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How to Build an Effective and Inspiring Virtual Sales Kickoff (SKO) Agenda [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

An annual sales kickoff (SKO) is intended to bring together your sales organization, rally them behind your team’s new sales or revenue goals, and build excitement for the year to come. But can teams deliver a successful SKO experience in an online setting? Of course!

With the proper planning, an online SKO could enhance the favorite elements of your traditional SKO and empower your team to crush their goals like never before. To start, ask yourself these key SKO planning questions, and then you can begin to build an engaging SKO agenda. 

What Should a Virtual Sales Kickoff Agenda Include?

A diverse mix of speakers and activities is vital to keep your sales reps engaged and offer them the tailored support they need during the SKO. You should also offer a mix of short and long sessions that can appeal to different needs and attention spans. 

One of the unique benefits of a virtual SKO is that there are no space limitations in the traditional sense. You can create as many or as few sessions for your team with concurrent breakouts that address your entire sales team’s range of skill levels and other considerations.

As you build your SKO agenda, be sure to include these elements:

Keynote/Opening

Open your SKO with an engaging and inspirational keynote that sets the tone for the event. This is an opportunity for your company leadership to address the entire sales organization, or your team can bring in an outside keynote speaker. If your virtual kickoff platform allows, you can pre-record an introduction that involves high-value production elements. 

Annual Sales Goal Overview

One of the primary purposes of a sales kickoff is to define and expand upon your company’s annual sales goals, which then cascades to individual goals. Ensure that you set clear and achievable goals that reflect the conditions of our new reality. Traditional markers of success like the total number of in-person meetings should be replaced with more virtual and hybrid work-friendly KPIs.

Panel Discussions

Gather a mix of company executives, rockstar sellers, or customers to discuss a topic of importance in a roundtable fashion. These panels are a great opportunity for various departments at your company to host a session that showcases their overlap with sales. For example, you can host a panel discussion from your marketing department about how to support the brand through social media or ways to use existing marketing materials to support their sales efforts. 

Improv Sessions

Help your sales reps fine-tune their selling skills with improv sessions. These small-group activities pair salespeople to roleplay common scenarios or create a pitch based on an upcoming product release.

Lightning Talks

Provide quick, targeted lightning talks that reinforce one key topic or idea that your reps can immediately apply to their day-to-day work. These sessions provide a welcome mental break from the longer SKO breakout sessions and keynotes. 

Individual Goal Setting Opportunities

Provide a space for salespeople to meet with their manager or another sales leader to discuss the company’s annual sales goals, explore individual goals, and identify ways that the company can support them on their unique sales career journey.

Ask Me Anything (AMAs)

An ask-me-anything session is a perfect way to spotlight members of your team and let reps ask them about their role, how they view sales, and anything else that’s on their minds. AMAs can also be a great relationship-building opportunity that directly engages your SKO attendees.

Meal Breaks (With Activities)

Depending on how long your SKO will last, your team will need several breaks. They may also need food to keep them fueled through the day. Block time out from your event for any meals as needed. Make the experience special by delivering meals to your team through a catering service or delivery provider, or send your team gift cards to get food from their favorite local spot. During the meal breaks, consider hosting open networking rooms, “lunch and learn” sessions, or other activities that can engage your attendees and keep the energy high until sessions resume. 

Training

What skills do your salespeople want to improve? Offer a variety of training options that address the most common sales team challenges. A few weeks before your SKO, poll your sales team to understand what their professional development priorities are and how your team can help them perform at their best. 

Awards Recognition

Yes, an SKO naturally has a forward-looking focus. However, it is a disservice to your team if you present new sales goals without taking a moment to recognize the strides they have already made and celebrate your team. Host an awards ceremony that recognizes outstanding sales team members for a range of accomplishments, such as largest or most deals made, best team player, or most improved. This is an essential culture-building activity that should not be taken lightly. 

Leadership Visions 

In addition to your keynotes and executive AMAs, it could be valuable to highlight a few of your executive leadership members and allow them to share their vision for the company and how the sales team is vital to realize that vision. These discussions can be held in small breakouts, as a panel discussion with multiple execs, or as a quick lightning talk, depending on how much time you have. 

Networking Opportunities

As your salespeople join sessions at your SKO, they are likely coming across team members that they have never met before. This is especially true in a virtual kickoff where separate regions or offices may be joining together for the first time. Your SKO should include opportunities for your team to get to know each other as a way to build your team culture. Consider hosting “speed networking” sessions so your attendees can quickly meet each other, and introduce networking opportunities throughout all of your sessions where possible to maximize the number of connections your team makes. 

Entertainment

Much like during a traditional in-person SKO, your team will want some sort of high-energy, fun, or simply awe-inspiring activity or experience that is solely focused on entertaining them. This can be something as casual as a virtual happy hour with small-group breakout rooms or a more structured activity like a virtual escape room or instructor-led class. If your budget allows, you could even book live music entertainment. 

Completing the Virtual SKO Experience

With the common virtual SKO activities we explored above in mind, your team can begin to build a fulfilling SKO agenda that addresses the range of potential sales rep needs during the event.

The final planning element, of course, is to select a virtual event platform that can support the diverse settings you need to host a fulfilling SKO. You need a platform that enables small- and large-group breakouts, an easy-to-navigate interface so no one misses out on their most anticipated sessions, and, above all, attendees need a way to connect and engage throughout the SKO.

Make this year’s SKO one that your team will never forget by hosting it on Social hour. Learn more about how the virtual event platform puts your sales reps at the center of the experience and get ready to host your best kickoff yet