical formula that describes the rate at which we forget. 

What does this have to do with your SKO? Well, people forget stuff. And they forget it pretty quickly after they learn it unless it’s reviewed multiple times. This means that your sales team will forget most of what they learned at your sales kickoff unless you reinforce those messages and learnings over time. 

Combat the learning curve by gathering all the resources and recording the SMIT (single most important thing) from every session, then sharing it in a downloadable packet for attendees. Need help with that? Email us.

 

Happy SKO!

Follow the tips above, and you’ll have a happy and engaged sales team at your SKO. You’ll also hopefully have an easier, less stressful month trying to plan for it all with our guidance. If you’re still looking for more support, contact us. We have lots of experience with sales kickoffs and would love to work together to make your SKO the best yet!