40 Ideas to Make Your Sales Kickoff Meeting a Raging Success

Hosting a sales kickoff meeting (SKO) costs a pretty penny.

Sending even one salesperson to a sales kickoff in Chicago ranges from $500 to $2,000 for airfare, meals, hotel accommodations, and ground transportation. That doesn’t even include event production costs (and inflation isn’t doing anyone any favors). 

Now, think of how many events you have attended that left you bored and zoning out. What a waste, right? That’s not what you want for your 200-500 person sales team in Chicago.

But what if all of your salespeople — the people who propel your company’s growth — learned while having fun? The odds of the salesperson using that content later increase exponentially. Interested? Here’s how to plan a sales kickoff meeting that leaves you reaping the benefits all year.

What is a sales kickoff meeting?

It’s a new year with new goals to meet and services to sell. But it won’t happen without company buy-in. SKOs are internal company meetings that provide the training and motivation needed to kick the year into gear.

SKO agendas often include the following: 

  • Review of last year
  • Plans for the upcoming year
  • Discussion of market dynamics
  • Overview of competition
  • Role-playing sessions to improve selling skills 
  • Internal business partner networking (including IT, HR, Marketing, and the like)

During a sales kickoff meeting, all your best brains are in one building. There’s ample opportunity for sales greatness. But SKOs can go wrong if they’re not well-planned and engaging. This results in listless salespeople ready to bolt at the first opportunity.

How can you combat drowsiness and increase retention? Keep reading to learn how gamification can turn your SKO into a raging success:

What is a sales kickoff meeting?

What causes sales kickoff meetings to fail?

How can I improve engagement during a sales kickoff meeting?

Gamification boosts your sales team’s engagement and retention

Experiential learning is an effective method of sales training

Top Types of Experiential Learning Games

Role-playing and scenario-based activities for sales kickoffs

A sales kickoff review is the perfect opportunity to follow up

Motivate your salespeople by gamifying your SKO

What causes sales kickoff meetings to fail to succeed? 

It’s essential to be intentional in your planning and strategy to drive real success. Along with failing to meet your sales team where they are, this is often where sales kickoff meetings fall short. Here are five common pitfalls of SKO planning:

1. Poorly planned agendas leave attendees feeling confused, disengaged, and frustrated.

2. Failure to set and share clear goals before the sales kickoff meeting leaves teams struggling to meet expectations after the meeting.

3. Too much emphasis placed on product knowledge and not enough on how to sell the product through customer service and negotiation skills training hinders success rates.

4. Not enough post-SKO follow-up results in confusion about the next steps or how best to execute plans discussed during the sales kickoff meeting.

5. One-way presentations from leadership or executives exacerbate a lack of engagement during sales kick-off meetings without opportunities for salespeople to interact with the content and each other.

By taking a proactive approach to leadership, you can help your team reach new levels of growth and achievement.

6. Relevance: Salespeople want to understand how the presentations relate to their day-to-day job and overall goals. 

7. Too much information: If you present too much content during the kickoff, all the new information without enough discussion or processing time may overwhelm your salespeople.

8. Lack of interaction: Without engaging activities, such as games, breakout groups, or networking opportunities, more entertaining options may distract your salespeople.

9. Keeping their attention: Since salespeople are usually on the go, it’s a challenge to hold their focus during a long meeting.

Combine all those with their addictions to the computers everyone keeps in their pocket, and you may end up with salespeople checking their phones instead of paying attention.

How can I improve engagement during a sales kickoff meeting?

Instead of admitting defeat before planning, try these tips to keep salespeople engaged during your SKO:

10. Include team-building exercises and group discussions about sales strategies and tactics. 

11. Tap guest speakers who provide insights into industry trends and customer needs. Thought leaders will give participants new ideas to consider when selling products or services. 

12. Offer incentives for interacting. Gift prizes to folks with the best ideas or innovative ways to solve customer pain points.

13. Provide interactive tools. Polls, surveys, and Q&A sessions can help experts answer attendees’ questions quickly.

14. Present recognition awards at the end of each session for outstanding contributions from individuals/teams. 

You are likely eager to help salespeople

  • stay engaged,
  • remember information,
  • and make connections between new topics and previous conversations.

Since the agendas of sales kickoff meetings often are packed with dry — but essential — content, here’s the best way to flip the script and turn your sales kickoff meeting into a raging success: 

Pick a damn good theme. 

Because it’s the story of your sales kickoff meeting.

Need some examples to get you started? Check out our 52 sales meeting theme ideas. Then, let’s focus on engagement techniques by adding games into the mix (because that’s our specialty).

Gamification boosts your sales team’s engagement and retention

So, how do we keep their attention? Consider role-playing games as your sales kickoff meeting defibrillator. They will breathe life back into the room.

Games help increase retention, provide a fun and interactive break from lectures and presentations, transition smoothly from one session to the next, and make learning easier.

Not only that, but you’ll also be doing your attendees a favor. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) promotes fun and games as essential tools for a happy and healthy adulthood. Besides being good for your health, here’s how gamification can positively impact your business:

15. Increase engagement and motivation of the sales team. 

16. Reinforce critical messages from the meeting in an interactive way. 

17. Foster collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing among the sales team members. 

18. Promote healthy competition between teams and individuals. Competition helps drive higher performance and reach targets faster and more efficiently. 

19. Recognize individual achievements through rewards such as badges or points system for completing tasks or reaching milestones during the kickoff meeting session games/activities. 

20. Generate interest in new products, services, and offers. You can create challenges around them during game activities at the kickoff.

21. Provide instant feedback on performance to increase learning retention throughout the event. 

22. Quickly identify high performers to reward with additional incentives during or after the SKO.

23. Establish trust within teams that encourage cross-team collaborations post-kickoff meetings.

24. Rejuvenate the sales team’s motivation levels post-meeting to achieve targets set during the kickoff.

Hands-on learning has roots in the earliest teaching methods. And it’s one of the best ways to remember and apply information. Blending these techniques into your SKO will pump energy back into the room and inspire salespeople to hit the ground running.

Experiential learning is an effective method of sales training 

Experiential learning combines traditional classroom-style instruction with hands-on activities. These activities let your salespeople practice what they learned in real-world scenarios.

According to Gabe Zichermann, author of Gamification by Design, gamification increases employee skill retention by approximately 40%. It works so well in sales training because using games for learning gives participants a more immediate and meaningful understanding of new products and services. All while practicing their sales techniques in realistic situations with colleagues.

Experiential learning increases knowledge retention and motivation and improves job satisfaction and productivity. The trial-and-error nature of experiential learning gives participants a safe place to fail. Then they can learn from their mistakes — leaving them better trained for success.

The collaboration time creates an engaging experience that helps sales teams hit goals faster with greater confidence.

Top Types of Experiential Learning Games

To gamify experiential learning, consider peppering real-life challenges with fun elements. Here are five examples of experiential learning games and when to use them:

25. Role-Playing Games: These allow teams to practice sales pitches and strategies in a safe environment.

26. Scenario-Based Challenges: These can simulate customer situations the team may face in the upcoming quarter or year. 

27. Team-Building Exercises: These bring teams together by encouraging them to practice working together towards common goals. 

28. Negotiation Challenges: These give your sales team a chance to hone their negotiation skills by simulating scenarios where they must think of creative solutions to reach an agreement on pricing, terms, etc. 

29. Quizzes & Trivia Contests: These are fun ways for teams to test their knowledge about the company’s products, services, industry trends, and more with some friendly competition.

Who doesn’t love a little friendly competition? Try SocialPoint’s quizzes and trivia contests. They are quick and entertaining activities that break up long lectures’ monotony and role-playing social pressures. And role-playing games give teams a great way to practice their newfound knowledge.

Role-playing and scenario-based activities for sales kickoffs

Role-playing games are the most effective antidote to wandering attention. To make planning easier, here are instructions for activities big on interaction and low on preparation:

30. Role-Playing Scenarios

  • Develop scenarios that mimic real-life situations that your salespeople may encounter in their day-to-day work.
  • Have teams take on different roles of potential customers and use their pitching skills to close a deal while considering the customer’s needs, budget, timeline, etc. 
  • Ask them to act out these scenarios in pairs or small groups as if they were talking to an actual customer.
  • Next, debrief to discuss how it went and where to improve.

31. Mock Sales Pitch

  • Divide the team into two groups and have each group develop a sales pitch for a fictitious product or service.
  • Provide the teams with information about the product or service, customer background, and market conditions.
  • Let each team present its pitch to the rest of the group.
  • Then, give them feedback on what worked well and what to improve. 

32. Negotiation Exercise

  • Create a negotiation situation between two “buyers” (played by your team members).
  • Give teams an imaginary budget for a B2B sale.
  •  Next, ask them to negotiate with suppliers within that budget while maximizing value for their company. 
  • Ask them to get the best deal possible from one another while still maintaining good relationships with each other through effective communication strategies such as compromise and active listening skills. 

33,  Customer Service Simulation

  • Work together as a team to role-play different customer service scenarios, such as dealing with demanding customers, handling complaints effectively, upselling products or services, etc.
  • Afterward, discuss any mistakes made during the simulation. Then, everyone will know how to handle similar situations in real life. 

34. Cross-Team Team Building

  • Divide teams into smaller groups and have each group plan a creative introduction to the company’s B2B product or service to potential customers.
  • When finished, the groups can present their solutions to the rest of the team. This activity encourages inter-team collaboration and fosters trust among members.

35. Market Analysis Challenge

  • Ask teams to analyze the current B2B products or services market trends, competitors’ offerings, customer preferences, etc.
  • Then, have them brainstorm strategies to promote your product or service amidst this competition. 

36. Pitch Presentation Challenge

  • Ask teams to create a presentation outlining the benefits of your company’s B2B product or service compared with similar offers from competitors.
  • Afterward, they can present it convincingly enough to win over potential buyers by highlighting its unique features and benefits over other options available in the market.

Consider setting up these activities as a passport game where they go from activity to activity and complete a challenge at each station to earn passport points for rewards and prizes. Rewards will incentivize the sales team to interact and contribute their best ideas.

Following up after the event 

Your SKO was a tidal wave of energy and information. After two weeks, many people will forget most of what they learned. With this in mind, plan to keep momentum by reinforcing your key messages after the event. There are several ways to do this:

37. Followup Quizzes: Use trivia challenges to review action items discussed during the meeting because trivia can give you quick data to help you track progress. 

38. Publish reference materials and resources: Ensure everyone can access relevant materials and resources they need to succeed. This sounds easy. But many don’t do it. So, be sure to publish those one-pagers, tutorial videos, and other digital documents. It will help your sales team translate training into their day-to-day work. 

39. Continue using the theme in post-event messaging: Since you created an awesome theme, continue to use it in your post-event messaging and follow-up. It helps remind the sales team of the great time had at your event. 

40. Get Feedback from Attendees: You probably already knew this one, but it’s worth repeating.  Capture feedback by surveying your attendees. Their input will help you make improvements for your next event. 

Motivate your salespeople by gamifying your SKO

By taking a proactive approach to leadership, you can help your team reach new levels of growth and achievement.

One way to be proactive is to ensure your sales kickoff meeting isn’t dull. Experiential learning games, trivia, and passport challenges are excellent ways to gamify and motivate your salespeople at sales kickoffs. Not only do they bring teams together, but they also build trust. Games are also fun to help folks practice sales techniques and hone negotiation and customer service skills.

Ready to help your salespeople stay at the top of their games? Learn how SocialPoint’s attendee participation games can liven up your next sales kickoff. 

Written by

Samuel J. Smith is a thought leader, researcher, speaker and award winning innovator on event technology. In 2011, BizBash Magazine added Sam to its annual innovators list. Since then, Sam has won awards from Exhibitor Magazine, IBTM World, RSVP MN, International Live Events Association and MPI for innovation in event technology.