Your Sales Kick-Off will send a signal. What signal will you send?

by Maribeth Brown

A person watching an NTT sales kick off in APAC.

Topics in this article

Employee experience
As every sales director knows, a Sales Kick-Off is aptly named.

Just like in a sports match, the Kick-Off is that moment when there’s no score on the board, there’s everything to play for, and yet things could go either way. It’s the singular moment everyone’s been looking forward to. And now the moment has arrived. Everyone’s in the same place at the same time. But are they there in mind as well as body? Do they have their head in the game?

Also-rans or match-winners

And how about you? As their leader, their manager, their coach…do you have your game plan worked out? Are you ready to inspire, to remind them of what’s at stake, the prize to be won? Will all those weeks and months of prep you’ve put in – just to get to this point – be worth it? The floor is yours. You’ve got everyone’s attention. But are you now able to focus them on those final details that will help them execute and finish – not as also-rans, but match-winners?

And if time is money, your Sales Kick-Off (SKO) comes with a hefty price tag. You’ll be pulling people away from their regular work, their day-to-day selling, and all eyes are on you. You’ve got their attention. Now what did you want to do with it? How can you ensure your event truly is an event?

Ready to perform at the highest level

After all, the pandemic with its social distancing and travel restrictions have disrupted in-person Sales Kick-Offs. Those big gatherings where your sales force gather, refresh, and return to the sales arena, psyched-up to succeed, just cannot take place in the flesh. And that’s a shame for everyone involved. You want to lift your team, and they will surely need that lift too. It’s been a tough year, and they may be feeling a little flat, a little tired, they may even have disengaged from the company vision. Now more than ever you may want to bring them together to form, storm, norm – and be ready to perform at the highest possible level.

In the absence of a real-world event, it’s clear this renewal and rejuvenation must take place online. But will another regular online meeting or series of calls really give you the showcase occasion and engagement you need? Will it really inspire your sales team as they jump from one call to another? You may be looking to break down what would have been a full-day, or two-day in-person event and running it as a series of shorter online sessions. Will that be enough to stand out as a highlight? More meetings the same old way may work day-to-day, for business as usual, but will it really cut the mustard for your Sales Kick-Off?

Your Sales Kick-Off must kick-start your year

The way to elevate your event and ensure your Sales Kick-Off kick-starts your year is with a well-planned, well-produced virtual event; held in a bespoke virtual environment. You don’t want just another meeting. And nor do your sales team. As one of my own sales colleagues recently told me about our own Sales Kick-Offs. “It’s something we look forward to every year: catching up with co-workers, celebrating big deals, joking around, and – most importantly for us competitive salespeople – the award ceremony. The Sales Kick-Off is the event of the year that we all circle on our calendars.”

Now, if your sales colleagues are in any way similar, they’ll be disappointed that their in-person event is cancelled. But even more so when they learn that the alternative being lined up is simply more meetings in the same virtual space that they use day in, day out. We’re on the same page, right? Your SKO should not be planned – or thought of – as an everyday event. It needs to feel special. It needs to be different. How else can you expect your sales force to leave your SKO hyped-up, psyched-up, and set to succeed?

Let’s look at some of particular ways your Sales Kick-Off can make good use of a virtual environment: to energize, surprise, advise, recognize and socialize.

Energize your sales force

A virtual Sales Kick-Off can provide the occasion you need

You need to galvanize the troops. How do you plan to do that? Powering through the pages of a PowerPoint? Staring down the barrel of your laptop webcam? Will it be enough? Remember when plays ran in theatres and when music filled arenas? All were enhanced by their staging and setting, enhancing the experience, and rewarding those that cared to be there in the moment. This is your opportunity to make a distinct impression and rally your troops from your own virtual stage; your sales force taking their seats in your branded virtual auditorium. Whether it’s superior sound, or multiple cameras, we can introduce variety and nuance to important parts of your presentations; our experience and expertise means your keynotes will hit all the right notes.

Surprise to keep people engaged

To get the of value from your virtual Sales Kick-Off, you need to hold people’s attention. Being present and being attentive are not necessarily the same thing. After all, your team are not in the room with you. Distractions can dilute, dull and destroy your powerful messages. Gamification provides a proven panacea. Our virtual environments offer quiz modules and introduce a fun competitive edge for your salespeople. Use them to reward those paying hawk-like attention, those who’ve noted or remembered important details. You can award prizes in individual sessions and run leader boards across a whole event. You can even maintain your virtual environment beyond the Sales Kick-Off, adding further interactive elements across the year. These could be further quizzes or polls to seek ongoing feedback, or check knowledge and understanding. Interactive events and the element of surprise help keep people engaged and involved.

Real-world Sales Kick-Offs also give the chance for like minds to spend some semi-formal time together. This can be organized and structured opportunities with experts for additional training or advice, or impromptu mentoring and insight. Breakout rooms can be created to cater for Q&A sessions or discussions around bespoke focus areas. You can structure these however you want to enable the exchange of ideas and influence for regional teams or around product areas.

Recognize your high achievers

Celebrate your high achievers and focus on the year ahead

Your Sales Kick-Off will usually be the time to acknowledge the big hitters, those who smashed their targets. And rightly so. While money is a motivator, so much of our well-being at work comes from being acknowledged. It’s part of our search ‘for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash.’ At a time of reflection and renewal, an online awards ceremony, filled with plaudits and pizazz, has a huge part to play. You can reveal the high performers, celebrate their achievements, and demonstrate to all that bear witness that you’re a giver to those that deliver. Don’t forget to issue those virtual tickets to the awards ceremony. Smart dress optional!

Socialize and have fun together

No surprise, but a Sales Kick-Off can offer plenty of scope to socialize and perhaps let your hair down. A virtual environment can’t quite put you your sales team physically together, but it can offer a myriad of ways for them to mix and mingle. Why not host virtual bars or lounges where people can get together? Much like a hotel or conference center, these can be themed – by name and design – as you wish.

They can be quieter rooms for chat and contemplation, or louder rooms with music and entertainment, perhaps more competitive fun and games. Why not take things to the next level and send out ‘refreshment kits’ to each attendee’s home address, or have a formal or fancy-dress code? You could also hire guest entertainers for exclusive virtual performances. Yes, you can hold another ‘bring-your-own’ virtual happy hour, but there are so many inventive and fun options that can make your event sparkle.

The true value of a virtual Sales Kick-Off

A great Sales Kick-Off sets you up for success. A bad one doesn’t. It leaves people feeling flat and disappointed, querying the investment made in them, arguably the company’s most valuable resource. A top-drawer Sales Kick-Off will require more investment than a series of simple video calls. However, compared to the cost of running a physical SKO with travel costs, accommodation, dinners and drinks, and all the other expenses, they offer exceptional means and value.

You may well be able to string together your SKO on a shoestring; Or be able to bring together hundreds or even thousands of people. You may get through proceedings without too many teething problems and technical hitches. But will it be the event you really wanted it to be, that it could have been? Will your sales reps feel as valued, as hyped-up, and set for success as if you investigated and invested in the very best SKO? Will skimping on the budget – likely only to be a fraction of an in-person event – really pay off down the line? It’s hard to know.

But however you do it, your Sales Kick-Off is a signal. What signal will you be sending this year?

A well-produced Sales Kick-Off in a full-featured virtual environment means you can present your sales force with drama, excitement, togetherness, validation, expertise, and focus, and all in one brilliant virtual environment.


Global Marketing Director für Digital Events, Cloud Communications Division, NTT Ltd. 

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