October 27, 2020

3 Tips For Running a Successful Virtual SKO

It’s likely that your sales kickoff (SKO) is going to look a lot different than years past.

Companies all over the world have shifted gears and plan to host their SKOs 100% virtually. Because of this, you may find your team facing some new challenges and scrambling to pull off an event in an entirely new fashion.

Sales kickoffs are one of the most important events for any company. They serve to motivate salespeople and managers alike as they enter a new fiscal year, assess previous sales strategies and realign teams to achieve higher goals going forward. As you start planning your SKO, it’s crucial that you reassess priorities, pivot if necessary and include stakeholders or teams that haven’t attended in the past. 

Note: Keep in mind that your kickoff is more than just an opportunity to gather your sales team, hold training sessions and refocus goals. Many companies now use the term “RKO” (revenue kickoff) to reflect the audience of an entire go-to-market team: customer success, marketing and sales. 

In this article, we’ll talk about three tips you can use to plan, run and execute a successful virtual sales kickoff.

Your SKO is going to look and feel different

Most of your event preparation will be different as you begin to plan your SKO. The challenge of running a kickoff event is already complicated — add a worldwide pandemic with strict stay-at-home orders and it becomes even moreso. 

The upside to this is that there are a number of ways you can pull off a virtual SKO while maintaining high engagement and morale. Keep in mind that no matter how you go about running your SKO, this year you should place an intense focus on aligning the company with one strategy to target revenue recovery or building sales momentum into the new year.

1. Announce your event, then announce it again

Your SKO announcement is one of the most important factors when getting the entire company excited and ready for your kickoff. While it goes without saying, making sure every team is aware of the event is the first step. This calls for a captivating internal email.

Consider gathering your marketing and content team to brainstorm how you can get all roles excited about your SKO. Talk about your strategy and consider the following:

  • Who is the email going to? Do you need to segment your emails for different teams across the company? (e.g., marketing, sales and product teams receive one version of the announcement email while ops, customer success and tech teams receive another)
  • What content (blogs, videos, etc.) can be created to inform all teams about what they can expect to learn during the kickoff?
  • Have you designated a central location for all details of the event? (e.g., full schedule, Zoom links, suggested sessions for specific roles, extra resources) 
  • Do you need to send out invitations for a software tool you’ll use during the kickoff? Do your teams need briefing and instructions on how to sign up for, install and navigate the tool?
  • Have you sent invites or calendar placeholders to all participants well in advance to ensure everyone has time to plan and reschedule competing meetings if necessary?

As you consider how you’ll go about creating content for your announcement, finalizing each email and sending them out to the company, remember that one email can easily get lost in the shuffle. Plan on creating a set of emails to send periodically over the months leading up to your SKO that remind teams about how to prepare and what sessions (based on role) will be most relevant to them.

2. Tailor your SKO for a virtual setting

It’s seemingly easier to get employees excited about an internal event as they may be more inclined to care about the strategy and success of their own company. Still, the reality of a virtual sales kickoff isn’t as easy as it seems.

To start, each employee will be remote, separated from their team members and unable to genuinely connect with them during the event. This naturally leads to a lack of enthusiasm and makes it easier to get distracted by other things like their email, barking dog or family. 

So how do you manage to get your remote teams to care about your kickoff and keep them engaged despite not being under the same roof? There are a couple of best practices you can use to keep viewers attentive:

  • Change formats often: As most of your SKO will be recorded or even live, think about switching formats regularly as the kickoff gets underway. This may mean having someone present for an allotted amount of time, switching to an animation that visualizes past data points and then transitioning to the next topic with a new speaker. Using one format for hours on end can result in fatigue and low engagement, so think about the sessions you’d want to attend and make it happen. Hiring the right speakers to talk about their area of expertise can be the difference between a decent SKO and one that your employees will be talking about for months. 
  • Get to the point: No one likes to hear information they’ve already heard drawn out to fill time. Save your employees a headache and get right to the point. If you’re going to talk about the successes and challenges of the past year, sum it up in a couple of minutes. Remember that the first hour of any event is the most important, so it should leave an impact on the attendees and make them excited to continue watching.
  • Take breaks: Although it may seem like common knowledge, taking time to clear your head after a long session can help you prevent Zoom fatigue. Plan several breaks throughout the day, scheduling them so attendees can leave their computer for 15 to 20 minutes. Offer breaks that are interactive and get people moving (e.g., stretching or jogging in place to get the blood pumping). Don’t stuff your kickoff schedule with speakers from 8am to 3pm. Let the event and your attendees breathe.

3. Set clear objectives

Perhaps the most essential question you should ask yourself as you plan is about what you want your company, be it sales, marketing, customer success or ops, to get out of the event. Setting clear objectives as the pillars of your SKO will ensure that it stays on track and provides the most value possible. 

There are three things to plan for when setting your SKO objectives:

  1. Make them measurable: If the goals you share with the company can’t be measured, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Unmeasurable goals make it difficult to prove that they were reached to key stakeholders. When you set goals that are easy to measure and have concrete results, your employees will be more motivated to achieve them. As goals are being reached, make sure to communicate that progress to leadership and across the entire organization.
  2. Make them specific: Sales goals should always be specific and well understood. Lay out exactly what the sales team is expected to accomplish within the next year. The goals you set during your kickoff should always be aligned to the company’s overall mission and strategy.
  3. Make them ambitious but realistic: When you present goals during your SKO, your sales team should walk away with clear action items they can start working on right away. Sales goals should always push your team to accomplish more than last year, but raising expectations too high can put unnecessary pressure on reps. Make sure your projected goals are practical and that your sales team can realistically reach them.

Have a plan

Although your sales kickoff will look different this year, the circumstances give companies the opportunity to plan a truly unforgettable event. 

Download our free sales kickoff checklist that includes questions to spark inspiration as you prepare, plan and launch your own virtual SKO.