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The Ultimate Guide to a Successful Sales Kickoff

Tuesday December 5, 2023

A keynote speaker giving a presentation at a sales kickoff SKO event in front of a large audience of sales people

Energizing your sales team at the onset of a new year is a critical component of sales success. This is often done by organizing a sales kickoff meeting to start the new sales year.

Sales kickoffs–commonly referred to as SKOs–are gatherings at the beginning of a new sales year. They’re a great time to:

  • Review sales performance from the previous year
  • Celebrate wins
  • Set new goals for the upcoming year
  • Motivate sales employees
  • Provide recognition
  • Align your team behind common objectives

A sales kickoff is a critical opportunity to both motivate and provide complete clarity on business goals. However, these meetings can be demotivating if not done correctly and with the right amount of enthusiasm and goal-setting.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to organizing a successful SKO.

4 Keys to Sales Kickoff Success

When planning for your upcoming SKO, consider reviewing your sales objectives from the previous year.

  • Did your team meet their goals?
  • Did your team outperform their objectives?
  • Were there missed opportunities?

In reviewing your efforts, take a look at the previous year’s SKO agenda and evaluate whether you were able to set your team up for success. Consider any learnings from the previous year and incorporate them into the planning for this year.


Ultimately, a successful sales kickoff will serve to inspire, educate, clarify and align your team.

1. Inspire

A good indicator of whether your SKO has succeeded is the level of energy your team demonstrates after the event.

Following your sales kickoff, your team should be inspired and motivated to start the new year. A successful SKO energizes your team by:

  • Celebrating successes
  • Sharing customer feedback regarding the impact of a product or service
  • Hearing from key leaders

Take the opportunity to recognize and celebrate your most productive Sales leaders, and to set the standard for success.

2. Educate

A sales kickoff is an excellent time to make sure your team members are all on the same page.

Has your team introduced a new product or offering? Ensure your team is immersed in the new offering, and understands the sales pitch and how it will benefit customers.

A successful SKO leaves teams feeling more informed and connected to the company.

3. Clarify

A sales kickoff is a great opportunity to clarify your objectives and set goals for the future.

Ensure your team understands the sales goals for the upcoming year. Involve them in the planning and get their feedback. Use the SKO to refine your goals so your entire salesforce knows what’s expected.

Consider hosting a goal-setting session to help facilitate these conversations. For example, in Teamraderie’s virtual purposeful goal-setting experience, Paralympic athlete Tatyana McFadden will lead your team in an important discussion on setting effective goals.

4. Align

Once goals are developed, align your team behind your common purpose. Share the “why” of your sales goals–in other words, what impact will your team have on your customer base by achieving these goals?

Another Teamraderie experience, The Priority Puzzle, focuses on ensuring your team is aligned and can differentiate between urgency and importance. It’s an excellent workshop your team can participate in, whether your SKO is virtual or in-person.

Can a Virtual Sales Kickoff be Successful?

Virtual SKOs offer the same benefits as in-person ones, while retaining the flexibility of remote work. In many cases, a virtual SKO can be even more appealing for businesses and employees alike as they don’t require travel and are less costly.

A virtual SKO will utilize virtual meeting technology such as Zoom or Google Meet to create an engaging session and mimic in-person opportunities to engage while remote.

Here are three tips for hosting an engaging virtual SKO:

Create Intentional “Break-Time”

Developing a virtual SKO will require some creative license, especially in utilizing “break-time” that would often involve socializing and impromptu conversations while in-person.

In an effort to mimic this level of socialization more often found in person, organizers will need to be deliberate with creating break-out and networking sessions throughout the day.

Prioritize Production Value

Similarly, organizers will need to find ways to create an exciting experience that will translate online and keep team members engaged. When conducting virtual meetings, it’s not uncommon to have slide fatigue.

To avoid falling into the trap of reading off of slides, companies might consider hiring a production team to add some enthusiasm and professionalism to the kickoff. A production team could assist with including pre-recorded content in a streamlined professional way and helping to “direct” the production of the event.

You might also consider adding some music or entertainment throughout the session to reinvigorate attendees.

Select Engaging Speakers

Finally, be strategic about your keynote speakers. Keep in mind that some speakers are less expensive to hire virtually than in person. This means you might be able to afford a more notable speaker online than you would in person.

When selecting internal speakers, ensure they have some practice in delivering speeches virtually–the more engaging, the better! They should use slides strategically and interact with the audience as much as possible.

How To Choose an SKO Theme

Identifying a theme for your kickoff will help your team align your vision and plan your content accordingly. It allows your event to be streamlined and easy to follow – and avoids the pitfall of losing the interest of your audience.

According to HubSpot, a theme helps keep your SKO on track. If a kickoff doesn’t have a central theme, it’s more likely to be disorganized, ultimately hindering the value participants will take away from it.

A theme will also support the development of entertainment. After all, SKOs should be as fun as they are informative! Creating a theme will allow you to create skits or interactive games in line with your theme and engage the funny and creative side of your colleagues.

Some common SKO themes include:

  • Changing the game
  • Winning cross-functionally
  • Listening to the customer

When developing your theme, be thoughtful about the current climate of your business. If you’re anticipating a tumultuous year ahead due to economic factors or product evolution, perhaps consider a theme focused on supporting one another or tenacity through tough times.

Creating a Sales Kickoff Agenda

Taking time to strategically develop your agenda is a critical component of your planning process.

A typical agenda will include things like:

  • A welcome speech: Your host can use this speech to set expectations for the event. Offering food and coffee will always be well received. If virtual, consider offering gift cards to your attendees to purchase meals throughout the event.
  • A year in review: Review the previous year’s numbers, successes, and opportunities.
  • Recognition: Many sales teams celebrate highly productive sales leaders with recognition and awards. This not only motivates the winner but also creates some healthy competition while setting the bar for success.
  • Training: Provide training sessions on new sales tactics and other skills-based training.
  • Networking events: Providing opportunities for colleagues to meet one another–in person or virtually–will build camaraderie and healthy competition.
  • Market review: Invite your teams to learn more about the competitive landscape of your industry. Where are your competitors succeeding? What are your company’s known and perceived advantages?
  • Updates from leadership: Engage your CEO, CMO, CFO, and others in sharing updates with your team.
  • Breaks: Ensure breaks are scheduled at opportune times during the presentation to rejuvenate the attendees.

Because sales kickoff events typically last multiple days, it’s important to plan your content, speakers, breaks, and entertainment thoroughly. It’s also critical to share your agenda in advance (at least at a high level!) so your teams are adequately prepared and know what to expect.

Use Your Sales Kickoff to Build Team Connection

Sales kickoffs are perfect opportunities to introduce team building activities that unite and motivate your teams. Building camaraderie, common purpose, and collaboration will allow your teams to move beyond individual contributions and to celebrate successes as a team.

Teamraderie offers a number of unique team building events that will align your teams to your purpose and inspire them to achieve greatness in the upcoming year ahead. Some ideas include:

  • Accelerate Your Generative AI Initiative Together: Learn a new skill with your team and brainstorm ways to capitalize on the recent advancements of generative AI. Led by leadership and artificial intelligence professor Paul Leonardi, this experience will help your team leverage AI to produce happier and more productive teams.
  • Are You Ready to Win? Tips from World’s Fastest Woman: Motivate your team through an engaging conversation led by Olympic medalist and 2024 Paris hopeful Lilly King. Learn tips to train for success and change the game together as a team.
  • A Legendary NASCAR Coach’s Secrets of Team Performance: Join renowned NASCAR Coach Andy Papathanassiou who revolutionized the approach to pit stops — encouraging a new, more collaborative mindset. An expert at thriving in high-pressure environments, Andy focuses on the importance of collaboration through team exercises and facilitated discussion.

The potential for success is high at your next SKO! Set your sales team up for success and allow Teamraderie to support you in making this your most memorable, effective, and team-oriented experience yet.



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