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Next level thoughts.

Do You Want to Level Up Your Next Sales Kick Off? We Have The Formula.

It is Q4, and for most people in sales that means an all-out effort to achieve year-end targets and have a strong close to the fiscal year. At the same time, planning is underway to start the new year off with a bang, and that often includes designing an SKO experience for the Sales and Go-to-Market teams.

Throughout the years, I have participated in my share of SKO’s and have viewed it from all angles. I started as a participant on the sales team, then cut my teeth as a member of the SKO production team, and ultimately moved into leading the execution of Go-to-Market Kickoff events. I am often asked what I think about when producing SKO events that will ensure a successful event. The list below outlines my guiding principles and has been distilled from hard-won learning, earned through many years of designing, producing, and executing on events.



Start planning by determining the objectives of the kickoff.

What do you want to accomplish at this event? How do the objectives tie into the broader organizational goals for the year? This clarity will ensure that the agenda supports those goals and avoids overpacking the program and diluting the impact of the kickoff. The objectives become the barometer to determine what fills the time during the kickoff. Circulate those objectives with all key stakeholders, so everyone is working toward the same goals.


Give the planning of SKO its due effort despite the fact that most of the planning will take place during Q4.

Make sure all key stakeholders - especially your frontline managers, understand that you will need their partnership to deliver a memorable, impactful, world-class SKO for their teams. This means that you will need their help and support leading up to the kickoff event, during their busiest quarter. Make sure they understand how important this is and that they are willing to prioritize their time so they can assist in the planning of the event.


Create balance.

The agenda should include a balanced mix of education, celebration, fun, team building/networking, and rah rah rah. Also, add downtime for the reps to catch up on important customer follow up or just time to decompress.


For the education part, pick one main topic or initiative and stick with it.

Don’t try to cram in too much! For example, are you rolling out a new product and want all the team positioned to sell it? Make that the spine of your agenda, with the result being that every person on the team is certified to position and sell the new product.


All sessions should be interactive and activity based.

Avoid talk-at-you sessions. No one retains anything from talk-at-you sessions, but they will remember the learnings from an interactive, scenario-based learning environment for a long time to come. Form mixed groups for the activities to allow people to build relationships with coworkers they don’t interact with on a daily basis and to get varied perspectives on the topic at hand. While designing the interactive sessions, plan more time than you think you will need! Time goes faster than you expect in a live environment and you don’t want to have to rush through an important topic due to time constraints.


Ensure that the content of the learning is relevant to everyone in the audience.

It is now common practice to include the entire Go-to-Market team in the Kickoff. This opens up a much broader audience than just salespeople. If you are taking someone away from their day job for 2-3 days, make sure they get something out it. My team and I look at every session from the point of view of every role attending to ensure there is something of value in each session for everyone. In many cases, this means offering breakout sessions by functional team or role to ensure relevance, retention, and, ultimately, application into their daily processes.


Invite customers to speak to your teams as part of the agenda.

Customer panels continuously get ranked as the highest rated sessions by all audiences. You can’t replicate the experience from the customer perspective with role plays or scenarios, so if you can get customers to speak, it’s worth the effort.


Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse with everyone that is presenting! EVERYONE!

That includes C-level executives, customer panelists or guest speakers. The rehearsal will ensure that you can work out all the kinks and that your timeline is accurate before going live. It also prepares everyone to be at their best when they are standing before the entire organization.


Build in team building and rah, rah, rah.

Celebrate the wins from the past year! Recognize the top performers. Appreciation, recognition, and acknowledgment go a long way, and when people feel like their contributions are of value, they will move mountains to do the best job they can.


Don’t forget the fun!

Add in activities that are fun just for the sake of fun. The team has worked hard all year, and at SKO they will appreciate the fun bonding time with their team members. To that end, throw a killer party/awards dinner. Let the team cut loose! Do it the second night, so the main part of your educational objectives have already been met. Be prepared for most of the team to be ‘out of it’ the next morning. Plan for lighter content to wrap up the event, without needing too much brain power from your audience on that last morning.

So, these are my guiding SKO planning principles. I am confident that if you leverage these tips, you will have a memorable and impactful kick-off event to start off your fiscal year.

Note:  We’re speaking as part of IDC’s upcoming SKO webinar on 11/1/17. Registration can be found here: 5 Best Practices for Killer Sales Kickoffs so click through the link for more information. If you find yourself with additional questions, or need guidance specific to your company’s SKO, contact us at Level213.com! We can help.


Happy SKO planning!


Roz Greenfield, Co-Founder & Chief Enablement Officer at Level213

Roz Greenfield