Sales Kickoff Meeting_FI

Guide to the Perfect Sales Kickoff Meeting (Agenda Included)

Table of Contents

What is a sales kickoff meeting?
8 things that make a sales kickoff meeting successful
Sales Kickoff Meeting Ideas
Sales Kickoff Meeting Agenda (Example)

In a world where in-person meetings are being replaced with Skype calls, emails, and IM conversations, it’s never been more important to make the most of face-to-face moments. One of the most crucial opportunities to generate energy is with a thoughtful annual sales kickoff meeting.

In this post, we’ll talk about the value of a sales kickoff meeting, how to ground it with solid objectives that contribute to organizational goals, and what elements make up a successful sales kickoff meeting with best practices from leading companies.

We’ll also leave you with a fail-proof sales kick-off meeting agenda to get your planning started on the right foot.

But first…

What is a sales kickoff meeting?

A sales kickoff meeting is an annual event used to align strategy, motivate sales teams, generate energy around offers and products, and celebrate past successes. Typically at the start of the fiscal year, it’s an important opportunity to get teams on the same page and ready to succeed in the year ahead.

While bringing a sales team together in person is a huge investment for most companies, time and time again, companies find that there’s no better way to inspire and motivate a sales force.

A study conducted by UCLA found that up to 93% of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7% by the words used, 38% by voice quality, and 55% by the nonverbal communication.”

We advise getting your team together in person for the following reasons:

Focus – Online meetings are notorious opportunities for distraction and multitasking. By bringing your team together in a face-to-face environment, you are more likely to capture and maintain their attention throughout your agenda.

Building relationships and trust– Face-to-face meetings offer a unique opportunity to network and build personal relationships. Teams will be up to 10x more productive throughout the year when they are grounded with strong, productive relationships. In addition, spending time and bonding with teammates generates trust and empathy, setting the groundwork for productive collaboration.

Emotions are contagious – In-person events offer attendees a unique opportunity to feed off of each other’s positive emotions. The good energy that comes from this is guaranteed to last for many months to come.

While travel and opportunity costs are definitely a factor, a well-executed sales kick-off meeting will leave your team motivated, inspired, and feeling ready to engage with customers, make progress on sales leads, and close revenue for your business.

8 things that make a sales kickoff meeting successful

We recommend you are mindful of the following eight things that make a kickoff meeting successful.

1 . Start with objectives.

Before you start planning a thing, it’s important to work across your planning team and make sure you’re clear and aligned on company strategy, goals, and the objectives your team is tasked to accomplish in the next year. Without this, everything below will be aimless, and you will risk wasting the important investment you’re making in your team.

What does success look like?

When crafting objectives ask your planning team the following key questions:

What do we want people thinking about while they’re here?

What are we hoping to accomplish? Are we focused on Education? Motivation? Technology? Product Information? Being super clear on this will guide your agenda.

How will we measure the success of your event?

How will we maintain the energy you create long after the event is over?

Once you’ve answered these questions, use the answers to formulate 1-3 objective statements to be used internally as you plan as a tool to check in throughout the planning process. Doing this in advance will provide the framework for open and transparent discussion around company strategy and goals, setting your team up to see the big picture and how they contribute to broader success.

Objectives statements define what you want to accomplish into a specific and measurable course of action. It tells everyone what is going to be achieved and when it need to be completed.  

A few examples of business objectives are:

Financial: Increase revenue by at least 5% year over year.

Improve Customer Service: Hire and fully onboard three new customer service team members by X date.

Training/Education: Provide resources to employees for professional development and growth.

2. A balanced agenda

Throughout the year your team is likely to be bombarded with emails from customers, internal teams, and naturally some things do not get absorbed. Think of your sales kickoff meeting as the opportunity to land key messages and help your team understand what things are most important to focus on in the coming year.

When building your agenda, be sure to include a balance of internal speakers, an outside-in perspective by bringing in customers, and networking and team building opportunities. To help get you started, we’ve even provided a sample agenda at the end of this article.

3. Team building and networking prioritized

Particularly for dispersed teams, the chance to bring your team together to get to know each other on a personal level is reason enough to invest in a sales kickoff meeting. When organizations invest in building trust a rapport amongst their team, they are guaranteed to see immense gains in productivity and organizational health.

To ensure this happens, it’s critical to leave plenty of time on the agenda for structured and unstructured networking. In fact, the best ideas often come from unexpected conversations, so ensure that there is plenty of opportunities for your team to stumble upon unplanned brilliance. Who knows? That night at the bar may be the key to uncovering a new sales strategy. Nothing is more important to success than collaboration. Leave time to make sure it can happen organically.

4. Involve your team in the planning

Research shows that participants are more likely to be engaged when they have skin in the game. A good way to involve participants in the planning is to poll the team on what they’d like to see on the agenda well in advance of the meeting. Of course, when doing this it’s important to incorporate their feedback and add agenda items based on their recommendations.

Another way to involve you team is to delegate certain agenda items and activities to team members for assistance in planning and coordination. For example, if you’re looking for a customer speaker, reach out to your team for suggestions. Once a customer speaker is selected, ask the respective account manager for their support in coordinating the session or their input on what things the session should cover.

For networking events, team building activities, and dinners, assign an influential team member to take the lead, plan the activity and generate enthusiasm with the team.

5. Every good movie has a good trailer

While not everyone can have a role in the planning, everyone should be prepared. Just like every good movie has a good trailer, your sales kickoff event needs strong pre-event communications to generate excitement and set expectations for the event.

To prepare all team members for the sales kickoff meeting, send pre-work that highlights the agenda, the theme, and even offers some materials that can be viewed before the event. If you’ll be making any major announcements at the event, use this opportunity to tease the announcement.

If you’re bringing in external speakers, you may consider interviewing them on video in advance and sharing these short video snippets as a way to help attendees discover what to expect and start thinking about what they hope to learn and questions they’ll ask during the live event.

6. Make the most of technology

These days, everyone lives on her or his phones. When planning your event, look for ways to incorporate technology into your event. You may use a live polling platform during your sessions for audience engagement, or maybe you develop a simple app for tracking the agenda and signing up for breakout sessions.  

Regardless of what you go with, using technology is a simple way to keep your attendees engaged and abreast before and during the event. 

To get this information, start sending out surveys or polls a few months out from your event. From these, you can start to identify common knowledge gaps and then dig deeper into exactly what people want to learn.

7. Celebrate and inspire with success stories

Your company is nothing without its customers. Your sales kickoff meeting is a prime opportunity to reward accomplishments, evangelize success, and inspire the broader team with stories of success presented by internal team members or customers. Whether you do it in a panel environment, individual presentations, or both, make sure to include a variety of success stories that really highlight the customer experience.

Acknowledging achievement can result in 50% higher productivity and as much as 20% increase in business outcomes. (source)

While planning these sessions, be sure to include your customers in the planning. Nobody knows customers better than themselves. These types of sessions also help the team see things from the customers’ viewpoint, providing insight into customer realities, pain points, and their decision-making process.

Make sure to record these sessions and hold on to them for use throughout the year.

8. Plan the aftermath

Don’t let a good effort go out the window by ignoring the need to continue the conversation. Unfortunately one of the biggest mistakes sales organizations make is not riding the wave of a sales kickoff meeting.

To get ahead of this, have a plan in advance for reinforcing your key messages throughout the year. Additionally, provide a forum for continuing the conversation, whether this is through ongoing meetings or an internal social platform. Since you’ve chosen an impactful theme, look for ways to carry the theme into the year by incorporating the tagline in ongoing conversations, continuing to use the branding and imagery, and ensuring company leaders and managers continue to reinforce it in their team engagements.

It’s not just on the meeting planners to keep the energy going, sales reps need to take accountability for applying the value on an ongoing basis. To facilitate this, have a template in the event materials that forces attendees to identify their top 3 takeaways and how they will apply them moving forward.

Very importantly, have a solid plan for requesting feedback through a survey or otherwise, as well as an ongoing action plan for responding to and actioning the feedback you receive. As a rule, attendees are more likely to give feedback when they see that you take it seriously and are responding to it.

When online is your only option

By now you probably have many ideas brewing to plan for your sales kickoff meeting. You may, however, be eager to get started but strapped for the budget. While an in person event is always ideal, a virtual event is a second-best option, and it’s better than doing nothing. The benefits of a virtual event are in cost savings, ease of recording and sharing the content later, as well as the benefits of technology features like chat, polling, and collaboration software.

If a virtual event is your only option, be sure to include plenty of interactive elements and opportunities for attendees to engage to ensure you don’t lose your audience to distractions and multitasking.

Sales Kickoff Meeting Ideas

Themed to be sticky

Choosing a theme for your sales kickoff meeting will land the message while helping attendees retain the information. While themes can be fun and colorful, the most important thing is to ensure it aligns to your strategy and tells a story about what success looks like in the year ahead.

While making your event meaningful, a good theme allows you to add entertainment value to the meeting including skits, contents, and integrated stories and jokes. It ties different elements of the meeting together creating a cohesive experience. A solid theme also provokes your team, giving team members purpose and motivation to go after goals.

Depending on your team’s current situation, here are some theme ideas:

Continuing success:

Elevate: A theme around elevating success reminds your team that although they may be winning, there is still opportunity to grow and advance. Visuals can be set around mountain climbing, action sports, and celebrating extreme athletes.

The world is our oyster: A theme that reminds your team about the vast opportunities ahead of them opens their eyes to potential and inspiration. Using ocean or map-based visuals and activities will get your team thinking about unlimited potential.

Overcoming competition:

Sports themed: A sports-themed event provides the opportunity to integrate examples where teams work together and build on each other’s strengths to beat the competition.

Spy themed: Successful teams are keen to understand what the competition and what’s driving their success. A spy-themed event allows for a lot of fun activities while setting the tone that paying attention to external competition is absolutely critical.

Reigniting energy after a tough year or event:

Back to the Future: No better way to re-energize your sales team after a tough year then to remind them of past successes and how to re-use that energy to prepare for future success. An event with this theme balances past success stories with living visuals of what success will look like in the future.

How you do anything is how you do everything: Motivate your team by choosing theme that allows attendees to tap into their personal passions. Include agenda items that allow attendees and external speakers to share stories on how they succeeded in areas outside of the work they do in your sales organization. Motivate the team by reminded them that success (in anything they do) starts from the passion within them.

Guide to the Perfect Sales Kickoff Meeting (Example)

Day 1:

Breakfast and Networking (90 minutes): Starting your even with breakfast and networking allows your team to connect and reconnect with colleagues. This is particularly important for dispersed sales teams as they may not have time to catch up on a regular basis. Pro tip: Make sure you offer a balance of healthy and indulgent breakfast choices.

Year in Review (60 minutes): Plan a session dedicated to reviewing the past year in numbers. Be sure to include industry trends, highlights, lowlights and significant changes to your company. Include success stories and celebrate the wins.

Guest Speaker | Outside In (60 min): Invite a customer to speak about their experience with your company. Make sure they focus on a balance of success, opportunity and experiences.

Lunch and Networking (60 minutes): Create a lunch environment that encourages social interaction and networking.

Unstructured Break (60 minutes): Give time back for unplanned meetings as well as a chance to catch up on email or make a quick call. Doing this will help your attendees avoid the need to step out during important sessions.

Marketing Update: (60 minutes) Bring your marketing leader in to discuss strategy for the upcoming year.

Workshop / Breakout Session: (90 minutes) Plan 3-4 options for attendees to choose from including but not limited to product training, technology training, or opportunities for personal development.

Day 2:

Breakfast and Networking (90 minutes): Starting your even with breakfast and networking allows your team to connect and reconnect with colleagues. This is particularly important for dispersed sales teams as they may not have time to catch up on a regular basis. Pro tip: Make sure you offer a balance of healthy and indulgent breakfast choices.

Executive Keynote (60 minutes): Bring your company CEO or another leader on stage to share his or her perspective on opportunities in the coming year.

Fun Activity (30 min): Incorporate your event theme for a fun activity.

Workshop / Breakout Session: (90 minutes) Plan 3-4 options for attendees to choose from including but not limited to product training, technology training, or opportunities for personal development.

Lunch and Networking (60 minutes): Create a lunch environment that encourages social interaction and networking.

Competitive Review (60 minutes): Bring in an internal or external speaker to discuss the market, external factors, and provide a competitive review.

Customer Panel (60 minutes): Bring 3-5 customers in for a structured Q&A where they are able to provide insights on what it’s like to do business with your company.

Group Dinner or Cocktail Hour: Provide another opportunity for attendees to socialize and network.

Day 3:

Grab and Go Breakfast (30 minutes): Start the day offering a quick breakfast.

Welcome & Fun: Incorporate your event theme for a fun activity. Get attendees on their feet.

Product training: Bring a product manager in to generate excitement about the product roadmap, unveiling new features/functionality.

Wrap-up: Bring you company CEO or other leader back to the stage to reinforce key messages and next steps.

Unstructured Break (60 minutes): Give time back for unplanned meetings as well as a chance to catch up on email or make a quick call. Doing this will help your attendees avoid the need to step out during important sessions.

Team Building Activity (2-3 hours): Bring the entire team together for an activity that encourages team building and healthy competition.

Optional Dinner: Offer an optional dinner activity to promote networking.

Conclusion

Your sales kickoff meeting is a prime opportunity to bring your team together, align on strategy, generate excitement and promote collaboration for the months ahead. In today’s highly competitive market, it’s more important than it has ever been to build that camaraderie.

Whether you’re able to plan an in-person event or host one virtually, take advantage of this great opportunity to get your team on the same page. The best companies are those who invest in their people. A thoughtful sales kickoff event is one way to show your team that they have your full support.

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