Introduction to Sales Kickoffs

Whether you’re launching your first sales kickoff or if you’ve been hosting SKOs for years and are looking for a fresh perspective, this guide will elevate your meeting. This resource acts as a step-by-step roadmap to creating the perfect sales kickoff and delivers a blueprint and fresh perspective to those that may be overwhelmed by the mountain of meeting planning tasks.


To SKO or Not SKO?

You may not need a hotel ballroom set up with classroom-style seating, or a 40 ft stage with rear-screen projection quite yet. However, if you have more than 25 sales reps, keep reading.

For those who manage a small team, your first reaction will likely be one of hesitation. Your team may be in the same office, working together day after day. They may be so busy prospecting and selling that taking the time away feels unproductive. Regardless of the size of your sales team, nothing could be more important than intentionally coming together at the start of each year to strategize, plan, review, renew and re-energize your sales engine.

Why Create a Sales Kickoff?

The message you are sending your sales team when you make the important decision to bring them all together for a sales kickoff meeting is YOU ARE IMPORTANT. We care about your needs, and we are committed to your success. This is the very first point we make because culture is arguably the most important, but by far not the only good reason.

sales kickoff culture eats strategy for breakfast quote


1. Focusing on the goals for the year
2. Gaining buy-in and ensuring that everyone on the same train, heading in the same direction
3. Offering fresh perspectives on your products/services
4. Hearing directly from your prospects/customers
5. Sharing best practices
6. Recognizing exceptional team members (while creating the sense of competition salespeople thrive under)
7. Developing new skills
8. Building a sense of unity among your sales team & other key players
9. Being face to face bonds in an age of chats, video calls, and virtual meetings
10. Renewing and reenergizing your players

Setting Sales Kickoff Goals

First things first, you must define your sales kickoff goals & link them to the goals of your greater organization. This can be as easy as asking yourself a very simple question; What do you need your sales team to do differently or better after the SKO? Is it qualifying? Discovery? Closing? Forecasting?

Launch new products?

Add new customers?

Expand sales in existing accounts?

Implement a discovery process that shortens the sales cycle by 20%?

Increase close ratios by 15%?

Improve forecasting by 30%? The next step is identifying the behaviors that need to be reinforced in order to obtain your goals for the year. Keep these goals and behaviors in mind throughout the planning process, and when determining content.

fill in the blank sales kickoff questionnaire

Defining a Sales Strategy

Author and sales trainer Rick Page said it best in his #1 selling book “Hope is not a Strategy” (a great read if you’re strategizing a complex sale). Your sales strategy should serve as a tactical blueprint for how you increase sales, revenue, and profits, as well as a guide for helping your reps understand who your ideal customers are and how they can best sell to them. Your strategy should include clear differentiators, measurable goals, and forecasted results. The SKO is your best opportunity to set the course for the year by aligning your sales team with a common purpose, which includes an understanding of your strategy and a clear set of expectations.

sales kickoff stats on sales strategy

Research shows that sales strategy clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between higher and lower-performing sales teams in terms of revenue, profitability, customer retention, and employee engagement. To ensure strategic clarity, buy-in, and involvement, nothing beats a well-designed sales incentive program with a predictable and targeted communication strategy.


There is often confusion around sales strategy and sales process. While strategy is the who, what, and why, the sales process is the when and how you manage your sales cycle from beginning to end. Following a tried and true sales process sets your reps up for success by ensuring higher quota attainment, and helps management organize the pipeline.

most successful sales kickoff practices

The Case for a Sales Kickoff Theme

Talk of a “meeting theme” will have anyone who has attended an SKO envisioning a race car or a mountain climber. Themes are not an overdone gimmick. There is a reason cars and mountains come to mind. It’s because themes work!

Themes are mental hooks that tie together the theme, strategy, and actionable goals. What we are looking for here is a professional and cohesive look and feel, that not only sets the tone and brings focus to your event but according to psychologists, actually helps with the retention of information.


A theme can help you incorporate humor, video clips, skits, etc. into your content. Don’t underestimate the value of adding a little levity into heavy topics or long sessions. Designed strategically, your theme can become the team mantra for the year, reinforcing your sales kickoff message each and every month.

Content is King

Once you have clarified goals and strategy, it’s time to get to work on the agenda. Use your desired behaviors as a compass (gut-check) for all content that is incorporated into your sessions. If the content doesn’t tie back, cut it from the agenda and replace it with something that does. The most common mistake we see at sales kickoff events is presenting content that does not align with the organizational goals and support the sales strategy.

Remember, the main goal is to provide information & education that enables reps to execute the plan. An SKO does take a good deal of time and attention to design and execute. Many sales organizations postpone preparation and end up with a 2 to 3-day focus on product training. While features and benefits are exciting and arguably relevant, the goal here is to offer tactical content that helps reps position products and features. Don’t waste time on activities that will not change behavior. What does tactical content look like? Focus on skills like creating a compelling vision, articulating the value proposition, and creating urgency.


  • Elevator Pitch Session: Alight your team with the perfect 1-2-minute prospect pitch.
  • Prospect Presentations: What happens when you are finally sitting face-to-face with your prospect? Review best practices for live presentations.
  •  Role Play Sales Calls
  •  Lead Generation: From online leads to prospects, Road Shows, help reps cultivate new leads.
  •  Buyer Behavior: Provide your team with the models of how customers make their buying decisions and the best way by which to manage each type of buyer.
  •  New Account Penetration Strategy: Share advanced techniques to reach new accounts through the use of email (video email is relevant in many cases), direct mail, and powerful referrals.
  •  Competitive Marketplace Review & Advantages: Highlight differences between competitive products & services and enable reps to make & defend product advantage statements.
  •  Advanced Sales Skills: Skip the basics and share the newest trends, including things like advanced sales psychology, sales linguistics, or sales intuition.
  •  Storytelling: Teach reps how to use stories to connect with prospects on an emotional level.
  •  Whiteboard Workshop: Show how to create rapport and gain prospect confidence through whiteboard presentations.
  •  Customer Case Study Reviews: Share how the company’s solutions have positively impacted customers, along with strategies to leverage these stories in competitive sales situations.
  •  Lost Deal Reviews: Share how key deals fell through, what could have been done differently and how to save/prevent them.
  •  Live Prospect Calls: Have a top performer run through an actual call with a prospect.
  •  Salesperson Success Stories: Highlight big wins and how they came to fruition.
  •  Mentor Sessions: Pair newer reps with seasoned professionals.
  •  Strategic Account Planning: Talk about additional products and services that can be sold into existing accounts to increase revenue and further solidify the relationships.
  •  Marketing Strategy Review: Give insight into future marketing initiatives that will help generate leads.
  •  C-level Insights: Most sales reps love to hear from the C-suite, and it helps to gain buy-in and build excitement.


Your reps will be more invested in content they had a hand in shaping. Survey to ask what they’d like to hear more about (user-generated content):

  • What do they need in order to be more effective salespeople?
  • What frustrations are common?
  • Where do people see room for improvement or issues that should be addressed?
  • Is there client feedback that should be taken into consideration?
  • Are their resource issues to be addressed?


To maximize the effectiveness of your time together and to create an environment where your sales pros are excited and prepared when they arrive on-site, think about the content you can send for review prior to kick-off.

  • Clarification on territories, segmentation, compensation, etc.
  • Past performance/sales numbers
  • Communication of new sales goals
  • New Marketing plans
  • Updated Marketing collateral

Anything reps can read on their own will save time on site and allow you to focus on your key content.

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