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Sales Kickoff Agenda: Creating an Engaging Event From Start to Finish

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The sales kickoff (SKO) agenda can make or break the effectiveness and efficiency of an entire SKO event. It’s often a balancing act between executing creative content and finessing the logistics of keeping potentially thousands of employees engaged and eager to participate in one of the year’s most significant sales events.

An organization’s SKO can effectively gather everyone within the entire revenue organization – from sales and sales development teams, customer success managers, partner team members, and executive leadership to come together and ramp up excitement for a new year of selling and navigating the evolving buyer landscape.

The benefits of a successful SKO relate to a more dynamic sales organization and clarity on the goals and objectives of the new year beyond reaching quota. The State of Sales Enablement Report 2021 showed that 70% of respondents said their company’s sales process had become more challenging this year. Meanwhile, having highly engaged reps correlates with a 30-percentage-point improvement in quota attainment compared to organizations where employees are the least involved. Crafting a SKO agenda that focuses on engaging reps and creating a memorable, impactful event is critical in leaving sales teams with the tools and vision needed to achieve broader company goals.

To ensure the next SKO your enablement team puts together is the most successful yet, consider crafting the agenda with these key tips in mind:

1. Showcase the Goals and Theme Throughout

Threading a throughline with every session or content piece with a central theme will generate more engagement with the ideas being presented and help people remember the concepts in a more meaningful way. The theme could center around a specific word or idea that ties directly back to the vision of the revenue organization and, above all else, motivates every participant to bring their spirit, collaboration, and new ideas to the table.

Most businesses want to increase sales and revenue year-over-year. The SKO event provides the opportunity to drill down into the specifics of what to address that is most timely and will help reps hold themselves accountable for the improvement and growth they hope to achieve in the new year. Once the theme is established, it should help provide the roadmap to the goals and objectives the SKO aims to address.

“Go back to the goals of the event, or if these haven’t yet been established, build them around what the event is truly bringing people together for connections, celebrations, energy, and education,” said John Chinello, senior director of global sales enablement at Fastly. “Every day and section of the agenda should align to one or more of these purposes.”

Successful SKO objectives are reflective of the goals for the whole organization. Enablement practitioners may want to consider what is happening within the next year that will directly affect the sales team’s day-to-day and help focus on the content needed to set them up for success.

2. Invite Inspiring Speakers to Present

To start the kickoff memorably, consider inviting a noteworthy keynote speaker focused on engaging and inspiring every team member. The first session is crucial to engage reps and keep their attention to point to the broader theme of the SKO and set the tone for the rest of the event. Capture that excitement on day one with a speaker who will keep that momentum going.

“[We selected] Alison Levine, who you might know as a history-making adventurer and New York Times bestselling author,” said Callie Apt, senior director of sales enablement at Domo. “Our teams were just really captivated by her story, and she took them through a range of emotions in her talk and even some humor as she recounted her experiences climbing Mount Everest.”

To ensure the SKO has the right speakers to fill more high-level presentations or lead critical breakout sessions, consider the information needed to reach and empower sellers. For example, suppose your organization is anticipating a significant change in the coming year, perhaps an acquisition or company-wide reorganization. In that case, it becomes essential to tailor specific presentations to speak to the processes that will have to take place to successfully navigate these changes while carrying them through the buyer’s journey. Hearing from executive-level leadership may also help engage reps and understand why changes are happening and the expectations and steps sellers may consider when out in the field.

“There’s a lot of great speakers out there, and I would just say, build in time for something different, something outside of the norm, not about how to get more leads, but something a little bit fun and different,” said Apt.

3. Schedule Breakout Sessions That Hone Selling Skills, Educate on New Information, and Highlight Customers

Breakout sessions typically comprise the majority of the sales kickoff schedule and are often seen as the meat of the entire event. The sessions should focus on your company’s strategic objectives, techniques for dealing with challenges, training for a new and timely product launch, or actionable tips from top sales performers that can help upskill the entire team. Breakout sessions can be formatted to be around 30 to 50-minute sessions, although shorter sessions could be used for general Q&A or discussing more high-level content. For training, longer sessions may be best as they help teach, assert, and reinforce critical knowledge needed for reps to be successful heading into a new year of selling.

To make the most of the time granted during a breakout session, consider compiling pre-work materials reps can complete before SKO and include resources within the schedule with links for additional training materials. Another way to make breakout sessions even more engaging and effective is to build in a gamified component to them, encouraging a friendly competitive edge for each rep to participate in, whether by asking questions, answering correctly, or practicing their learning in role plays with live feedback.

“Consider ways to engage live participants with real-time questions through tools like chat or polls,” said Chinello. “There could be a centralized chat channel they can use or a point of contact to send questions to. This will help make the event as engaging as possible with two-way communication.”

4. Reserve Time for Networking and Team-Building

As a time to educate, celebrate, and inspire, the SKO traditionally was one of the few times team members gathered and saw everyone at once.

“If practitioners look at feedback from past SKOs and the experiences that participants wanted more of, it likely included more connection time, sharing of ideas, and collaborating with teams,” said Chinello.

Whether virtual, in-person, or a hybrid combination of both, a winning SKO agenda builds in time to capitalize on having the sales reps under one (even virtual) roof. Making time for representatives to network and connect will encourage greater communication and help familiarize the reps with their own team members, helping them feel more connected and engaged with their company.

Consider including time outside of breakout sessions or presentations to get to know each other and share their sales experiences, wins, or challenges. This section can take the form of a happy hour, a group volunteer activity, or even some fun games in-between sessions.

“We had some trivia on our sales team, our leaders, and our company history,” said Apt. “That was a fun way to shake things up and give the next presenters time to set up without losing our audience.”

5. Don’t Forget to Celebrate the Wins

As much as SKO focuses on all of what’s to come in the new year, it’s also time to celebrate the performance of sales reps genuinely making a difference. By recognizing the big wins, the SKO can serve as a vehicle for well-earned appreciation and motivate sellers to achieve even more in the future.

Creating a more fun atmosphere through an awards segment can be fun for all, and for reps to get to know one another and cheer each other on for the incredible wins their team should be proud to acknowledge. Enablement practitioners may consider creative award categories that are a mix of top-performing and perhaps more tongue-in-cheek acknowledgments to give out highly desired prizes such as new tech, gift cards, or personalized gifts.

“A huge part of SKO is recognizing the amazing performance of your teams,” said Apt. “We started this last year when we brainstormed with our leaders on what were the categories of recognition that we wanted to give at SKO? You always want to congratulate team members for top attainment and your top reps.”

Crafting the perfect SKO agenda is one that strikes a balance of education, inspiration, and engagement. Through a mix of high-level presentations, celebrating wins, sales skills, product training, and yes, time reserved just for fun, the SKO can be an event that is greatly anticipated and motivates all sellers for a stellar year. The SKO agenda can clearly define the critical takeaways once the event is over and what to expect for the months to come.

Download our sample SKO agenda and template below.



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