Running a virtual sales kickoff (SKO)

virtual sales kickoff

How can you ensure your reps feel connected, motivated and ready to attack a new offer or sales cycle? It’s all about a great sales kickoff. This annual summit is the go-to for agencies and companies eager to launch an offer or product with incredible energy.

With COVID-19 forcing widespread changes in company structure, many sales reps are working remotely. That means your sales kickoff has to look and operate differently. Getting prepared for your virtual sales kickoff could be the difference between a successful cycle and a big, fat flop.

Preparing for a virtual sales kickoff

A virtual sales kickoff can be a very pricey investment for the company. However, if done properly, this investment is worth it for the business and employees. Simply “winging it” is not an option, given the size of investment for your enterprise. The first thing to tackle is the overall layout. Management must get organized beforehand. Paying attention via computer is hard enough without waiting for the host to shuffle through notes or figure out the interface.

  • Get organized. Know what the entire kickoff is going to look like. This includes directing attendees to supplementary materials and creating a detailed speaker schedule.
  • Don’t plan full days. It’s almost impossible to stay alert for a full 8-hour kickoff in person. Now that you’re planning a virtual SKO, it’s even harder to have people pay attention. Don’t expect that to happen when salespeople are at home, surrounded by kids, pets, and other tempting distractions.
  • Plan to be flexible. Have a blueprint in place but know that it’s likely things will change. Use your plan as a sort of road map, but remember that it’s okay if people pull to the side to admire the scenery. These side discussions can be useful tools. You may learn more about your sales team’s needs or encounter questions or concerns you hadn’t considered before.
  • Don’t forget breaks. Build in pauses for bathroom visits, snacks, and lunch. Consider blocking off time for group stretching and sending out a few yoga poses to boost energy.

How to structure sessions for a remote sales kickoff

As you transition from in-person SKOs to a remote sales kickoff, it’s important to keep some familiarity. If your existing session structure works, stick with it. For most sales divisions, that includes addressing any or all of the following:

Look back/recap

Many sales kickoffs include a chance to revisit the previous year/cycle and see what everyone did right. It’s also a time to figure out what went wrong and why. Try to keep the tone upbeat, so you don’t tank the SKO energy from the get-go, but be realistic. Touch on ways to improve, and then introduce positive themes, such as “Succeeding Together, Apart” or “Mask On, Sell Out.”


If you’re introducing a new client or product or moving to a new sales platform, here’s where the training starts. Screen sharing makes it easy to walk through a tricky interface as a group. You can showcase key features and demonstrate a product’s highlights quickly and effectively.

New comp plans

Everybody’s favorite topic: money. If your compensation plans are changing, especially in the wake of COVID-19, be transparent. Leave room for questions, send out the terms in writing without being asked. Doing this pre-SKO can save a lot of time and stress.

Breakout sessions

These mini meet-ups are workshop-style conversations within the main event. They’re shorter, more focused, and ideal for smaller groups that want to discuss sub-topics and experiences specific to their department or team.

Team building

Team-building exercises are always important, but more so now that everyone is scattered. Coworkers miss the camaraderie, and new team members never had those heartwarming water-cooler moments. What these exercises look like depends on your existing company culture and what feels right.

  • A virtual 5-minute dance party
  • Quiz participants about a new product or company history
  • Open mic hour (have people sign-up beforehand and set a concise time limit)
  • Announce an online “break room” that salespeople can use during the week to meet up

One-on-one networking

Encourage — or mandate, your choice — more senior salespeople to interact with new team members. These one-on-one sessions are mutually beneficial in unexpected ways. Schedule them as part of the kickoff, but pair people up ahead of time.

Create your layout, then start with a bang. You need to grab people’s attention before their minds start to wander. This could be a killer intro with tempting numbers; get the team revved up about how much money they could make. Or it could be something different entirely.

It may not be normal, but it can be fun!

If you’re looking to shake up the status quo, explore ways to make the virtual format more fun.

Send swag beforehand

Freebies are always enjoyable. The pens, bags, and other swag clients send to get the team excited can be forwarded from HQ before the SKO. It’s easier to get pumped up when the gear is right in front of you. It makes everything seem more real.

Cover expenses for your team’s meals

Set a per diem to cover food delivery, and make lunch part of your SKO. People have to eat anyway, but ordering in feels more special.

Hand out awards

Who’s “Most Likely to Forget to Mute?” Or, who’s “Most Likely to Make the First Sale?” Awards can be funny, motivational, serious, or almost anything in between. Just keep them appropriate.

Host a virtual scavenger hunt

There are countless virtual scavenger hunt ideas for team building purposes. Some involve finding items around the house and taking a picture. Others are challenges that take participants all over the internet. You can make yours relevant to your company or a particular client, combining fun and education.

Take advantage of being remote

For now, social distancing means selling remotely. But separate doesn’t have to be “less than.” Work with your circumstances instead of against them, and you may discover opportunities. For instance, you can hire someone special to speak remotely that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to host in-office.

You can do remote-specific training, and choose the learning software that meets your needs. This is especially relevant when the team is planning on reaching out to customers remotely in the coming months. Educating employees on virtual etiquette and remote-inspired tips and tricks helps everyone acclimate. It could even help make clients more comfortable down the road.

A virtual sales kickoff isn’t bad; it’s just different. In many cases, it can be an opportunity to explore creativity and find new ways to craft a successful launch. Once you’re in business, create a workspace on QuotaPath and make tracking those hefty commissions easier than ever!

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