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Event orchestration | 1 June 2022

Event Types: A Guide to Sales Kickoffs (SKOs)

Bizzabo Blog Staff
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To motivate sales teams and ensure everyone is on the same page, companies of all sizes — from newly minted startups to well-established enterprises — host sales kickoffs at the beginning of their fiscal year.

Since these events equip team members with everything they need to reach their goals for the next 12 months, it is no surprise that employees tend to get excited about sales kickoff events. Earlier this year, we hosted a company-wide hybrid sales kickoff, and here’s what we found:

  • 95% of attendees were satisfied with the Event Experience
  • 90% agreed they understood company goals for the upcoming year
  • 74% said they are confident they can hit their targets thanks to attending the event

As you can see, there’s a lot to like about sales kickoffs. Keep reading to learn more about what these events entail, which formats work best, organizer and attendee goals, sales kickoff ideas, and how event management software can make your next sales kickoff the best one yet.

What is a sales kickoff?

A sales kickoff is an internal company event that aims to excite, educate, and align go-to-market (GTM) teams to ensure success in the coming year. Traditionally, SKOs brought employees in from around the world to a single location for food, drinks, swag, networking, and more.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, many companies’ SKOs went virtual — to the delight of employees who’ve grown used to remote work. Virtual or hybrid sales kickoffs enable organizations to accomplish their goals while saving money on travel and lodging expenses and reducing their carbon footprints.

Who goes to sales kickoff events?

Although sales kickoff events should mainly cater to the sales team — its goals, objectives, and achievements — you’ll want to invite folks from teams that directly impact or work with your sales team. Your audience might include the following:

  • Sales leaders
  • Go-to-market team (enablement, ops, and so on)
  • Marketing team
  • Account managers/executives
  • Customer success team
  • Communications team
  • Finance team
  • C-suite and other executives

What is the organizer’s objective for sales kickoffs?

Here are the most common objectives for SKOs:

  • Education: Making sure employees are knowledgeable about products, services, and company objectives
  • Retention: Equipping the sales team with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed, making their jobs easier and increasing the chances they stick around
  • Strategic alignment: Getting all GTM stakeholders on the same page to ensure consistent messaging across channels and interactions
  • Performance reviews: Ensuring every employee knows how they performed over the last year, what’s expected of them this year, and the targets they need to hit
  • Celebration: Honoring key team members for their contributions and folks who helped the sales team meet and exceed expectations

What is the attendee’s objective for sales kickoffs?

For the most part, attendees go to sales kickoff meetings to learn about the strategies they will be using over the next 12 months. They’re interested in learning more about the products and services they’ll be selling, getting aligned with their teammates, and determining how their managers will measure their performance.

5 Tips for a Great Sales Kickoff

Not every sales kickoff event is the same. Keep these five tips in mind to increase the chances your next SKO delivers the kind of experience you want.

1. Understand Your Goals

First thing’s first: What are you trying to accomplish during the upcoming year, and what do you hope to get out of your event? Evaluate how last year went, set goals for the coming year, and develop a theme that ties them together. Not sure where to start? Check out these SKO theme ideas.

2. Make Your Agenda Enticing

If you used to host an in-person SKO that lasted all day or took place over a few days, remember that you can’t replicate that in a virtual environment. The most successful sales kickoff meetings have detailed, action-packed agendas that include many different activities — keynotes, breakaway sessions, team-building activities, awards ceremonies, and built-in breaks (something that’s particularly helpful for combatting Zoom fatigue). In other words, you can’t lock your sales team in a room for eight hours and expect astonishing things to happen.

Also: Be sure to have some sessions reserved exclusively for your sales team. You can also create specific sessions for folks who support the GTM teams, such as a “How To Enable Sales” for your marketing team.

3. Pick a Great Venue

In addition to supporting professional development and getting messaging down pat, sales kickoffs can be fun and exciting experiences that are an integral part of company culture. For this reason, consider hosting your next sales kickoff somewhere out of the ordinary. If you’re going virtual or hybrid, invest in a purpose-built event management platform that delivers a modern, engaging, equitable experience for all attendees.

4. Embrace Interactivity and Engagement

Getting the best results from an SKO starts with engaging your team as much as possible. Polling, surveys, gamification, Q&A sessions, real-time chat, and even a social-sharing photo booth can help you hold your team’s attention while making the event more interactive for everyone.

5. Celebrate Your Team

An SKO provides the perfect opportunity to recognize your team’s hard work. According to Gallup research, employee engagement dropped in 2021 for the first time in more than a decade. Today, only 34% of employees are engaged, and 16% are actively disengaged. By celebrating your team’s successes in a public setting, employee appreciation, happiness, and engagement will grow, boosting workplace productivity and retention.

Sales Kickoff Ideas: Bizzabo SKO

Earlier this year, we hosted a virtual Bizzabo SKO with the theme “Level Up.” Over three half-days, our team learned how the upcoming year fits into our company’s journey and what we all need to do to get to the next level. Here are some details about our event:

  • Each day started with a live DJ to amp everyone up.
  • Five-minute breaks let attendees stretch their legs or grab a coffee.
  • Mindfulness and improv activities helped us prioritize fun and self-care.
  • Choose-your-own gift cards let attendees grab a bite or a coffee each day.
  • Hosted a book giveaway for participation.
  • Offered a photo booth for social sharing.
  • “Dine Arounds” brought attendees together to schmooze over lunch.
  • Awards ceremony and celebrations.
  • Ensured content was available on-demand for continued learning.

Each day, Bizzabo SKO covered a different topic: product knowledge, business alignment, techniques, and more.

Bizzabo: Event Management Software for Next-level SKOs

If you’re planning an SKO — whether in-person, virtual, or a mix of both — Bizzabo can help. After all, it’s what we used to put on our own sales kickoff!

Create personalized, memorable moments, connect our event software with your tech stack, and engage your sales team with audience amplification features. Meanwhile, collect data and other insights you can use to put on an even better sales kickoff event next year. Ready to supercharge your next SKO? Request a demo, and see Bizzabo in action.


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