Have you ever really been fully prepared for a Sales Kickoff (SKO)?

Ask any sales or marketing exec, and the chances are most will say no. Even those who have managed successful SKOs in the past are likely to mutter a few expletives under their breath remembering the logistical nightmares that plagued their last event.

While a company’s SKO is often their most important event of the year, the details always seem to come together at the 11th hour, with project teams fighting to corral all the content, sessions, presenters, and training. With that being said, should we start planning next year’s SKO the day after this one ends?

The answer is yes. Yes, yes we should. But we shouldn’t start by planning the event itself. Instead, we need to focus on defining or redesigning our ongoing sales enablement strategy (or lack thereof).

CSO Insights defines sales force enablement as a “strategic, cross-functional discipline, designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training and coaching services for salespeople and frontline sales managers along the entire customer journey, powered by technology.” In this post, we’ll take a step back and focus on the 8 pillars of sales enablement, and how they will directly impact your next SKO.


Structure & Collaboration

In a recent study, CSO Insights found that only 25% of companies have a formal sales enablement program in place, with 80% of organizations collaborating on an ad-hoc basis. This makes it much harder to pull off a successful SKO, as no dedicated function is responsible for managing the quality and performance of the event.

By having a strong sales enablement structure and collaborative working model in place before SKO, cross-functional teams comprised of the right people can be more effective in working together and proving ROI down the line.

Growth Strategy

SKOs are the one time of the year where you have your entire sales team’s complete attention. Make the most of it by having your new strategies fully identified beforehand. Bring them to life in sessions through engaging content and conversation, and drive them home with ongoing training.

Training & Coaching

Keep your sales team’s attention on what they’re learning by creating integrated, interactive sessions that tie into your larger training curriculum. Some ideas are:

  • Assigning fun “homework” ahead of time to get them engaged before they arrive
  • Leveraging a mix of one to many, small interactive groups, and individual sessions
  • Putting on a game show with prizes and forming team contests

Guided Content

During your SKO, your sales team will be flooded with all kinds of content supporting new strategies, products and initiatives. However, without the context of when and how to use it, content adoption will fall flat. Make sure kickoff material is aligned to your existing content strategy, and create an interactive map or infographic that will show how it all fits together. Also, if you are rolling out a guided selling initiative with playbooks, share real life examples and win stories to illustrate how the process worked.

Communication & Feedback

Big sales events require a good build-up, but email overload can dilute the excitement. Create notifications, informational pieces, and alerts that fit within your larger communication strategy. Highlight the topics, presenters, and sessions that are most important. Have your top salespeople share SKO details, along with why they are excited about the event. Leverage the element of surprise with alerts on announcements from executives. And make sure there is a way for your sales team to give you ongoing feedback.

Analytics & Measurement

Organizations who can define the impact of their investments in sales productivity and content know how they are performing, and will learn where to invest more resources. Bring this metrics-driven approach to your kickoff. By analyzing the effectiveness of your SKO, you will understand how your growth strategies impact future customer conversations and determine where to increase your commitments. Measure completion of homework, consumption of content, and how SKO content is being used in the field. Follow up with reps that have low adoption to maximize your impact.

Ongoing Operations

To be successful, your sales enablement strategy has to happen all year round. Institutionalizing training, processes, and new content is part of a larger operational framework which needs to be collaboratively driven by many different groups.

After SKO, there will be lots of changes that will impact your sales team on their first day back to the office. So remember to include closing sessions on what changes are expected in territory assignment, lead flows, sales methodologies, messaging, and order management processes.

Tools & Technology

Your investments in tools and technology are considerable. After a SKO, you’ll want to make sure you have an easy-to-use mobile and measurable sales enablement platform to house the content, communications, training, and sales tools you create. Ideally, this platform should provide powerful analytics on consumption, show engagement with customers and offer the right controls and permissions to let you sleep easy.

Once your sales team returns to the office, your sales enablement strategy will ensure the investments you’ve made into your SKO lead to success all year round. To learn more about the 8 pillars for sales enablement, download our ebook on how to create a winning sales framework.

This article originally appeared on the Showpad Blog.