How to host a virtual sales kickoff event that will get your team genuinely excited

January 5, 2021

Kishore Kothandaraman

Field and event marketers are often tasked with planning internal sales kickoff events (SKOs) but how do you get your sales teams genuinely motivated to close more deals and boost marketing's internal influence?

It’s that time of year where the annual sales kickoff event (SKO) is just around the corner—but this time around, things are a bit different. With many companies still working from home post-lockdown, SKOs have never seemed so, well… remote. 

From main stage events to the all-important break-out rooms, the annual sales team get-together needs a remote make-over—and as a field marketer, it’s your job to take the annual sales kickoff event virtual, while still injecting the energy and excitement that your sales team has come to expect. This might not be easy—but it will be spectacular. 🎉

In this guide to virtual sales kickoff events, we’ll help you make sure your virtual SKO is one to remember. 

Let’s get to it!  

What we’ll cover

  • What are sales kickoff events? 
  • How to plan an epic SKO
  1. Get sales involved from day one
  2. Align the event with your company goals
  3. Set an unforgettable sales kickoff agenda 
  4. Switch on before you kick off 
  5. Bonus tip: Challenge the status quo with game-changing session topics
  • During the sales kickoff event
  1. Include a variety of virtual platforms
  2. Get your top performers on the main stage
  3. Get accurate with your sales kickoff data 
  • After the sales kickoff event
  1. Reinforce the message with the right internal comms
  2. Use data to influence your ideas
  • Reinvigorate your teams for a stronger sales stance

What are sales kickoff events?

Sales kickoff events (or SKOs as they’re affectionately known) are annual events that bring the whole sales team together to align on strategy, motivate your reps, and inject an energy boost to prep for the year ahead. 

Although these traditionally in-person events will have a different look this year, the focus remains the same. Here’s what every SKO should include: 

  • Relationship building: This is the ultimate opportunity for your teams to get to know each other and remind them about your company values. 
  • Positivity: Sales kickoff events are the jump-off point for all sales work in the upcoming year—so you want to begin and end the event on a high.
  • High-energy: Sales is all about the go-go-go—this is your chance to boost your teams and show you understand them.
  • Education and strategy: Your sales kickoff is the perfect platform to share company plans and get everyone on the same page. 

How to plan an epic SKO

As every field marketing pro knows, event success is in the detail—and sales kickoffs are no exception. That’s why your first step is to grab a coffee and your laptop, and plan like you’ve never planned before. Don’t miss out on these key steps:

Get sales involved from day one

No one knows sales better than sales—which is why getting their input is SO important. Send out polls, set up a Slack channel and even get key players on the phone. Once you’ve got their attention, ask these questions: 

  • What would they most like to see on the sales kickoff agenda?
  • Which part of last year’s event got them most pumped up?
  • Who would they like to see on the main stage?
  • Which of their colleagues would they like to hear from this year?
  • Are there any customers they’d particularly like to hear from?

👉🏾 P.S. Once you’ve gathered feedback, don’t ignore it. Take time to review and act on the best suggestions.

Align the event with your company goals 

Every great event has a great theme—but a truly memorable theme should include a nod to your company’s big picture goals.

That means drilling down on your values in each element of the event.

For example, diversity, equity and inclusion is high on every company’s priority list, so make sure you think about inclusion throughout the event. Do your speakers represent the diversity of your teams and customers? How can you make a nod to inclusivity via your theme? 

👉🏼 P.S. Your theme and goals are what your whole sales kickoff event depends on, so make sure you get this right before you move on.

Set an unforgettable sales kickoff agenda 

Your agenda is basically your SKO playbook. It should reflect the goals and values of your sales team and wider company.

The good news? Post-2020, agendas have evolved, and these days you can be super creative. In fact, you need to be. 

Your teams have been through a lot this year and, for some, their lives have permanently changed. Use your agenda to show you get it by incorporating as much flexibility into the program as possible. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Use a multi-platform tool for different session-types.
  • Run sessions side-by-side so attendees can choose their own route.
  • Don’t forget the main sessions that bring the whole team together and inject regular energy boosters.
  • Make sure your sessions are available after the event for those people who couldn’t make it live.

👉🏻 P.S. Remember the feedback you gathered earlier from your sales team? Make sure you act on it by including their best suggestions in the agenda.

Switch on before you kick off 

Congrats! You’ve set an awesomely motivational theme and agenda—now it’s time to get the team pumped up for the party. 🎉

Without the usual water cooler pre-SKO chat, it’s more important than ever to focus on building excitement before the big event. Here’s how: 

  • Set up a Slack channel so attendees can start connecting early.
  • Create a pre-event trailer to set the tone, share the agenda and even include a couple of clips from big-name speakers.
  • Send out swag to get attendees excited (and branded up) in time for the event.

👉🏼 P.S. It’s definitely a tougher task to get remote attendees excited, so make sure to put aside extra lead-up time than you would for an in-person event.


Bonus tip: Challenge the status quo with game-changing session topics

The world is changing—and so are SKOs. Attendees expect you not only to acknowledge that with your session topics, but also to encourage innovative thinking and offer new insights. 

To truly connect with your audience and show them you get their current challenges, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do you traditionally run a sales kick-off and what are your normal objectives? How has this changed and how will your sessions reflect that?
  • What is considered success for a good sales kickoff event?
  • What are the key topics that have to be discussed? 
  • How can you keep the energy alive on a virtual platform? (Psst! We can think of one tool that can help with this. 😉 )

Still unsure about where to start with your session topics? Here are a few key trends to get you started: 

  1. Remote sales: In 2020, the approach to sales has changed and digital/remote selling has arrived. But teams are struggling to engage with prospects and build pipelines by breaking out of the noise. Your SKO can address this by building supportive sessions on remote sales. 

💡 Session idea: How to Build Remote Connections When You Can’t Meet and Sell

  1. Customer retention: Finding new customers post-pandemic is tough. That’s why it’s more important than ever to keep your current customers happy. Ensure customers don’t churn by creating sessions on how sales can work with other stakeholders in the organization to boost retention remotely.

💡 Session idea: Beyond the Handshake: The Top X Sales Fundamentals to Build A Solid Relationship From Anywhere

  1. Compassionate sales: Lots of teammates are struggling with their personal life since Covid hit—especially SDR’s/AE’s who have high-pressure, aggressive targets. Future-thinking SKO’s should have a separate leadership session for managers and beyond on how they can support their teammates.

💡 Session idea: How To Balance Compassionate Sales With Ambitious Goals (And Win) 

During the sales kickoff event

The attendees are filing through the virtual door, and it’s time to kickoff your kickoff in style.

But what does your virtual event actually look like? And how can you make the biggest impact on your sales team?

Here are a few pointers to get you started, so you know what to do when the event light turns green:

Include a variety of virtual platforms

The great thing about virtual events is the flexibility they provide (of course, it helps to have the right platform). 

With the right virtual event platform, you can use a range of event models and session types to engage, educate and energize attendees. Think: Main stage, break-out rooms, personal links to more intimate spaces like fireside chats, and more.

👉🏿 P.S. Collaboration is the name of the game, so make sure the platforms you use have as many audience engagement options as possible.

Get your top performers on the main stage

Every sales team has its top performers who have a lot to offer the rest of the team. 

Make sure to set time aside to get these stars of the show up on the main stage, where they can share top tips and offer inside info. 

👉🏻 P.S. Don’t forget to give your sales stars a solid heads-up before you pull them up onstage. 

Get accurate with your sales kickoff data 

The best sales kickoff events in the world beyond 2020 share one thing: a pointed focus on data. 

From tracking attendee drop-off points to drilling down on poll reports, the opportunities to learn from attendee behavior are everywhere.

👉🏼 P.S. Gather as much data as you can to influence future sales kickoff events. Not sure where to start? We’ve broken it all down right here in our guide on What Happens After the Event

After the sales kickoff event

You did it! Now it’s time for the all-important follow-up.

As every event marketer knows, post-event momentum flies by quicker than you can say ‘That was an awesome virtual event’—which is why it’s so important to plan your follow-up before the event.

Here’s how to plan for what happens after the event:

Reinforce the message with the right internal comms

Make sure you have a plan for keeping the buzz going in your remote team by setting up the right communication templates and cadence.

Here’s how: 

  • Set up a post-event Slack room where attendees can continue the conversation straight away. 
  • Create a downloadable resource library that attendees can use to catch up on anything they missed or loved.
  • Plan how you’re going to weave your messages into the year ahead. Think: Continuing branding and imagery use, regular training or focus groups based on key themes, continued communications about how you’re using attendee feedback.

👉🏽 P.S. Communication is everything when it comes to reinforcing your message, so choose your tools wisely and never let your event fall flat.

Use data to influence your ideas

Once you’ve finished the event and compiled some awesome data, it’s time to use your data force for good.

Take some time to go through the results and create some tangible guidelines for next year’s event. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Which sessions had the most engagement?
  • Where were the biggest attendee drop-off points? 
  • Which sessions did the key players engage with most?
  • How will the data influence future sales kickoff events?

👉🏻 P.S. The most important thing you can do post-event is analyze your data, so set aside a good chunk of time to get your head around the metrics.

Reinvigorate your teams for a stronger sales stance

Getting your sales teams on board for an outstanding virtual sales kickoff event is easier than you think. 

From initial input-gathering to getting your superstar salespeople on the main stage, it all comes down to creating an inspiring atmosphere your sales teams can’t resist. 

And as long as you choose the right tools and pour as much energy, enthusiasm and excitement into your sales kickoff as you would in an in-person event, the rest will follow. 

Need help planning your next virtual sales kickoff? Goldcast can help. Schedule your free demo today and find out how easy it can be to create a virtual event your sales team will never forget.



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