This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.
An annual sales kickoff (SKO) is possibly the most critical meeting your sales organization holds all year. Companies often spare no expense to host an extravagant offsite event that rallies the sales team, fine-tunes their sales strategies for the coming year, and empowers them to crush their goals.
This year’s sales kickoff will look different for many organizations, though, with many face-to-face meetings being canceled in favor of safer, distanced gatherings. However, don’t let the absence of an in-person connection discourage you.
A virtual SKO can still achieve the goals of your previously in-person annual sales meeting, with the potential to further benefit your team given the advantages of a digital meeting. That is, of course, if you know the do’s and don’ts of planning a virtual SKO.
Let’s explore how to effectively host an online SKO that delights your salespeople and positions your sales team for success through the year.
What is a Virtual Sales Kickoff?
A sales kickoff is an annual event where companies unveil their sales goals and build excitement within their sales team. A sales kickoff is designed to unify your sales organization and empower everyone in a customer-facing position to support your brand and drive sales.
A virtual SKO will feature many of the same discussions, activities, and elements as your in-person SKO. However, you cannot create an effective virtual SKO by filming your usual sales kickoff elements and posting the videos on a shared platform for your salespeople to view. Instead, you must think of this as a virtual-first experience, keeping in mind virtual event engagement best practices.
In-person sales kickoffs can be as short as a few hours or span an entire week at some of the world’s largest organizations. Within a digital environment, however, you need to offer a diverse array of activities, at differing lengths, to fight off potential video call fatigue and keep your attendees engaged.
Who Should be Invited to a Virtual Sales Kickoff?
Smart organizations understand that every team member, regardless of role or department, can help or hinder the company’s ability to sell to its ideal customers. The best customer-focused solutions arise when cross-departmental teams combine their knowledge, align their efforts, and chart a path for success.
Your virtual SKO should not be limited to your sales organization’s members. Instead, include an array of employees who regularly partner with and support your sales team to foster a well-rounded discussion and benefit multiple teams’ needs.
Ensure that you invite all of the following attendees to your SKO:
- Sales managers/leaders: Your salespeople will be most familiar with the sales leaders on your team, and these leaders usually have the most prominent role in planning and hosting the SKO. Strategically build on their individual relationships and influence to strengthen camaraderie during the event.
- C-Suite executives: It’s one thing to have sales leadership discuss what salespeople need to know. However, it is much more impactful to have your C-suite leadership discuss their goals for the year during the kickoff. Their presence also reinforces the importance of the meeting and can serve as a key culture-building opportunity.
- Product managers: The people who lead your product development should join the SKO. They can discuss the product roadmap, explain how these new features or updates are designed to help customers, and answer questions from the sales team. The SKO also provides a valuable opportunity for the product team to get feedback from sales and customers that can help prioritize product improvements.
- Customer success managers: Anyone with a direct customer-facing position can provide a wealth of knowledge about the challenges a company’s customers face post-sale. Invite a few customer success managers or the head of Customer Success to join the event and discuss how the company can better support its customers through their entire lifecycle.
- Marketing leadership: Multiple marketing team members are essential for sales enablement. Product marketing can help make sure that sales teams have the collateral and product benefits information to succeed in the sales process, while also keeping up to speed on sales initiatives. The content marketing team in particular can help solve many customer challenges and help sales overcome prospect objections. Partner with the marketing team to understand their goals for the sales kickoff and craft an agenda that will help break silos and uplevel strategic priorities for the sales team that can also benefit marketing.
- External thought leaders/guest speakers: Everyone on this list so far has been inside your organization. However, many SKOs feature thought leaders such as authors or motivational speakers and industry experts or analysts who can lend a brand-neutral perspective and share their expertise or drive team motivation in ways that your sales leaders simply cannot.
- Partner team leaders: If your company has brand partnerships, strategic alliances with other organizations, or is deeply enmeshed in partner or reseller ecosystems, invite representatives who are close to these partnerships — or even the partner liaison themselves— to explain how they can assist the sales team in meeting their goals.
- Customers: Your SKO content will talk a lot about your customers, so why not let them have a seat at the table? Pick a few high-profile, deeply satisfied customers who can join panel discussions or provide case study examples of why they love using your product or service, ways that the sales organization has helped them succeed, and what they look for when making purchasing decisions.
4 Questions to Guide Your Virtual SKO Planning
Now that you have a clear understanding of what a virtual SKO is and who should be involved, you can start planning the kickoff.
There are four key questions you should ask to effectively plan an online SKO:
What is our goal for the SKO?
Like any company event or activation, you need to determine what success looks like. Set three to four clear goals to help guide your planning. As we’ve discussed, sales kickoffs are vital for communicating the coming year’s sales goals, strengthening your team’s ability to sell, and building camaraderie. Have your SKO planning committee align on their top priorities for the event to then guide the rest of the planning.
For example, if employee professional development is the primary goal for the event, then you can focus on providing educational sessions and identifying the skills that are vital for sales success. Or, you may prioritize employee retention and craft an agenda that focuses on individual employee needs and addressing their concerns.
How will we measure the success of our SKO?
After your SKO is done, how will you know if you’ve met your goals? These measurement opportunities can extend well after your SKO is finished, such as measuring the number of material downloads one month, three months, and six months after the event. It is also important to understand what tracking systems you need to implement to effectively measure your success.
What tools do we need to achieve these goals?
Once you have your ideal list of goals, you can assess what tools and resources you will need for the SKO. This includes deciding your must-have features for a virtual SKO platform, such as the ability to live-stream sessions or offer pre-recorded content, as well as features like attendee profiles or nonverbal reactions during sessions.
What is our SKO budget?
Now that you have a general idea of what you want to accomplish with your SKO, what you’ll need to pull it off, and how you’ll measure your success, it’s time to think through finances. Assess what budget you can work with to then refine some of your goals if needed.
Build a Complete Virtual SKO Experience on Social hour
After your team addresses the above planning considerations, you are ready to design your online SKO experience. Fine-tune your kickoff by following these 12 SKO planning tips and best practices.
At a time when employee concerns are potentially at an all-time high, it’s vital for you to provide an excellent sales kickoff. If you rush the planning or hastily pick a platform solely on price, you could fail to engage your sales reps, which hurts your chances of meeting your team’s goals.
Rally your team on Social hour to maximize your chance for success this year. Learn more about why we’re an ideal virtual sales kickoff platform.