How to Run a Successful Sales Kickoff 

The Dock Team
February 9, 2022
January 8, 2024

It’s that time of the year again—sales kickoff season! The most wonderful time of the year for sales leaders, sales representatives, and everyone in between. Every year, sales teams gather to get hyped up for the year ahead. 

Sales leaders discuss how the last year went, roll out any organizational changes, introduce new enablement strategies, and more. Your sales kickoff will set the tone for the entire fiscal year, so it’s important to start the year off on a high note. 

Whether you’re planning your first sales kickoff or your tenth, here are some tips for running a successful sales kickoff that will set your sales organization up for a great year. 

The who, what, and why of a sales kickoff 

There are many moving parts within a successful sales kickoff. Let’s start with the basics: the who, what, and why of a sales kickoff. 

Who: Sales kickoffs are for the entire revenue or go-to-market (GTM) team. The sales team is the main internal customer of the SKO, but other GTM team members may want to attend or may be presenting during the event. 

Key people to invite to present are marketing and product leaders, so that your sales team can learn what campaigns and initiatives marketing will be working on in the new year and what’s coming on the product roadmap. 

What: Your SKO might be one day, or it might be a week—it’s completely up to your organization. No matter how long your SKO is, this should be an event filled with team bonding, skill-building, enablement, and celebrations. 

Why: As previously mentioned, your SKO will set the tone for the entire year. You want to start the year strong by celebrating the wins of last year and getting your team excited for the year to come. In addition to the celebration, SKO is an opportunity to foster team relationships, teach your sales team new things, and give them face time with company leaders. 

How to conduct a sales kickoff in any environment 

With many companies still working fully remote, a lot of sales kickoffs will be virtual this year. Some might be lucky enough to be a hybrid SKO, while others might be completely back in the office. No matter where or how you’re conducting your SKO, you can have a successful event in any environment. All of these planning tips apply to in-person SKO, but if you’re having a completely virtual or hybrid SKO, you’ll need to put a little extra effort into planning. 

Virtual sales kickoffs

If your team is going to be having your SKO completely over Zoom or another video conference platform, you want to make the most of your time.

These days people are constantly staring at screens, connecting with prospects and coworkers, day in and day out. To make sure your virtual SKO isn’t overwhelming, mix up group meeting times with breakout sessions and breaks.

That way, your sales team isn’t too tired after your SKO and will be ready to get back on the phones—or Zooms—when the SKO concludes. 

Hybrid SKO

If your team is going to be half in-person and half virtual, it’s important to create an even playing field.

For the extra fun parts of the SKO like meals, swag, and after-hour events, ensure the folks at home get the same experience. If you’re giving your in-person team catered meals and a happy hour, allow your at-home team members to expense their meals and create a virtual happy hour so that they can partake in the fun, too. 

The rule of thumb when planning your sales kickoff is that everyone should be involved, everyone should be learning, and everyone should be having a good time.

Creating an equal playing field for those employees in person and those at home ensures that everyone feels like they’re part of the team.

Now, let’s dive into specific types of sessions and events you should include throughout your SKO. 

What to include in your sales kickoff agenda 

Here are some example agenda items to inspire your own SKO, whether it’s one day or days long. Mix up these activities for an action-packed sales kickoff. 

1. Team welcome breakfast

Start each day with (free) coffee and breakfast while you learn about your SKO agenda and mingle with coworkers. 

2. Business review

Take a look back at the previous year. Dive into the metrics, revenue, and highlight the top performers from the year before. 

3. Breakout session(s)

Schedule breakout sessions where your sales team can focus on building new skills, sharpening current skills, and learning from mentors throughout your SKO. Some great breakout sessions are product enablement (more on that next!), competitive trainings, and marketing updates. 

4. Enablement session(s)

Similar to breakout sessions throughout your sales kickoff, have specific enablement sessions to teach your team about the new pricing, packaging, features, and product updates. Invite your enablement leads, product teams, and sales leaders to host these sessions and teach your sales team everything they need to know. Get your team ready to sell in the new year through training, practice activities, role playing, and more! 

5. Team lunch and/or dinner

You should start every day with morning networking sessions, but don’t forget lunch and dinner! Lunch should be a time when your sales team can connect with one another and take a break from the sessions. Dinner can be a night out or a catered dinner where your sales team can reflect on the day and get to know one another outside of work. 

6. Team-building activity

Teams who work well together don’t just appear overnight. If you want your sales team to work together towards success, you need to incorporate some team-building activities into your sales kickoff. Some examples of team building have already been mentioned, such as meals together or happy hours, but you can offer other fun events too. Go bowling, go to an arcade, or go do something local together for those folks who have come in from out of town. 

7. Wrap-up session

At the end of your sales kickoff, someone from your leadership team should give a closing speech. Wrap up the event by highlighting the positives, emphasizing the new skills learned, reiterating your goals for the year ahead, and close your SKO on a high note. 

No matter where your SKO takes place, virtual, hybrid, or in-person, you’ll be able to set your sales team up for success in the new year.

Team building, sales trainings, and of course, free food will get your sales team excited to connect with prospects and close more deals! 

The Dock Team