8 Must-Have Moments at a Sales Kick-Off Event

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A sales kick-off (SKO) event is a prime chance for companies to fire up their sales teams, set the tone for the year, and get everyone on the same page. This is especially crucial in an increasingly remote-first world, when teams are scattered around the country or even the world. 

According to American Express’s 2024 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, internal meetings like SKOs are expected to see the largest growth in attendee numbers compared to other meeting types—so clearly, there’s a real appetite for these types of events. 

So how exactly do you build a kickoff event that will invigorate, inspire, and educate employees? Like any type of event, it requires careful planning and an understanding of key elements that make these gatherings successful. 

From our experience, here are some must-have moments for any SKO event.

1. Company Updates and a Year in Review

An effective SKO is more than just a corporate gathering; it is a launchpad for the year ahead. So kick it off with a bang by showcasing the big wins and tough lessons from the past year. This session, ideally led by top executives, sets the stage by celebrating milestones and discussing areas for improvement. It gives everyone a clear picture of where the company is headed and how they, personally, can fit into the big picture.

2. Trainings and Workshops

Particularly in a time when employees are more siloed than ever due to remote and hybrid work, interactive training sessions and workshops are crucial for keeping teams sharp and in sync. Depending on your company’s goals, this can focus on both product training and sales techniques, ensuring your team understands new offerings and the competitive landscape. 

3. Breakout Sessions

Along the same lines, breakout sessions can be an important way to help team members delve deeper into specific topics or pain points. These smaller, focused groups allow for more detailed discussions and personalized interaction, making the content more relevant and engaging for participants. Our advice? Keep it intimate, ensuring that everyone has a chance to throw in their two cents and really engage with the material. 

4. Networking and Teambuilding Activities

An SKO isn’t all business; it's also about building bonds. Set up fun activities that mix people from different departments. Whether it’s a sport, group challenge, or just a networking-focused happy hour, the goal is to build camaraderie and collaboration among team members.

5. Recognition Programs

Remember, the ultimate goal is to leave your sales team feeling enthusiastic about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. And one of the most effective ways to do that is to shout out their hard work and achievements! Include a recognition program or award show that highlights individual and team successes from the past year. Awards for top performers, most improved, and best team collaboration can boost morale and push everyone to do their best.

6. An Inspirational Keynote

Another great way to motivate a team is through a keynote address. While this can certainly be handled by company leaders, we find bringing in an external speaker can be a great way to inspire and energize a sales team. This could be an industry leader, a motivational speaker, or anyone with a compelling story that resonates with your team’s goals and challenges.

7. Interactions with Key Leadership

Make sure there’s plenty of time for your sales team to chat with the higher-ups, whether it’s through a formal Q&A, a meet-and-greet, or even a casual chat over drinks. These interactions are valuable for building trust and transparency, and they allow team members to feel heard and connected to the company’s leadership.

8. Customer Insights

Ideally, the customer is at the center of everything a sales team does year round—so focusing on their insights and how their needs feed into an overall sales and marketing strategy is crucial. Presentations from marketing teams, who study this information all year, can be a great way to foster a customer-centric mindset among your team. Another idea? Include sessions where top customers actually come in to share their experiences, what they value most, and how the company can better serve their needs. This kind of direct feedback can be incredibly enlightening and drive a more customer-focused approach.