Categories
virtual events

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

Categories
virtual events

12 Virtual Sales Kickoff Planning Tips To Energize Your Salespeople [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Sales teams often meet the start of the fiscal year with a healthy mix of excitement and trepidation. On the one hand, a new year with new goals symbolizes fresh potential and a clean slate to work from. But, on the other hand, there is a natural anxiety that can come during this time, especially as teams continue to navigate the uncertainties of the future of work

An annual sales kickoff (SKO) is a vital way to get ahead of your team’s challenges and set a positive, encouraging tone for the year ahead. At its best, an SKO will rally your sales reps and effectively empower them to crush their goals in the coming year—but there are some unique considerations for crafting a compelling virtual sales kickoff. So, let’s explore how you can host a fulfilling SKO that makes full use of a virtual environment. 

12 Virtual SKO Best Practices 

As your team starts planning its online SKO and building your series of activities, follow these best practices to fulfill your team’s needs through a virtual event: 

  • Survey Your Team Before the SKO. Poll your organization in your early planning stages to help shape your SKO activities. Seek to understand what your sales team would like to learn during the kickoff, including what training types they are interested in and what skills they would like to develop. This is also an opportunity to determine which team members are interested in leading an SKO session. 
  • Set Online SKO Goals. Like any company event and activation, define clear goals for your sales kickoff. Ideally, these goals should ladder back to your organization’s annual goals. 
  • Plan Virtual First. To host an incredible online SKO, your team needs to plan the virtual experience thoroughly. This will require you to rethink how you structure sessions to keep attendees excited and primed to gain the most value from the digital environment. For example, if you plan to provide something identical to your in-person SKO, just pre-recorded, you are unlikely to keep attendees engaged. This, in turn, will likely fail to deliver on your team’s needs. 
  • Pick a Sales Kickoff Theme. Much like a traditional SKO, your team can pick a virtual SKO theme to help guide your planning and create a cohesive experience for all attendees. Note that if you have an annual company theme, your SKO theme should complement this theme to reinforce your team’s goals further. The best virtual event platforms will allow you to brand the experience and keep this theme top-of-mind throughout every session. 
  • Balance Your Session Lengths and Setups. Employ a mix of large- and small-group sessions and activities. Your salespeople may become fatigued in a digital environment if you force them to watch back-to-back recordings with no opportunity to engage with the content or their peers. Instead, offer a mix of short 15-minute sessions and longer 45+ minute sessions with a conscious focus on attendee engagement throughout the experience. 
  • Appeal to All Education and Skill Levels. Create content and offer sessions that directly address beginner, intermediate, and advanced knowledge needs. Your pre-SKO team surveys should provide some guidance on your team’s professional development needs. The benefit of a virtual environment is that you can easily host multiple concurrent sessions, all of which can be made available for replay and future consumption.  
  • Showcase Diverse Speakers. Your sales kickoff should spotlight speakers from almost every department in your organization, including marketing, customer success, product development, and, of course, sales. Select speakers that represent a range of experiences and needs at your organization. This includes offering speaking spots to rockstar sellers, regardless of their position or tenure with the company, and customers who are willing to share their perspectives with your sales team.   
  • Provide Educational Materials Ahead of Time. Explain how your salespeople can access the SKO’s educational and preparation materials a few weeks or up to a month in advance. This gives your team the chance to digest the materials at their own pace and come to the SKO in a better position to take full advantage of the sessions. 
  • Mail Swag and Supplies Ahead of The SKO. Help your team members prepare for the SKO by mailing them team activity and swag bags ahead of the event. These SKO care packages should include any materials that attendees will need to use during the meeting, plus company swag, snacks, and even a small personal gift. 
  • Gamify the Experience. Salespeople love friendly competition. Consider hosting a competition or gamifying your experience in some way to encourage engagement throughout the event. This can be something as simple as a BINGO board with a series of activities to check off, or a leader board that tracks how many sessions a rep has joined, how many comments they’ve shared through the virtual SKO platform or a similar tracker. 
  • Build a Knowledge Hub For Ongoing Education. Extend the value of your SKO by creating a knowledge hub that captures all the key information. This way your sales reps can revisit sessions, access helpful documents and how-tos, and continue to engage with your sales content throughout the year. 
  • Celebrate Sales Year Round. After the SKO, continue celebrating your team members that exemplify the ideas discussed during the SKO. Recognize salespeople during team meetings, through email, and in other ways to reinforce behaviors and encourage continued sales innovation. 

Finding the Best Virtual SKO Platform

If you follow the virtual sales kickoff best practices we explored above, your team will be better equipped to empower your sales reps and help them engage with your ideal buyers. 

There is just one final tip to help you host an incredible virtual SKO: choose a virtual event platform that will elevate the experience and make planning a breeze.

Many virtual event platforms fail to provide the essential networking and engagement features that your sales reps need for a fulfilling SKO experience. Features like small- and large-group breakout rooms, live-streamed or pre-recorded content, popup messages, and attendee profiles are just a few must-haves for your SKO.

We’ve built Social hour to put your team at the heart of any event experience. See why we’re trusted by hundreds of organizations and learn how we can support your sales kickoff here. 

Categories
virtual events

How to Build an Effective and Inspiring Virtual Sales Kickoff (SKO) Agenda

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

Categories
virtual events

4 Virtual Sales Kickoff (SKO) Planning Questions To Ensure a Fulfilling Experience [via Social hour]

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.

Categories
virtual events

12 Virtual Sales Kickoff Planning Tips To Energize Your Salespeople

Sales teams often meet the start of the fiscal year with a healthy mix of excitement and trepidation. On the one hand, a new year with new goals symbolizes fresh potential and a clean slate to work from. But, on the other hand, there is a natural anxiety that can come during this time, especially as teams continue to navigate the uncertainties of the future of work

An annual sales kickoff (SKO) is a vital way to get ahead of your team’s challenges and set a positive, encouraging tone for the year ahead. At its best, an SKO will rally your sales reps and effectively empower them to crush their goals in the coming year—but there are some unique considerations for crafting a compelling virtual sales kickoff. So, let’s explore how you can host a fulfilling SKO that makes full use of a virtual environment. 

12 Virtual SKO Best Practices 

As your team starts planning its online SKO and building your series of activities, follow these best practices to fulfill your team’s needs through a virtual event: 

  • Survey Your Team Before the SKO. Poll your organization in your early planning stages to help shape your SKO activities. Seek to understand what your sales team would like to learn during the kickoff, including what training types they are interested in and what skills they would like to develop. This is also an opportunity to determine which team members are interested in leading an SKO session. 
  • Set Online SKO Goals. Like any company event and activation, define clear goals for your sales kickoff. Ideally, these goals should ladder back to your organization’s annual goals. 
  • Plan Virtual First. To host an incredible online SKO, your team needs to plan the virtual experience thoroughly. This will require you to rethink how you structure sessions to keep attendees excited and primed to gain the most value from the digital environment. For example, if you plan to provide something identical to your in-person SKO, just pre-recorded, you are unlikely to keep attendees engaged. This, in turn, will likely fail to deliver on your team’s needs. 
  • Pick a Sales Kickoff Theme. Much like a traditional SKO, your team can pick a virtual SKO theme to help guide your planning and create a cohesive experience for all attendees. Note that if you have an annual company theme, your SKO theme should complement this theme to reinforce your team’s goals further. The best virtual event platforms will allow you to brand the experience and keep this theme top-of-mind throughout every session. 
  • Balance Your Session Lengths and Setups. Employ a mix of large- and small-group sessions and activities. Your salespeople may become fatigued in a digital environment if you force them to watch back-to-back recordings with no opportunity to engage with the content or their peers. Instead, offer a mix of short 15-minute sessions and longer 45+ minute sessions with a conscious focus on attendee engagement throughout the experience. 
  • Appeal to All Education and Skill Levels. Create content and offer sessions that directly address beginner, intermediate, and advanced knowledge needs. Your pre-SKO team surveys should provide some guidance on your team’s professional development needs. The benefit of a virtual environment is that you can easily host multiple concurrent sessions, all of which can be made available for replay and future consumption.  
  • Showcase Diverse Speakers. Your sales kickoff should spotlight speakers from almost every department in your organization, including marketing, customer success, product development, and, of course, sales. Select speakers that represent a range of experiences and needs at your organization. This includes offering speaking spots to rockstar sellers, regardless of their position or tenure with the company, and customers who are willing to share their perspectives with your sales team.   
  • Provide Educational Materials Ahead of Time. Explain how your salespeople can access the SKO’s educational and preparation materials a few weeks or up to a month in advance. This gives your team the chance to digest the materials at their own pace and come to the SKO in a better position to take full advantage of the sessions. 
  • Mail Swag and Supplies Ahead of The SKO. Help your team members prepare for the SKO by mailing them team activity and swag bags ahead of the event. These SKO care packages should include any materials that attendees will need to use during the meeting, plus company swag, snacks, and even a small personal gift. 
  • Gamify the Experience. Salespeople love friendly competition. Consider hosting a competition or gamifying your experience in some way to encourage engagement throughout the event. This can be something as simple as a BINGO board with a series of activities to check off, or a leader board that tracks how many sessions a rep has joined, how many comments they’ve shared through the virtual SKO platform or a similar tracker. 
  • Build a Knowledge Hub For Ongoing Education. Extend the value of your SKO by creating a knowledge hub that captures all the key information. This way your sales reps can revisit sessions, access helpful documents and how-tos, and continue to engage with your sales content throughout the year. 
  • Celebrate Sales Year Round. After the SKO, continue celebrating your team members that exemplify the ideas discussed during the SKO. Recognize salespeople during team meetings, through email, and in other ways to reinforce behaviors and encourage continued sales innovation. 

Finding the Best Virtual SKO Platform

If you follow the virtual sales kickoff best practices we explored above, your team will be better equipped to empower your sales reps and help them engage with your ideal buyers. 

There is just one final tip to help you host an incredible virtual SKO: choose a virtual event platform that will elevate the experience and make planning a breeze.

Many virtual event platforms fail to provide the essential networking and engagement features that your sales reps need for a fulfilling SKO experience. Features like small- and large-group breakout rooms, live-streamed or pre-recorded content, popup messages, and attendee profiles are just a few must-haves for your SKO.

We’ve built Social hour to put your team at the heart of any event experience. See why we’re trusted by hundreds of organizations and learn how we can support your sales kickoff here. 

Categories
virtual events

4 Virtual Sales Kickoff (SKO) Planning Questions To Ensure a Fulfilling Experience

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.