How To Get The Most Out Of Your Sales Kickoff

  • Forbes
  • January 5, 2023

A sales kickoff event is intended to inspire, align and motivate your teams to achieve greatness in their pursuits. A well-designed kickoff experience can be the catalyst of change an organization needs to think bigger and achieve big sales goals.

Kickoffs have evolved from sales team events to revenue team events and even all company events. Some call kickoff revenue kickoffs (RKO), go-to-market kickoffs (GKO) or company kickoffs (CKO). Whatever name you call it, this is an important event that should be planned with care; for instance, I recommend creating a 30- or 60-day kickoff experience versus trying to jam all your content and training into the two to three main event days.

Whether you’re planning to do an in-person or virtual event, here are several key components to include in your sales kickoff.

1. Create an engaging theme.

Develop a theme for your kickoff experience that is motivational, priority-focused and culture-building; this is key to realizing the benefits of the huge investment you’re going to make. A motivational theme is one that will drive your teams to do the best work of their lives and take action to deliver business outcomes. Being priority-focused is intended to ensure that a theme is aligned with your company’s top business priorities, and any event should serve to reinforce your company’s positive culture. Finally, ensure that your theme is inclusive, making everyone feel welcome and valued regardless of role, geography, gender or race. A well-thought-out theme will carry your kickoff energy way beyond the actual event.

2. Develop a before, during and after kickoff program.

In order to optimize your team’s engagement and education, create a kickoff experience that has three distinct parts: before, during and after.

Use prework before the actual kickoff event (regardless of it being in person or virtual) to align your teams and get them excited about what’s coming. Prework can include exercises like pitch practice, win-stories and product knowledge checks. Use the during-the-event stage to inspire and motivate; for example, consider bringing in motivational speakers and engaging your teams in activities that can only be done in person or in groups. Finally, use the post-event experience to train and certify your teams.

3. Prep your speakers.

Many organizations don’t invest the time to really prepare their speakers. Create a kickoff vision brief that includes your company’s vision statement, values and expected outcomes from the kickoff. Educate your speakers on the theme and show them ways they can incorporate it into their talks and workshops. Having all your speakers reinforce the chosen themes will help create more alignment and reinforcement in the hearts and minds of your teams.

4. Promote meaningful networking with your attendees.

Group work is a great opportunity to bring teams together to collaborate and learn from each other. Too often, kickoff exercises don’t take into consideration the who, what and why of networking.

Be mindful of who will be networking with you. For example, if your goal is to break down silos and nurture cross-team collaboration, then run group exercises that support this objective. The types of exercises you ask your teams to do are also great ways to reinforce messages and priorities. Have your team practice their pitch or share their pitch in small groups when they meet in person. Getting teams talking and sharing ideas around their pitch, stories or winning plays is a great way to learn by doing.

5. Keep your attendees engaged.

Here are some general rules to follow at any kickoff to help keep everyone engaged: Play fun, upbeat music. Play videos to change the energy of a room. Also, don’t let presenters talk too long without having folks do something active, like stand up or do an exercise. If thirty minutes go by and your attendees haven’t done something engaging, they’re probably starting to get distracted. Work into your program both formal and informal engagement exercises.

6. Measure kickoff engagement and correlate it with performance data.

The power of creating a kickoff experience that follows the “pre, during and post” framework is that you will be able to collect data and insights. If you’re doing some basic testing or capturing video stories as prework, you’ll have completion and engagement to measure across your teams. You’ll be able to correlate this data with performance data, providing employee insights to managers for the purposes of effective coaching.

Similarly, post-work training and certification data will provide reinforcement learning, along with ways to measure the effectiveness of your kickoff experience. The proven “pre, during and post” kickoff framework can elevate your experience by driving better engagement, meaningful reinforcement and metrics to measure the impact.

Designing the perfect kickoff experience can be overwhelming. Don’t forget to put yourself in the shoes of your kickoff attendees when planning the entire experience. Ask yourself how this event, and every session before, during and after your kickoff, helps you do your job better. If you find that answer and follow this framework, your sales kickoff should create great success for your business.

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