Creating the Ultimate Sales Kickoff

Creating the Ultimate Sales Kickoff

What is your vision for the Ultimate Sales Kickoff? Take a moment and imagine the rapt attention of leadership, sales teams, marketers, and even partners while strategies for the year are discussed and goals made. Imagine people only using their phones to take notes as they are completely caught up in the moment. They know the value of this planning and wouldn’t miss a second of the event that will solidify their organizations’ mission and get them hungry to achieve even higher goals.


We recently attended the Marketo sales kickoff, dubbed RKOM 2017. For the first time, Marketo invited strategic partners like us to join their inner circle, sharing their vision and welcoming us to work together with them in this new chapter for the company.

The following takeaways apply for anyone seeking to make their next sales kickoff, the best sales kickoff ever.

Marketo's RKOM was fantastic, but it takes more than just planning to execute an excellent sales kickoff. Lack of a clear and well-communicated vision can derail your best efforts. This can't be just another repetition of the same old annual sales meeting. If your reps were honest with you, they might be saying that all rah-rah with no substance is worthless. Emotion and motivation are important, but it only works if it's backed up with concrete ways to put it into action. Give your people real takeaways and draw from multiple departments in your efforts to create a winning sales kickoff.

Best Practice: Involve the Right People

Consider all of the many people whose expertise can take your event to the next level. Draw from the CEO, Sales leadership, the Marketing and Customer Service teams for strategy, mission and to help align various key elements. You will also need the input of the Sales Enablement Team, the Events Team, and any Product Managers and Subject Matter Experts who may be presenting or relaying information to your sales team should be involved in the planning. Create and run through a checklist of the important individuals that will be necessary during various stages of planning and the event itself. It's about getting the company aligned and supporting the sales goals for the year.

Last-minute tip: If you’re currently planning, round up whoever you’ve forgotten and get them on board as soon as you can. Outside feedback from partners can be invaluable at this stage.

Best Practice: Start Planning Early

As you are well aware, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. From technical difficulties, a missing speaker, finding the right location and more, early planning can help to avert the most worrisome of issues. Also, look within your organization to plan better. One key ingredient is to seek the feedback from your reps about previous kickoffs to make this one the biggest and best yet. If some are concerned about being honest, make the system anonymous and ask for:

  • What they enjoyed the most about last year;
  • What helped them to be successful;
  • What they might change; and
  • Any ideas that could add that extra spice or bring depth to make this the ultimate sales kickoff.

Planning with your key people and listening to the needs of your sales force will help create an event that engages and connects. Start early for the best results.

Last-minute tip: Plan for next year! Keep notes on anything from this year’s event that went smoothly or poorly to bear in mind for next year’s event. Create and document your own sales kickoff best practices.

Best Practice: Theme Your Event

Steve W. Martin, the author of the “Heavy Hitter” series, offers these insights for your sales kickoff. When it comes to themes, consider his five factors:

1. Level of sales force morale;
2. Defined area of sales force improvement;
3. Your arch-rival;
4. A theme easily incorporated by presenters; and
5. Delivery of meeting takeaway.

All are important areas to consider when developing your theme, related content, presentation materials and any items that you might give away. Take the theming further by deciding on colors or graphics to “brand” your event, and then incorporate the branding and messaging throughout the year to help remind your team of your initiatives.

Last-minute tip: You can still introduce a limited theme to your planned event – even if it’s just choosing a single word, and then using that word throughout 2017 to motivate your team. It’s not too late to tie it all together.

Best Practice: Finalize (or Create!) Your Messaging Document

Get crystal clear. You need a concise overview of what you hope to accomplish in an easy to understand document with ideas and objectives that everyone can get on board with. This one-page document should cover your goals, objectives, audience takeaways, and pain points for the kickoff event.

Last-minute tip: If you haven’t done it yet, get this document out to your team ASAP.

Best Practice: Expect Issues and Create Contingency Plans

People slip up, and sometimes events occur that may be difficult to predict, but they still need to be quickly addressed. Things will go wrong – whether there is a hotel room shortage, or last-minute additions or cancelations, going over budget, etc. You need to plan and adjust. As Jeffrey Gitomer, author, speaker, and business trainer said:

"Obstacles can’t stop you. Problems can’t stop you. Most of all, other people can’t stop you. Only you can stop you."

Last-minute tip: Make sure everyone on the Events team is easily accessible to leadership, and perhaps designate a single person to contact in case of issues. That person can then delegate the problem-solving among his or her team to make sure that everything is handled appropriately.

Best Practice: Keep the Energy Going After the Event

Keep running with a good thing. Continue using the themed messaging in your internal communications, provide tools that support any training received, launch contests or dashboards to support the execution of goals set.

According to Harvard Business Review, you need to treat your sales force like an investment. Think of ways to motivate your stars, laggards and core performers after your kickoff. Tie your multi-tiered targets to your year’s theme and challenge your organization to deliver the right messaging to each of your sales groups.

For strategic partners, continued support is of particular importance to channel the sales kickoff momentum into results.

Last-minute tip: If you don’t already have plans to do this, do it now! It’s not too late to launch these initiatives, even if your event has already happened.

Here's to your best sales kickoff yet! Share your best practices below or tweet us at @ModusEngagement.

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