How to host a stellar sales kickoff

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Contributor, Sell to Win

The end of 2020 is upon us (thankfully), which means it’s time to look ahead to the next 12 months.

If you’re a sales leader, planning your annual sales kickoff event is probably at the top of your to-do list…or at least it should be. Even in uncertain times, it’s important to get your sales team thinking long term.

Keep reading to learn what a sales kickoff is, why these kinds of events are valuable to sales teams, and five tips you can use to ensure your kickoff is a huge success.

What’s a Sales Kickoff?

A sales kickoff, SKO for short, is an annual meeting that allows sales teams to set goals for the new year, align strategy, and motivate reps. SKOs are typically hosted in January or February, though this isn’t a hard and fast rule.

Most SKO events last at least a full day, if not more, which means they require a significant investment of time and resources. Let’s talk about why the investment is worth it.

Why Host a Sales kickoff Event?

“Hmmm…” you’re thinking, “sales kickoff events sound great, but are they really worth the effort?” While we can’t answer that question for you, we can say with absolute confidence that SKOs are beneficial to the companies that host them. Here’s why:

Focus

SKOs give sales leaders the chance to establish their goals for the new year and make sure everyone on the team knows what they are. When your reps understand your company’s main objectives, they can focus their efforts on high-impact strategies to help achieve them. This level of clarity will do wonders for your team.

Education

SKOs are the perfect time to educate sales reps on new and/or updated products. That way they can sell them to prospects with complete confidence. If you take time to dive deeper into the various benefits and features of your products, your sales will increase.

Energy

Finally, a well-structured SKO will completely re-energize and motivate your sales team. As you know, rep enthusiasm is essential to high sales numbers. By building up excitement in your reps via inspirational speeches and award presentations, you can boost their energy levels.

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5 Tips For Your Next SKO

The benefits of sales kickoff meetings are clear. Now the question is, how do you host one? Keep the following five tips in mind and your next SKO will be much more successful.

1. Understand Your Goals

Your objectives should form the foundation of your entire SKO, which means you have to actually know what they are. By taking time to define your goals, you’ll ensure your meet-up is both productive and successful. There are two kinds of goals you should set:

  • Business goals: What do you want your sales team to achieve this year? Examples could be, “Boost revenue by at least 10%” or “Break into X market.” Don’t plan the rest of your SKO until you know exactly what your business goals are.
  • SKO goals: You should also plan specific goals for your sales kickoff event. What do you want your event to accomplish? Maybe you’re looking to celebrate big wins from the previous year and fire up your team for the months ahead. Or maybe you plan to focus on education at your SKO so that your reps have the tools they need to sell effectively. Know your goals so that you can plan an effective event.

Without business and SKO goals, your sales kickoff meeting will be directionless and unsuccessful—definitely not what you’re going for.

2. Choose a Theme

Now that you’ve taken the time to understand your goals, you can choose a theme for your sales kickoff. Yes, every SKO meeting should have a theme! Not only will this make it more fun for your reps, it will also make it more memorable and therefore more effective.

You could, for instance, plan a Marvel-themed SKO and give each of your top sellers a superhero identity to assume during the event. Looking for something a little more traditional? You could come up with a theme like “Better, Stronger, Faster” or “Breaking Barriers” and build the content around it.

The key is to match your theme to the current status of your sales team.

For example, you might not want to plan a superhero theme event after a disappointing sales year. Always consider the position of your company and the headspace of your team. Then pair that with the goals you’ve set to choose an appropriate theme.

Note: 2020 has been less than ideal, to say the least. Many people had an extremely hard year. Keep this in mind when planning a theme for your 2021 sales kickoff event.

3. Plan Multiple Session Types

Looking to educate your reps at your next sales kickoff? Maybe you want to take time to celebrate last year’s wins or work to build stronger relationships between reps. These are all great goals! But if every single moment of your SKO is about the same topic, it will get stale—fast.

Instead, plan multiple session types so that your team has a well-rounded experience that’s both fun and productive. Here are a few session types to include:

  • Celebration: Last year might have been rough, but good things still happened. If they didn’t your company wouldn’t be in business anymore. Your SKO is the perfect time to recognize and celebrate the big wins from the past 12 months.
  • New updates: Are there any fresh developments your reps need to know about? New product releases, pricing changes, and compensation adjustments all apply. These kinds of sessions are also a perfect time to share new goals for the upcoming year.
  • Education: There’s always new information to learn. Teach your team about the intricacies of your new product and share new selling strategies they can use to meet quota. If possible, bring in outside speakers to educate your reps so that they have access to fresh information.
  • Customer interviews: The best way to learn about your company’s customers is to, you know, talk to them. Plan a customer interview session so that your reps can interact and learn from them in a zero pressure situation. The customer insights they glean will be invaluable and help them lock down many more sales in the future.
  • Team Building: Modern sales is a team sport, which means team building sessions are essential to the success of your department. Help your team build deeper bonds with each other via fun games and exercises. Team building sessions will also help boost company morale and excitement for the coming year. Win!

There are plenty of other session types you can include in your SKO as well. When planning your event’s agenda, try to keep things fresh with a wide range of content.

4. Invite Other Departments

SKOs are for sales teams, but your sellers don’t operate in a silo—at least they shouldn’t. Marketing, product, customer service, and other departments all need to work together in order for a company to be successful. With this in mind, invite other leaders in your organization to speak at your sales kickoff meeting.

It can be incredibly beneficial for reps to understand how marketing can work with them. Oftentimes there’s a disconnect between marketers and sellers within companies. Your next SKO is a fantastic opportunity to unite these separate teams.

In a similar vein, insights from the product team can help your reps better understand the solutions they sell. And conversations with your company’s customer service leaders will give them in-depth knowledge about the unique audience they need to convert.

Just make sure that everyone who speaks at your SKO understands the theme you’ve chosen and plans their talking points around it, regardless of the department they work in. That way their sessions feel cohesive and work towards the common goal of your event.

5. Provide Follow-Ups

If all goes well, your sales reps will leave your sales kickoff better educated, energized, and motivated. Take full advantage of these benefits by providing follow-up opportunities.

To reinforce the goals, theme, and enthusiasm generated by your sales kickoff meeting, plan ways to continue the conversation. For example, you could schedule regular meetings to check in with your team. Or create a Slack channel devoted to the themes and goals covered in the kickoff.

Your SKO is a single event, but it should impact your entire year. Do what you can to ensure the benefits of your meet-up extend far beyond the few days you host it.

Re-Energize Your Sales Team

A stellar sales kickoff event will educate and re-energize your team, while bringing focus to their efforts. Companies that host SKOs often find that their next year in sales is more productive. If you want to have your best sales year yet, implement the five tips listed above.

What do you think? Did we forget to include your favorite tip for how to host a stellar SKO? Shoot us a tweet @nutshell or email it to growth@nutshell.com!

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