This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.
Sales teams often meet the start of the fiscal year with a healthy mix of excitement and trepidation. On the one hand, a new year with new goals symbolizes fresh potential and a clean slate to work from. But, on the other hand, there is a natural anxiety that can come during this time, especially as teams continue to navigate the uncertainties of the future of work.
An annual sales kickoff (SKO) is a vital way to get ahead of your team’s challenges and set a positive, encouraging tone for the year ahead. At its best, an SKO will rally your sales reps and effectively empower them to crush their goals in the coming year—but there are some unique considerations for crafting a compelling virtual sales kickoff. So, let’s explore how you can host a fulfilling SKO that makes full use of a virtual environment.
12 Virtual SKO Best Practices
As your team starts planning its online SKO and building your series of activities, follow these best practices to fulfill your team’s needs through a virtual event:
- Survey Your Team Before the SKO. Poll your organization in your early planning stages to help shape your SKO activities. Seek to understand what your sales team would like to learn during the kickoff, including what training types they are interested in and what skills they would like to develop. This is also an opportunity to determine which team members are interested in leading an SKO session.
- Set Online SKO Goals. Like any company event and activation, define clear goals for your sales kickoff. Ideally, these goals should ladder back to your organization’s annual goals.
- Plan Virtual First. To host an incredible online SKO, your team needs to plan the virtual experience thoroughly. This will require you to rethink how you structure sessions to keep attendees excited and primed to gain the most value from the digital environment. For example, if you plan to provide something identical to your in-person SKO, just pre-recorded, you are unlikely to keep attendees engaged. This, in turn, will likely fail to deliver on your team’s needs.
- Pick a Sales Kickoff Theme. Much like a traditional SKO, your team can pick a virtual SKO theme to help guide your planning and create a cohesive experience for all attendees. Note that if you have an annual company theme, your SKO theme should complement this theme to reinforce your team’s goals further. The best virtual event platforms will allow you to brand the experience and keep this theme top-of-mind throughout every session.
- Balance Your Session Lengths and Setups. Employ a mix of large- and small-group sessions and activities. Your salespeople may become fatigued in a digital environment if you force them to watch back-to-back recordings with no opportunity to engage with the content or their peers. Instead, offer a mix of short 15-minute sessions and longer 45+ minute sessions with a conscious focus on attendee engagement throughout the experience.
- Appeal to All Education and Skill Levels. Create content and offer sessions that directly address beginner, intermediate, and advanced knowledge needs. Your pre-SKO team surveys should provide some guidance on your team’s professional development needs. The benefit of a virtual environment is that you can easily host multiple concurrent sessions, all of which can be made available for replay and future consumption.
- Showcase Diverse Speakers. Your sales kickoff should spotlight speakers from almost every department in your organization, including marketing, customer success, product development, and, of course, sales. Select speakers that represent a range of experiences and needs at your organization. This includes offering speaking spots to rockstar sellers, regardless of their position or tenure with the company, and customers who are willing to share their perspectives with your sales team.
- Provide Educational Materials Ahead of Time. Explain how your salespeople can access the SKO’s educational and preparation materials a few weeks or up to a month in advance. This gives your team the chance to digest the materials at their own pace and come to the SKO in a better position to take full advantage of the sessions.
- Mail Swag and Supplies Ahead of The SKO. Help your team members prepare for the SKO by mailing them team activity and swag bags ahead of the event. These SKO care packages should include any materials that attendees will need to use during the meeting, plus company swag, snacks, and even a small personal gift.
- Gamify the Experience. Salespeople love friendly competition. Consider hosting a competition or gamifying your experience in some way to encourage engagement throughout the event. This can be something as simple as a BINGO board with a series of activities to check off, or a leader board that tracks how many sessions a rep has joined, how many comments they’ve shared through the virtual SKO platform or a similar tracker.
- Build a Knowledge Hub For Ongoing Education. Extend the value of your SKO by creating a knowledge hub that captures all the key information. This way your sales reps can revisit sessions, access helpful documents and how-tos, and continue to engage with your sales content throughout the year.
- Celebrate Sales Year Round. After the SKO, continue celebrating your team members that exemplify the ideas discussed during the SKO. Recognize salespeople during team meetings, through email, and in other ways to reinforce behaviors and encourage continued sales innovation.
Finding the Best Virtual SKO Platform
If you follow the virtual sales kickoff best practices we explored above, your team will be better equipped to empower your sales reps and help them engage with your ideal buyers.
There is just one final tip to help you host an incredible virtual SKO: choose a virtual event platform that will elevate the experience and make planning a breeze.
Many virtual event platforms fail to provide the essential networking and engagement features that your sales reps need for a fulfilling SKO experience. Features like small- and large-group breakout rooms, live-streamed or pre-recorded content, popup messages, and attendee profiles are just a few must-haves for your SKO.