The Ultimate Guide to a Successful Sales Kickoff

  • Monday December 5, 2022
  • Productivity   Profitability  

Energizing your sales team at the onset of a new year is a critical component of sales success. This is most often done by organizing an exciting, engaging, and motivating sales kick-off meeting to start the new sales year. However, these meetings can be equally demotivating if not done correctly and with the right amount of enthusiasm and goal-setting. Follow along for best practices for running a sales kickoff to remember!

What is SKO?

Sales kick-off – commonly referred to as “SKO” – is an opportunity to gather at the beginning of a new sales year. During this meeting, leaders review sales performance from the previous year, celebrate wins, set new goals for the upcoming year and motivate sales employees with speakers, recognition, and alignment behind common objectives. It’s a critical opportunity to both motivate and provide complete clarity on business goals.

What Are the Indicators of a Successful Sales Kickoff?

The most critical indicator of a successful sales kickoff will be the achievement of your sales goals. When planning for your upcoming SKO, consider reviewing your sales objectives from the previous year. 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 kick-off will serve to inspire, educate, clarify and align your team:

  • Inspire: A successful SKO energizes your team by celebrating successes, sharing customer feedback regarding the impact of a product or service, and hearing from key leaders. Take the opportunity to recognize and celebrate your most productive Sales leaders, and to set the standard for success!
  • Educate: 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. 
  • Clarify: Ensure your team understands the sales goals for the upcoming year. Involve them in the planning and get their feedback. Use SKO to refine goals so your entire salesforce knows what is expected.
  • 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?

Can a Virtual Sales Kickoff be Successful?

While seizing opportunities to meet in person will always benefit teams, you can absolutely conduct a virtual SKO and reap the same benefits. In many cases, a virtual SKO can be even more palatable for businesses and employees alike as they require no travel and are less costly. A virtual SKO will utilize virtual meeting technology to create an engaging session and mimic in-person opportunities to engage while remote. 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. 

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.

Finally, be strategic about your keynote speakers. Organizations might take this opportunity to hire an external speaker that may actually be less expensive to hire virtually than 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.

Choosing an SKO Theme

Identifying a theme for your kickoff will help your team in aligning 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 keeps you on track. Kickoffs fail when they’re all over the place — reps end up forgetting what they’ve heard, and there’s no lasting value.” 

It will also support the development of entertainment because let’s not forget, 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. 

However, 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. Other themes common at SKO are “Changing the game”, “Winning cross-functionally”, or “Listening to the customer”.

Creating a Sales Kickoff Agenda

Taking time to strategically develop your agenda is a critical component of your planning process. Given Sales kickoff events typically last multiple days, it will be important to plan your content, speakers, breaks, and entertainment thoroughly! Of equal important will be sharing your agenda in advance (at least at a high level!) so your teams are adequately prepared and know what to expect. 

A typical agenda will include things like:

  • A Welcome speech from your host setting expectations for the event. If you’re in person, 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. Reviewing 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. Is your company providing a new product or service in the upcoming year? Ensure your teams are well-equipped to discuss this with your client base.
  • 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 the industry in which you operate. Where are your competitors succeeding? What are your company’s known and perceived advantages?
  • Updates from other leaders. 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.

Teambuilding at SKO

SKO is a perfect opportunity to introduce teambuilding activities to 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 teambuilding events that will align your teams to your purpose and inspire them to achieve greatness in the upcoming year ahead. Some ideas include:

  • The Power of Perspective – The Garry Kasparov Experience – A session with former chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov is sure to inspire and amaze. Mr. Kasparov will focus on human potential and the power of AI, and start a hopeful discussion with you on what humans are capable of developing — directly encouraging your teams to embrace their creativity to advance progress. This will be a thought-provoking and stimulating experience designed to power the minds of your team!
  • Rethink Perfection with Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner – Join legendary gymnasts Nadia Comaneci and Bart Connor for a riveting conversation on perspective, the pursuit of perfection, and what really defines success.
  • A Legendary NASCAR Coach’s Secrets of Elite Teams – 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.

Ideas for a Sales Kickoff Experience

Hostage Rescue: An Exercise in Strategy and Teamwork



$2,000 for up to 15 people

A Legendary NASCAR Coach’s Secrets of Elite Teams

Includes Kit

Includes Kit



55 min
$1,500 for up to 30 people

One Step at a Time – A Lesson in Choreography for Business



45 min
$3,000 for up to 20 people
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