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Top 5 Must Haves for Your Next SKO

If you’re a Sales, Marketing, or Event leader, your next sales kickoff might be top of mind.

As FY 2024 winds down, educating your team, strengthening your culture, and setting a clear path for the year ahead are crucial to having a big year in 2025.

SKOs are vital for setting the tone and direction for the upcoming year. They serve as a powerful platform to align the team, motivate individuals, and emphasize the strategic goals that will drive success. During these events, it’s essential to focus on several key elements: clear communication of objectives, training on new tools and methodologies, and creating an environment that fosters collaboration and innovation. It’s also essential to building a team culture to weather the ups and downs that come with growing the business.

So, how do you get the most out of your next SKO?

Here are the top 5 things to remember as you start planning your next SKO:

1. Don’t forget the before and after – Your sales kickoff is more than just the 2-3 day event. Take advantage of the time pre- and post-event to get your team excited – and keep them motivated for the big year ahead. Pre-event, consider gathering input from your team on everything from content topics to success stories to sales pitches. Use this to shape your programming and ensure team members have a stake in the game. After the event, let’s be real – your team will not remember everything they heard/learned, so reinforce your message with certifications and small group coaching “huddles” throughout the year.

2. Develop a content strategy that isn’t boring – Your leadership team must present an inspiring vision for the future. Consider crafting a high-energy opening experience to grab attendees’ attention from the start. Presenting content in a way that keeps them from checking email on their phones is key to making sure your message sticks. Getting a peak – or an in-depth look – at the product roadmap will energize your team around how the new products and features will help their clients. Your sales team also wants clear goals and targets for the upcoming period. By understanding their objectives and how they align with the overall business strategy, you can drive additional buy-in on the path forward. Finally, don’t forget to showcase what “good” looks like for your team. Real-life sales success stories and testimonials – told by those who’ve lived them – provide inspiration and practical insights.

3. Create opportunities for hands-on learning –  Sales people want practical training. Learnings they can take back home and use on day 1 to improve their process, help their clients, and close more deals. Don’t overload them with breakout after breakout of PowerPoint slides. Walk them through all the tools in your sales stack and have other team members teach best practices. Make sessions interactive by featuring small group discussions or incorporating role playing exercises on objection handling. Utilize AR/VR experiences, interactive displays, and mobile apps to enhance engagement and provide immersive learning opportunities. Incorporate elements of gamification to encourage participation, competition, and fun. This could include quizzes, contests, and leaderboards.

4. Let’s get ready to mingle – Networking time is essential to build culture and to help your team connect with colleagues they’ve probably only seen in virtual meetings. There should be a place in the agenda for both structured and unstructured networking. As part of your programming, create opportunities for attendees to connect and share ideas, such as networking lunches, coffee breaks, and evening social events. Give them collaborative team-building exercises and workshops that foster connections and improve team dynamics. But don’t fill the entire agenda. Give your team time to network when and how they want. The organic moments that happen will go a long way to build connections across your team.

5. Celebrate good times, come on! – Take time to celebrate your people. Recognize the top performers for the year.  Think concerts, games (sales people love some friendly competition), and fun. Celebrate the team’s achievements while also giving them the opportunity to unwind together. Giving your sales team an opportunity to wind down at the end of the event is a great way to build culture and to thank them for the hard work.

Remember to highlight the importance of daring big. Challenge your sales team to tackle tough quotas, to be bold in building and expanding new relationships, and to connect your brand with new customers. Celebrate their achievements in a big way, and go all out to recognize and reward their efforts thoughtfully.

Nail your SKO, and you’ll do more than just set yourself up for a great sales year. You’ll build a stronger culture that will leave a lasting impact on your team (and revenue) for years to come.