A Guide to an Impactful (Virtual) Sales Kickoff Meeting

It quickly became a canonical sequence in film history. In it, Mel Gibson, on a horse and with his face painted blue for battle, delivers a heartfelt, motivational speech before sending his troops into a fight for freedom. It’s a powerful scene, and one that teams of any size and field can relate to.

Every so often, a team needs some inspirational words to boost morale, build trust and rapport, and get everyone re-invigorated to hit their goals. In other words, everybody can use a movie speech from time to time. That’s why sales kickoff meetings exist.

It’s likely that your company won’t need William Wallace's levels of epic, but in the age of chats, video calls, and virtual meetings, getting your team together in a face-to-face environment offers a unique opportunity to bring positive energy guaranteed to last for many months to come. However, with most of us working from home this year and avoiding social contact, a virtual sales kickoff will be a reality for many orgnizations.

In this article, we'll go through a few tricks to organize an impactul sales kickoff meeting in a time where remote sales are the norm. But first, let's start with the basics.

What’s a sales kickoff?

A sales kickoff meeting is an event, usually held annually, designed around bringing your entire sales together, celebrating past successes, laying out your strategy, and sharing best practices. Part fun, part business, impactful sales kickoffs ensure the whole organization understands the priorities and roadmap for the year ahead and gets everyone fired up to hit their goals.

Before we go through the elements that make up a successful sales kickoff meeting, let’s look into why sales kickoffs are not a thing of the past.

Reasons to bring your team together

Organizing a sales kickoff meeting is a big undertaking. And a hard sell: how do you justify the investment to explain to your executive team that a sales kickoff is a good investment?

Executive teams can be reluctant to the idea of bringing the whole team together for a full day or two. Not only your travel and production costs will be high, but your sales reps will be out of the picture for a few days as well. However, if done correctly, the benefits of sales kickoff outweigh the trouble. If Mel Gibson persuaded a bunch of peasants to give their blood for freedom, an impactful sales kickoff can send your sales reps back to the front lines pumped for the year ahead.

A sales kickoff is both an investment in your company and the development of your sales team because it supports the following areas:

  • Education - To sell effectively, salespeople need to be up-to-speed with the latest sales strategies, as well as company objectives and goals. When everyone’s gathered in one room, you can organize effective training sessions and deliver a more impactful message.
  • Motivation - Your reps won’t battle for freedom, but in-person events have the potential of sending your troops to the front line inspired and reenergized for the rest of the year. Mingling and networking offer the opportunity to feed off each other’s energy and positive emotions and promote a sense of teamwork.
  • Celebration - Few things motivate more a team than the feeling of accomplishment. Celebrating past successes and recognizing achievements is an excellent way to keep your team going.

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How to kick off a meeting in style - virtual or otherwise

The success of your sales kickoff meeting greatly depends on your planning and preparation. You don’t want it to become an interminable slog that bores your audience to tears presentation after presentation, so make sure your sales kickoff plan ticks all the boxes below.

Before the sales kickoff meeting

Choose a theme

Picking a theme for your sales kickoff meeting will bring focus, help ground your event with solid objectives, and make your messaging a little bit more memorable. For example, your theme could be ‘being relevant in sales’ or ‘refocusing your sales process’. In any case, choose an idea that crystalizes what the point of the year will be. Then, turn it into a mantra throughout the year to keep everyone focused on what matters the most. At Vainu, we trust our sales code to be the basis of the guiding principles we want to instill during a sales kickoff.

Set a well-defined agenda

A sales kickoff agenda executed to perfection needs to balance high-level talks and inspiring presentations with time to mingle and networking. Sales kickoffs represent the perfect setting to land key messages and communicate company goals. After the event, everyone should clearly see where the company is going, their role within it, and how their actions can contribute.

Generate buzz

You know your kickoff is a success when it’s the one event everyone looks forward to attending to it. Communicate earlier the theme and the highlights of the agenda. If you’ll be unveiling new products or making any major announcements at the event, use this opportunity to tease the news.

During the sales kickoff meeting

Bring out your top performers to share a story

Everybody loves hearing a good story, and there are no better stories than inspiring tales of success. Ask your big hitters to talk through recent successful sales or use cases. It’s a unique opportunity to share knowledge, tips, and tricks, plus it lets your most successful performers know that you appreciate the work they do.

Set up a fun competition

The same competitive spirit fuels salespeople and professional athletes, so think of including a dose of healthy competition into your sales kickoff. The point here is to keep your team entertained while engaged with the material being presented.

Reserve some time to mingle

All work and no play makes Jake a dull boy. Networking in a fun, casual setting is another vital ingredient of a great kickoff. Mainly if your team is spread out across different locations and offices, a kickoff is the one time everyone is in the same place, so let your salespeople take advantage of it. Organize workshops and informal peer training that can forge valuable connections and lead to mentorships and collaborations. Improved team cohesion is essential to the success of smarketing, for instance.

Announce product updates and training

Salespeople can talk their way out of many situations, but if they want to close a deal, they need to know the product they’re selling through and through. Consider inviting your product managers to train your reps on the latest updates.

After the sales kickoff meeting

Collect and act on feedback

Start building future success right at the end of the event. Have a solid plan for requesting feedback through a survey or, more importantly, design an ongoing action plan for responding to and actioning the feedback you receive. The enthusiasm for the next sales kickoff meeting will increase if your team sees that you take feedback seriously and are responding to it.

Keep your sales kickoff theme alive

Your sales kickoff meeting sets the tone for the next twelve months, so you want to make sure your reps don’t forget those crucial messages weeks, or even days, after the event. Find ways to continually reinforce the concepts you’re teaching and ride the wave of the kickoff. Since you’ve chosen an impactful theme, look for ways to carry the theme into the year. For example, you can liaise with the internal communications team to create campaigns around the theme and incorporate the tagline in ongoing conversations.

One more thing

Make your customers part of the event. Nobody knows you better, so it’s an excellent opportunity to receive direct feedback or show that company and customers go in the same direction.

Planning a virtual sales kickoff meeting

Many elements of what makes a successful sales kickoff meeting still apply even when the event happens virtually. However, virtual meetings bring a new set of challenges. Consider making a few adjustments:

  • Fight video call fatigue. By now, all of us have had too many virtual meetings, so disengagement is very high risk. Avoid this by keeping presentations at a minimum and organizing games that involve all attendees.
  • Embrace technology. There’s much more than video calls and sharing a screen. Tap into different tools, such as online whiteboards, to make meetings and sessions more engaging and productive. Need any tips? This blog lists the 10 must-have tools for working-from-home teams.
  • Subsidize remote lunches. A virtual sales kick off meetings have lower operations costs than in-person events, so reserve some budget and let your team order some snacks and drinks. What about a pizza party?
  • Break-off into smaller groups—and mix people from different teams. Crowded video calls usually don’t give the opportunity to everyone to speak up and this easily leads to distraction and disengagement. Organize sessions in small groups so everyone participates. 

Looking ahead

Sales kickoff meetings are an excellent opportunity to introduce new strategies and ways of working. Your sales playbook should reflect these changes as soon as they're introduced.

Simply put, reviewing and updating your sales playbook is best practice. If you need extra help creating your playbook, we recommend you take a look at our tried and tested sales playbook template.

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Guide to a Virtual Sales Kickoff Meeting | Vainu Eduardo Alonso

Taco enthusiast and obsessive record collector. Straight outta Madrid.