Running annual sales kickoffs allows you to set out fresh goals and re-energize your team for the year ahead. However, effective kickoffs require careful planning and some creative thinking to make them motivational for the people selling your company’s products/services.
This article explains how to create a sales kickoff agenda – the key to planning a successful event. It also explores best practices for running successful kickoffs and tips on how to make them more motivational.
A sales kickoff is an annual meeting – normally held at the beginning of the year – to bring everyone on your sales team together. Some companies run their kickoffs in January to mark the start of a new calendar year while others will hold them at the start of a new financial year.
Don’t take our word for it; here’s a definition for sales kickoffs from the Gartner Glossary:
“A sales kickoff is a premier event where organizations communicate their commercial strategy and motivate front-line salespeople. Sales kickoffs are typically held at the beginning of an organization's fiscal year.” – Gartner
These are relatively large-scale events attended by all or most of the sales team and, often, senior executives. They’re designed to align the sales department's strategies, resources and personnel with the company’s core business goals.
Successful kickoffs ensure everyone starts the year on the same page, knowing exactly what they’re expected to achieve. They should set out clear goals for the year ahead and motivate sales personnel to hit the ground running.
Developing your sales kickoff agenda properly is crucial for running a successful event. As one of the largest internal meetings you’ll hold in the sales department, poorly-planned events can easily waste a lot of time and money.
The following tips will make sure this doesn’t happen:
Bring your planning team together
Define your goals and objectives
Create your sales kickoff agenda
Integrate presentations, training and team building
Set out a clear vision for the year ahead
Celebrate last year’s successes
Rehearse, review & fine-tune
The first step of planning a sales kickoff agenda is to bring the right personnel together – this isn’t something any individual can plan 100% by themselves.
Sales kickoffs involve a lot of planning and you’ll need to bring the right personnel together from different departments. Here are some of the key essentials you’ll need to plan for each event:
Goals & objectives
Location (unless virtual)
Team building activities
Additionals (catering, name badges, stationary, etc.)
Every sales kickoff should have a clear set of goals and objectives set out in the early planning stage. Each goal should define a clear target for the sales department with a set of objectives that will achieve them.
Goal #1: Increase sales lead close rate by 34% before Q3 next year.
Objective: Automate personalised email responses.
Objective: Re-engage leads with no interaction for 4+ weeks.
Goal #2: Reduce customer churn by 50+% before end of year.
Objective: Automate responses to support tickets.
Objective: Reduce resolution times to support tickets by 35%.
Objective: Implement customer health scores to predict churn.
By setting goals and objectives in this way, you set clear targets for the sales department with actionable steps for them to follow.
Creating a sales kickoff agenda will help you plan your next event and ensure it includes everything required. An agenda also provides a template for the event itself, helping you to keep everything relevant and on track.
A complete sales kickoff agenda should include all of the following:
Background info (summary of the previous year, general business objectives, etc.)
Your goals and objectives for the year ahead
Project roles and assignments for key members of the sales department
Talking points you want to cover throughout the kickoff
Any team building activities you want to hold
Time slots for everything on the agenda
Everything you plan to take place in your sales kickoff should be scheduled in your agenda with allotted time slots.
To plan your next event faster, you can use this free sales kickoff agenda template:
If you’re an Airgram customer, you can edit this template to suit your needs and save it for future use. You’ll also find dozens of other meeting agenda templates for other sales and marketing meetings in our library of free templates.
To make your sales kickoffs interesting and engaging for attendees, you want to incorporate training and team-building activities around your presentations. You don’t want people to switch off 20 minutes into a presentation or speech from senior executives so break the event up with activities to keep people interested.
If your event runs for several hours or a whole evening, you’ll also want to schedule in breaks and consider some casual sessions where people can just talk freely amongst themselves.
For longer events, you may also want to provide a meal for everyone and some complimentary drinks throughout the evening.
A key function of sales kickoffs is getting everyone on board for the company's strategic direction over the following year. Set out a clear vision for how the sales team will contribute towards success during the next 12 months.
Make sure everything you discuss is relevant to the sales department. Talk specifically about the sales department’s role in achieving big things in the year ahead and how their day-to-day activities will contribute.
You might want to discuss the following:
Goals: Business and sales-specific goals relevant to the sales department.
Challenges: Discuss the challenges the sales team will face over the next year.
Solutions: Follow up the challenges with solutions to overcome them or mitigation to manage them.
New approaches: Discuss any new approaches the sales team is expected to take over the next year.
Product updates: Run through any product or technology updates the sales team needs to know about.
Incentives: Explain any changes to seller incentives, whether monetary or work-related.
Responsibilities: Lay out any changes to roles and responsibilities for the year ahead.
New talent: Take a moment to mention any new talent additions and welcome them to their first full year.
The list of potential things to discuss goes on but make sure everything is relevant to the sales team and people attending your kickoff.
Take the time to celebrate the successes of your sales team over the previous year. Show them that their efforts are appreciated at the highest level. If senior executives aren’t attending the sales kickoff, consider getting them to record a video message thanking sales reps for everything they achieved during the past 12 months.
You could even work a little awards ceremony into the evening to celebrate individual successes - eg: best salesperson, highest retention rate, etc.
Before you run your sales kickoff, make sure you run through a few rehearsals with managers, speakers and other key participants. You might want to get a couple of sales reps to listen in and provide feedback so you can fine-tune the event and make sure everything is perfect before you host the live event.
Many companies like to theme their sales kickoff events to make them more fun for everyone attending. You’ll come across this tip in many articles, too, normally with generic suggestions like Marvel themes (because everyone loves Marvel – right?).
This will work for some companies and teams more than others. If you know your team will be more engaged with a sales kickoff theme and they’re going to have a better time, go for it. Just don’t try to force themes on people or blindly follow advice that doesn’t fit with the tone of your company.
After all, forced fun is no fun at all.
Feel free to get creative with theme ideas and get team members involved, if they buy into the idea.
Running engaging and motivational sales kickoffs is a real challenge, especially if your events are running for a whole evening. So, in this section, we look at several ways you can make your kickoffs more motivational for the sales reps attending.
Choosing the right keynote speaker for your sales kickoffs is crucial. This is the person responsible for getting the event up and running with the right tone for the evening. You want a speaker who is inspirational by nature and capable of giving a presentation that riles sellers up in the best possible way.
Some companies call on their executives to give keynote presentations and this can work well, as long as they’ve got the charisma to pull it off. Alternatively, you might want to bring in a keynote speaker from outside – someone who can speak to your sales reps from their perspective.
Earlier, we talked about team-building exercises as a way to keep attendees engaged. Running practical breakout sessions during your kickoffs is a great way to do this. For example, you could run mini-competitions with prizes for the winning teams or individuals.
The hard part is coming up with breakout sessions that are fun and relevant to the work your sales reps are doing on a daily basis.
Let’s say you’re implementing a new CRM system for the year ahead. You could challenge sales reps to perform key tasks in the new system and reward the winners with a prize (or hit the losers with a penalty).
The problem with this kind of challenge is that asking people to sit down at a computer and do admin tasks probably isn’t very motivational. To make things more interesting, try to incorporate practical team-based activities into your breakout sessions.
For example, you could get reps to pair up with one person doing the sales task while the other has to do something more physical – like a mini assault course – until the task is complete.
Customer success is at the heart of business growth and it adds meaning to everything your sales team does. Highlighting the end result of your sales team’s hard work can motivate them to keep up the effort and remind them that it’s all worth it, even on the most difficult days.
Consider inviting some of your biggest and happiest customers to the event or asking them to record a short video message. Sales reps will love to hear how their efforts are benefiting the end customer – as well as your business – and get a little bit of love from outside of their company.
Involving customers in events like sales kickoffs will also strengthen your relationship with them. Building stronger bonds between customers and your sales reps will only benefit you in key moments like purchases and renewals – so take full advantage of the opportunity.
Whichever strategies you employ to motivate your sales team during your kickoff, make sure you put the shine on the sellers (and any other departments attending - eg: marketing).
Earlier, we talked about celebrating the successes of sales reps over the previous year in your kickoffs. We also touched on the idea of incorporating an awards ceremony – and this could be a good theme for the event if you’re all Marvelled-out.
Scheduling your kickoffs at the right time is crucial for maximizing the effectiveness of your message.
Given the fact that you’re laying out the company’s vision – and its sales goals – for the next year, you probably want to run your kickoff shortly after running the necessary leadership meetings to agree on these goals.
This can result in a busy meeting schedule before and after your kickoff. This is where Airgram can help you to organize your schedule and automatically sync up with Google Calendar.
With Airgram’s Google Calendar integration, you can also add notes to events in the app.
You can invite attendees through Airgram, automatically add events to their schedule and add notes providing contextual information about the event for them to access in Google Calendar.
This way, everyone knows what they’ve got coming up on their schedule and what to expect from each meeting before and after the kickoff event.
One of the best ways to motivate your sales team is to give them new incentives to perform in the year ahead.
The obvious example is bonuses and other financial incentives, based on their performance. However, this isn’t always easy for companies on a tight budget or any company during challenging economic times.
Financial incentives aren’t your only option, though, and you can come up with more creative ways to add new motivations. For example, you could reward sales reps with an extra day off for hitting certain targets or allow them to earn extra days working from home.
Another option is to reward the whole sales team for hitting targets together. This could involve team days out, takeaway lunches, early finishes on a Friday or extra little perks that reward them for going the extra distance.
Before the pandemic, the idea of running a virtual sales kickoff would have felt like madness. The typical format doesn’t translate particularly well to virtual events but the pandemic forced companies to find ways of making it work.
To make virtual sales kickoffs work, you have to do things differently.
Here are some key tips to get you started:
Your agenda for a virtual sales kickoff should look very different from one for an in-person event. You can’t simply copy and paste on this one, expecting the format to carry over into virtual form.
Consider the following:
Event length: Virtual kickoffs should be significantly shorter than in-person events.
Session length: Try to make every session in the kickoff event shorter to reduce fatigue.
Breaks: Add plenty of breaks for people to get away from their computer screens and think about something else.
Interactivity: Make your virtual kickoffs as interactive as possible to keep people engaged.
Gamification: Explore gamification strategies to keep attendees engaged, especially when it comes to breakout sessions – gamification is a great virtual alternative for this.
Participation: Design your virtual kickoffs to include more participation from attendees and less passive listening.
Test & review: Just like you rehearse and review in-person kickoff events, you should test and revise your virtual kickoffs before running them for real.
If you’re running virtual kickoffs, be as concise as possible with keynote speeches, presentations and anything else that requires attendees to sit and passively listen to. Of course, you still need to include these elements but you’ll have to be even more strategic to keep attendees engaged in a virtual setting.
Once again, you can use this free sales kickoff agenda template to start planning your virtual event:
You can also combine elements from other agendas in our library of free templates and customize them to suit your own needs.
Airgram’s built-in notepad allows everyone on your team to add notes before and during the event. You can grant access to specific team members by typing in their email addresses and sending invitations.
Alternatively, you can share the notepad with everyone in your workspace by selecting the Invite all members option in the share box.
You can also use the notepad to collaborate on meeting agendas with everyone else on your planning team. Simply share the notepad with your colleagues and you can select templates to work on directly from the notepad.
Once your agenda is complete, you can invite everyone else who needs access so they can view the agenda and contribute, if required.
Taking notes during a live event attended by the whole sales team is a big ask. Airgram takes care of this for you by automatically recording the whole event and keeping notes of everything said with its AI transcription technology.
This allows you to get on with the event at a normal pace without worrying about documentation. This is especially important for virtual events where you’re trying to keep things short and snappy while avoiding any unnecessary delays.
Supporting Airgram’s AI transcription system is its intelligent AI Topic algorithm. This automatically picks out key topics from your event recording and transcripts so you can access and review everything you need without skipping through video clips and scrolling through transcripts.
The system can even identify speakers and match contextual information to topics, including the time and date they were raised by a specific individual.
Another advantage of running virtual sales kickoffs is that you can lay out action plans during the event itself. Instead of simply standing on a stage and telling your sales team which targets you want them to hit in the next year, you can start putting action plans together and get team members to contribute ideas.
With Airgram, you can add action items during the kickoff meeting and assign tasks to team members or groups.
This is a great way to get sales reps more involved in the kickoff and prevent people from losing interest. You can add items to your schedule for the first month or quarter and get your sales team to collaborate on ideas and volunteer for tasks during the kickoff itself.
Whether you hold your next sales kickoff virtually or in person, careful planning can make it a hit. Focusing the sales department on the company’s goals for the year ahead is, of course, the priority. However, the best kickoffs motivate sales reps by celebrating their previous successes and making them excited about achieving even bigger things in the year ahead.
Hopefully, the advice in this article will make your next sales kickoff the best one yet and our library of templates will help you plan it faster.
Michael started his career as a product manager and then developed a passion for writing. He has been writing on technology, remote working, productivity, etc., hoping to share his thoughts with more people.