An effective sales kickoff requires shrewd planning, creativity, and an event management platform that makes the kickoff feel seamless and interactive. To find out how to host a superb sales kickoff for the ages, look no further than this all-inclusive guide.

But first, let’s get a handle on what exactly a sales kickoff meeting is.

What is a sales kickoff meeting, and why is it so important?

Group of people stand at table and point at laptop computer with sales information on screen

Among the many types of internal meetings is the sales kickoff — an internal summit typically held at the beginning of a company’s fiscal year. It’s designed to:

  • Motivate reps
  • Celebrate wins and successes
  • Boost employee morale
  • Align on your sales strategy
  • Introduce new go-to-market strategies
  • Announce and demo new company offerings
  • Familiarize sales team vets with new messaging

While these items make the sale kickoff meeting vital to plan for the year ahead, a sales kickoff also offers an opportunity for employees to get to know each other better and let loose, all while nurturing a sense of company pride.

The importance and benefits of hosting a stellar sales kickoff meeting

Hosting an in-person, virtual, or hybrid sales kickoff brings plenty of advantages. From having the opportunity to align on goals for the year to educating sales staff en masse about new products and their features, a stellar sales kickoff equips your team with everything they need to be successful.

Here are a handful of specific benefits that you may reap by hosting a sales kickoff:

1. Align on goals and focus on what’s to come

Given that an annual sales kickoff is generally hosted at the beginning of the fiscal year, it provides a great opportunity to come together as a team and align on company goals. When your sales team is on the same page and knows what to expect later down the road, they have time to calibrate themselves individually to sell with more confidence in the following months.

2. Generate excitement for the year

Selling is exciting, but it can be difficult to generate that enthusiasm alone — especially if you’re working remotely. Congregating with fellow fervent salespeople creates an eager environment where energy is built up and can bounce around. The ambition generated during a sales kickoff can then be funneled directly to the job at hand: being a great salesperson.

3. Build and maintain solid professional relationships with coworkers

There’s a reason why it’s called a sales team: because it’s a group effort. Sales kickoff meetings allow team members to interact in a low-stakes environment. Newcomers can meet other newcomers and even sales veterans, and vice versa. These meetings provide a great way to help your team build and maintain solid, lasting relationships that can ultimately help you (and them) achieve a specific goal.

4. Strengthen team culture

Following the last point, the culmination of building and maintaining those working relationships is a strong and healthy culture within the sales team. If it can be done here, it can be extended throughout the rest of the organization, too. Soon, you’ll have a strengthened culture and a happy sales team to boast about.

5. Provide an opportunity to educate

Sales kickoffs are often chock-full of essential information about the most important part of your business — selling. Thus, sales kickoff meetings offer an unmatched opportunity to educate your sales staff together, all in the same place.

In-person sales kickoffs vs. virtual sales kickoffs

Like almost all event types that are popular today, sales kickoff meetings benefit from flexibility. Sure, some types of corporate events are better experienced one way or another, but sales kickoffs are versatile enough that organizations can arrange a meeting that best suits their needs.

In-person and virtual sales kickoffs can both see great amounts of success — you just need to know how to plan them (and which event management platforms to leverage).

Here are some pros of each format for a sales kickoff:

In-person sales kickoff

In-person sales kickoffs are the classic format for these events. While their virtual counterpart does offer some unique and alluring benefits, there are still plenty of exclusive perks to being experienced with a more traditional take on a sales kickoff meeting.

Some key benefits of sales kickoffs that we listed above are more meaningfully encountered in person. For example, it may be easier to drum up energy when you’re in the same room as the rest of the sales team.

Further, and like most kinds of corporate events, an in-person format offers intimacy and authenticity that can sometimes get lost in translation when hosted virtually. Activities are more direct, and it’s slightly less challenging to engage attendees face-to-face.

Virtual sales kickoff

Virtual sales kickoffs offer the opportunity to save on many of the big-ticket expenses that come with an in-person meeting. When less of the budget is allocated to the logistics involved in getting everyone in the same room, more money can be devoted to other things, such as planning more relevant discussions and exercises.

Since virtual sales kickoffs are inherently easier (or less complicated) to organize, companies can deliver them as needed instead of at one set time every year. This helps organizations match the changing demands of a sales cycle, and they can orchestrate a kickoff whenever they need to — and relatively quickly.

Some other benefits of a virtual event are that training modules and other valuable sessions can easily be recorded and revisited for future use. Keeping things online also allows for live data collection that tracks engagement and makes employees feel like active stakeholders in the event.

Tips, tricks, and best practices for hosting a successful sales kickoff

Young creative team professional using post it notes in glass wall to writing strategy business plan to development grow to success.

Now you know what a virtual sales kickoff needs — but how do you pull one off? Consider these tips, tricks, and best practices ahead of your next sales team gathering:

1. Set clear and achievable goals

The kickoff is when you trumpet your initiatives to your entire sales team — so you need to be thoughtful and realistic about what your objectives are. What new goals do you want (and expect) out of them over the next year?

Apart from sales goals, it’s also helpful to be specific about what exactly you want to achieve during the actual kickoff. What should linger in the attendees’ minds after the event? How do you hammer the important points home while ensuring everyone feels valued? 

2. Plan your sales kickoff agenda ahead of time

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Who will be speaking?
  • What topics do you plan to cover?
  • Is there an overarching theme that inspires attendance and engagement?

These are all considerations you want to have accounted for well in advance of the actual meeting. To streamline this process, you may consider using an event management platform with a built-in agenda-planning feature.

Remember, you want to make sure you’re allotting plenty of time for training and development while also making room for motivation and morale-focused activities. It’s helpful to budget out how long you envision each component taking and leave appropriate room for participation.

The sales kickoff agenda planning stage is also the perfect time to ensure your event is personalized. Once you have your invitee list, it could be worth taking stock of any potential shared interests the attendees have and planning some specialized talks that pair like-minded people together.

3. Prevent monotony

An hour on a video call can sometimes feel longer and more tiring than an hour event in person, so be mindful of your sales team’s attention span. Companies should also make sure they designate plenty of time for breaks between sessions, especially if the kickoff is a multi-day affair. If that’s the case, multiple shorter days are likely better than fewer longer days.

4. Gamify engagement

Who doesn’t love some friendly competition? Gamification helps sales team members connect with each other, and there are plenty of ways to use it to spruce up a kickoff. One idea is to award superlatives to star achievers during the event — celebrating anything from the funniest outfit to the best sales pitch. This can also be where you spotlight the top performers from the past year.

5. Include practice exercises

Any sales kickoff is bound to be jam-packed with essential information. A great way to ensure that any given sales rep is taking it all in is by supplementing the training with practice modules. This is a good time to mimic scenarios sales reps will experience on the actual job. One idea is to have each person pitch a demo on a new product or service, and then have attendees vote on winners in a bracket-style tournament.

This is also a reason to consider a blended approach to your kickoff. Lecture-style training can be pre-recorded, and then the live kickoff could be spent discussing what everyone learned in real time and talking through any comments or concerns.

6. Recruit charismatic speakers

You want guest speakers your sales team will get excited about. Consider asking who they’d most want to hear from ahead of picking a candidate.

The keynote speaker should, ideally, strike an inspirational tone while offering a fresh perspective. If that person isn’t a part of your company, try to get a voice from one of your executive teams to speak as well.

Also, sales reps like hearing from customers! If you can get an industry leader who uses your business solution to talk about why they like your company and what you can still do better, your sales staff will thank you.

7. Encourage participation

Polls, knowledge checks, ask-me-anything (AMA) sessions, and other activities are some friendly and engaging ways to encourage participants to speak out. Make sure you’re asking questions throughout the event and fostering an environment where any sales professional would feel comfortable speaking their piece.

This is one area where it helps to use an event management platform that can foster participation to a high degree. If it makes sense for you to host your sales kickoff online, you’ll need engagement tools like live polling, live surveys, Q&A features, games, and challenges to help make new sales concepts feel fresh.

8. Ensure equity and inclusion

If you want to build a more inclusive company culture, you need to create opportunities for employees from every community to meet and network with each other within your event. It’s also important to make sure your speakers, along with the event at large, reflect the diversity of your company.

9. Focus on value

Your first sales kickoff may not be perfect, but pay special attention to what participants are responding to versus what’s faltering. It could be helpful to survey everyone after the event ends to gauge what attendees found valuable. Make sure to revisit these findings when it comes time to plan your next sales kickoff event.

Creative sales kickoff ideas that work for in-person and virtual meetings

Man dressed as detective peering into camera with magnifying glass in front of pink and blue smokey backdrop.

Shake things up and get team members socializing and problem-solving as a unit with these three kickoff meeting ideas.

Solve a murder mystery

Uh oh — someone was killed. In cold blood! Now the sales team has to follow a series of hints to discover the culprit. Enterprising sales kickoff holders can devise their own mystery. Or, hire a company like Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries that will throw a virtual “whodunnit” for you — or a live one if you’re in the area of New York City.

Host a trivia party tailored to the personalities of your sales team

Trivia night is a tried-and-true team-building exercise. Make trivia more collaborative by designing every question to be about the contestants (AKA your sales reps) themselves. Have everyone submit personal facts to the gamemaster beforehand, who will then devise a series of questions that give players a chance to learn more about their colleagues.

Host a Shark Tank-style competition

If you want a sales-specific activity for your kickoff, why not drill pitching skills by imitating the acclaimed TV show? Sales coaches, influencers, and maybe even your keynote speaker (if they’re willing) can be judges. Have teams break off into small groups, pitching a made-up product with a brand name, tagline, and sales strategy. It’s a great way to get feedback on a sales pitch while encouraging innovative thinking. And don’t forget to reward standout performers!

Choosing the right events platform for your sales kickoff

A sales kickoff needs a host platform that can accommodate your entire team.

Before you choose a platform, you need to ensure it’s up to the task of your event. Some options have hard caps on attendees while others fall short of providing interactive features that make sales kickoffs worthwhile. And only a select few platforms provide actionable data on how any given team member is engaging with the event.

Webex Events offers an end-to-end events management solution tailor-made for an impactful sales kickoff, whether you decide to host in-person, virtual, or hybrid. Its easy-to-use interface allows for seamless registration, session schedules, live streaming, and small breakout video rooms.

Ready to host a sales kickoff for the ages? We’d love to give you a custom demo and show you Webex Events in action — just reach out here.