How To Plan An Engaging, Inspiring & Innovative Virtual Sales Kickoff

While in-person sales kickoffs are invaluable for networking, team building and creating unique collaborative energy – organising and successfully executing a virtual conference is very different from in-person events. One of the common concerns when it comes to virtual sales kickoffs is how to keep the audience engaged throughout, while also motivating and inspiring them to take action when they’re sitting behind their computer? If this is something you’ve been wondering, you’ve come to the right place, because in this article we explore how to plan a successful virtual sales kickoff.

What is a national sales meeting?

A national sales meeting (also referred to as a sales kickoff or a sales summit) is an annual meeting that usually happens in January, where companies gather their entire sales team to set the pace, energy and direction for the next 12 months. During the sales kickoff event, companies usually focus on motivating sales reps, managers and leaders whilst also outlining the sales strategy for the next year.

What is a virtual sales kickoff?

A virtual sales kickoff is an annual sales team building event used by sales leaders to gather their sales teams in a virtual space to celebrate the past year’s successes, motivate the organisations for the coming year, and align on the new go-to-market strategy.

Why go virtual for a sales kickoff?

Before the global implications of Covid19, communication was a whole lot easier. It was dynamic, spontaneous, and impromptu. However, in-person events are becoming more complicated to plan, impractical, and are overall less commonplace than their cheaper, more accessible virtual counterparts. A bonus for companies looking to motivate reps is that because sales kickoff events are usually held in the most stressful quarter of the year, virtual sales kickoff events give a welcome break and offer a chance to inspire with a boost of fun energy.

What’s the purpose of a sales kickoff?

Whether you choose to go live or virtual for your sales kickoff event, it will likely serve several purposes. Below are typical examples of outcomes companies set for sales kickoff events:

Reward & celebrate success

If you’re like many companies, you probably track your sales team’s success with leaderboards – and what better place than to celebrate your team’s success than together at your sales kickoff meeting? Not only is this a chance to congratulate those who have nailed this year’s targets and expectations – but it’s also a chance to inspire and motivate other sales reps with personal stories and speeches about their achievements.

Introduce new products

You can’t sell what you don’t know and what better time to excite and intrigue your team with a big reveal than your sales kickoff? It’s the perfect opportunity and platform to engage your team with videos of product demonstrations or even augmented reality if you want to be super interactive! Most of all, it’s a great opportunity for your entire sales team to understand all of your offerings fully, as well as a chance to ask questions and discuss potential objections – and their answers.

Outline future sales strategy

Ensure that your entire sales force is present to set the bar for the coming year, as well as including your marketing and customer service departments. Sales kickoff events are a great sales enablement opportunity because you can ensure everyone is on the same page regarding goals, campaigns, messaging, customer excellence, marketing and sales techniques. This opportunity not only creates a team synergy but ensures consistency across your company’s outwards presence and branding.

Motivate, energise & inspire

Motivated sales teams ooze confidence, exuberance and energy regardless of whether your sales are at a peak or slowing down. However, setting targets, following up, and rewarding reps using a leaderboard isn’t always enough. There is a growing number of disrupted industries, forced restructuring of companies, and staff changing the way they work. Sales reps need to be inspired, engaged, and confident to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. Today’s business is not only about having the best products and services, but it’s also about having the best mindset.

Different Types of Virtual Keynote Events

There are several ways to deliver a virtual keynote event. Choose one of the options below based on your budget, event type and current restrictions in your area:

Live Virtually

Joins speakers from their home studios for an engaging, immersive and interactive experience live virtually keynotes. Sit back and watch as they deliver a highly interactive live keynote that engages your audience through chat and polls.

Professional green screen studio

Want to replicate a live stage as closely as possible? Have speakers deliver a keynote for your company from one of the professional green screen studios in Singapore, where they can stream live while incorporating slides, a virtual stage, polls and chat.

Pre-recorded – streamed ‘live’

Vet your keynote content before going live and ensure you get the perfect presentation you want with pre-recorded studio keynotes. When streaming the talk to participants simultaneously, learners can also benefit by incorporating live chat with speakers to answer any questions they may have.

On-demand

Take the stress out of timing your event perfectly with on-demand pre-recorded virtual keynotes that will allow your audience to watch what they want when they want.

Hybrid

Hybrid keynotes are delivered live to a local audience then broadcasted to the rest of your participants wherever they may be in the world. Hybrid talks allow getting the combination of an in-person and virtual event.

Different Types of Virtual Keynote Events Infographic
Different Types of Virtual Keynote Events Infographic

How to plan an engaging, inspiring & innovative virtual sales kickoff

Now that you know what you want to include in your event, you might be wondering, how do I organise a virtual sales kickoff?! With so many options and new technology in this area, planning a virtual event has its own set of unique challenges. Here’s where to start when it comes to planning a virtual conference.

1. Create an Sales Kickoff (SKO) agenda

Where do you even begin to start planning your virtual sales kickoff (SKO)? By preparing with an SKO Agenda! This step is arguably the most critical aspect of planning your SKO; because regardless of who you invite to your kickoff – if no one receives any valuable takeaways, the event was likely a waste of your time and money. That’s why when you focus on creating your virtual SKO agenda, you need to consider how you’ll incorporate these four aspects:

  1. How will you ensure your team stays true to next year’s goals?
  2. How can you encourage participation and peer-to-peer networking via a virtual channel?
  3. How can you inspire and motivate your sales team?
  4. How will you balance feeding your sales team critical information about skills, sales enablement and customer excellence so that it resonates? 

You can use these questions as a starting point for your first draft; however, you must remember your sales team needs to retain this valuable information for months after the event – so plan for long-term retention by prioritising interaction. 

2. Choose your virtual sales kickoff theme

Your virtual sales kickoff needs a theme, a type of mantra that can motivate and influence your sales team to achieve your goals for the year. The sales kickoff theme should be something that your team can relate to, adopt and rally around as their primary mission for the year. To choose your theme, you should first consider a slogan that is easy to remember, clear, catchy and upbeat. Ideally, you want to ensure it’s short, sweet and to the point – for instance:

  • Stronger. Better. Faster.
  • Level Up!
  • Together we can…
  • All in! 

Once you’ve chosen your theme, combine it into your virtual sales kickoff event with virtual team building activities, speaker topics, and so on. Just remember, the more consistent your theme is, the more likely your sales team will be to retain your message and motivation for the coming year. 

3. Acknowledge the challenges of the pandemic

A well constructed virtual sales kickoff will acknowledge the effects of the pandemic and maybe even highlight issues your company has encountered because of it, as well as their solutions. The idea with sales kickoff events is to pivot your sales teams’ perspective and increase their drive and motivation. So ensure you confront the facts and then demonstrate how you’re going to overcome potential challenges to instil confidence in your sales team.

4. Plan early

Considering that this is likely your first virtual sales kickoff event, you need to start planning early if you want to deliver a powerful message to your sales team. Start by determining what presence and energy you want to bring to the virtual event; from there, you can identify the different components that will bring your message to life. Need employee success stories? Gather and prep the information ahead of time!

However, another fact about virtual sales kickoffs is that they’re prone to technical difficulties. Therefore, you can avoid (minimise) any disruptions by having an internal or external IT professional on hand.

5. Approach as a process, not event

While virtual sales kickoffs are essentially a large virtual meeting, they’re more likely to succeed when approached as a process – not an event. That means that you should carefully plan for before, during, and after, including building momentum, creating interaction and providing follow-up content.

6. Incorporate breakout rooms

Breakout rooms are great for waking up or refreshing your audience, who have likely listened to several speakers throughout your virtual sales kickoff. However, you must be careful to use this time wisely by engaging and interacting with your audience via video or static chat. Use this opportunity to ensure it is memorable and that any points you do make are retained.

7. Take advantage of customer insights

Customer feedback is the holy grail of unique insights about your products and service. You use it to measure customer satisfaction, learn about customer behaviour changes, and identify areas that need immediate improvement. Therefore, what better place to fine-tune every aspect of the customer journey than when your entire team is present? Not only will you improve your customer experience, but you’ll allow departments to understand how everyone contributes to one another’s success.

8. Play a virtual game

Keep your sales team engaged for long periods with the 8% rule (dedicate 8% of your entire virtual event time to fun, refreshing and exciting team games). Team building games are as old as time, so why not use them as an effective virtual icebreaker or an appropriate break? You can create one of your choosing or personalise any of these versions below:

Two Truths and One Lie

One of the most well-known team building games is Two Truths, One Lie. If you’re not familiar with the game, here’s a quick breakdown: Each person lists two facts about themselves and then one lie. Then everyone else has to guess which statement is the lie out of the three given. The idea behind this game is to “trick” or “mislead” the other players into choosing the lie by providing obscure truths! You’ll gain plenty of laughs from this game and may even learn more about your colleagues than you first realised!

Snapshot

Snapshot is an excellent choice for a quick, personal ice-breaker. Simply ask your audience to spend 5 minutes taking a picture with their mobile phone of something close to their working space. The photo can include pets, condiments, sentimental objects, lunch, or even their desk set-up. The idea is to intrigue their team members so that they ask questions that lead to natural conversations. You can also vote as a group on the best photo!

GIF Wars

One of the quickest and funniest virtual team building games, usually consisting of four rounds – each with a unique theme. Ask your audience to use Giphy or Google Images to find a GIF they think best fits with the round’s theme – then everyone votes which GIF submission they thought was best for each round. The person with the most wins overall is crowned your GIF Superstar! You can use small monetary prizes to congratulate them, or maybe the prestigious title will be more than enough? The choice is yours!

For example, if your first theme is “Objection Handling”...

via GIPHY

Name That Song Title Emoji Edition

Everyone loves music, and most love emojis – so why not combine the two for an effective virtual team building activity? You can start this game by simply asking one person to start by thinking of a well-known song and translating this into emojis. Then the audience has 2 minutes to guess by typing in the chat or shouting out loud; the person who gets it right first then takes a turn to choose a song and so on. 

For example, I bet you can’t guess this one? 👀🐅

(“Eye of the tiger” by Survivor, of course!) 

Virtual Escape Rooms

Whether you love them or hate them, virtual escape rooms work exceptionally well for encouraging interaction and engagement. The idea is that your sales team needs to solve various riddles or puzzles in a certain amount of time to “escape” before the timer runs out. The best part? You can get highly creative with the theme and tie it into your overall SKO theme.

9. Create product videos

Hype videos are commonplace at in-person sales kickoffs, but they often lack substance and detail on the basic features of your product or service. Virtual sales kickoffs are your chance to engage, inspire, and educate your sales team with media woven in between other segments. You can easily do this by creating product videos that are similar to a live demo or workshop – maybe even a video advertisement in the form of a trailer.

10. Hire a Master of Ceremony (MC)

Hiring an experienced and engaging MC/EmCee will help your event smoothly transition between the different segments and breakout rooms. They set the tone for the event and introduce the audience to the upcoming events and speakers. A good MC can also fill in the gaps if/when technical difficulties arise or if the events run ahead of schedule.

11. Hire a virtual sales kickoff speaker

While the MC helps smooth the transitions of the event, a kickoff speaker instils the messages of the conference in a way, inexperienced people just don’t have the skills to do. It’s crucial to consider hiring an external keynote speaker who can help inspire, engage and uplift your audience at the opening or closing of your event. In fact, it’s not uncommon at all because a whopping 68% of B2B companies hire external moderators and speakers** for their virtual round table discussions.

checklist for planning an engaging, inspiring & innovative virtual sales kickoff

How to hire a virtual sales kickoff speaker

Your sales kickoff is an opportunity to capitalise on a virtual keynote speaker’s influencing abilities, but what should you consider when determining who to hire? Here are our 4 top tips for hiring a virtual sales kickoff speaker:

1. Choose a certified speaking professional

A certified speaking professional is a designation held by only 1.5% of speakers worldwide. Initially established by the National Speakers Association, this title is only awarded to speakers who meet strict criteria. Therefore, if you spot a speaker with “CSP” after their name, there’s a good chance they have the professional experience you need.

2. Hire for experience

It only makes sense to hire a speaker based on their experience. Find out if they have experience speaking to your size of the audience, your industry, your type of platform/set up. Are they experts in the topic you want to cover? Do they have plenty of experience motivating and a virtual audience? A speaker that’s great on stage, doesn’t always perform well from behind a computer to an audience they can’t see. You need to confirm their experience in a virtual environment.

3. Thoroughly review videos

It’s important to thoroughly review videos of your potential motivational speaker in action. Their highlight reel, is as the name suggests, their highlights. They show the speaker at their very best, so if you find the speaker dry, boring, condescending or low energy in their professionally produced video, there’s no doubt they’ll be even worse at your event.

If you find a speaker without a highlight reel, run as quickly as you can to the next professional speaker.

4. Determine their synergy with technology

Before the effects of the pandemic shifted events to a virtual setting – speakers would turn up, converse with the production team, review aspects of their performance and allow a tech team to mic them up, adjust lighting and ensure a good camera placement. However, now that more and more speakers are working from home hosting virtual events – you need to ensure they have a good tech set up and can provide what you want in terms of video quality, interaction (chat, polls, breakout rooms) and very importantly – internet speeds.

How to Hire a Virtual Sales Kickoff Speaker Infographic
How to Hire a Virtual Sales Kickoff Speaker Infographic

Hire Certified Professional Speaker Tom Abbott For Your Virtual Sales Kickoff

Need a professional speaker for your event? Hire Tom Abbott to raise your virtual audience to new heights, engage them virtually in ways very few speakers can and have them leaving inspired to make the next year even better than the last.

Tom has delivered 100s of virtual speeches in 2020 and 2021 alone, is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), has delivered keynotes on almost every kind of platform and type of event. To top it all off, he has the ultimate high-tech home setup complete with 1000 Mbps (yes thousand, not hundred) internet speed, multiple cameras, a switcher to seamlessly incorporate slides, and options of studio setup.

Tom Abbott’s signature fun, high energy, and motivating talks move the audience to become future-ready, embrace change and stay motivated. Leaving your virtual sales kickoff inspired with the confidence and grit to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. 

Whether you’re looking for a leadership speaker, motivational speaker, or sales speaker, have Tom deliver one of his signature keynotes or have us customise a talk to suit the specific needs of your event, whether it’s live, virtual or blended.

  • *https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/sales-statistics
  • **https://www.markletic.com/blog/virtual-event-statistics/
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