February 01, 2024
By Hope Salvatori

While annual sales kickoff events (SKOs) used to be predominantly in-person affairs, they have evolved in recent years to include a mix of event formats, from virtual to hybrid. While in-person SKOs might still be the most popular option, for organizations with teams around the globe or fully remote employees, in-person gatherings might not be possible or affordable.

Of course, no matter where your teams reside, it doesn't change the fact that SKO events are critical to ensuring teams are well-prepared to face the coming year and meet their ever-lofty goals. If you're responsible for planning your organization's SKO event this year, read on for the essential elements you need for a successful sales kickoff!

What Is a Sales Kickoff?

Internal events make up a huge percentage of organizations' total meetings and events. Sales kickoff is as an annual internal marquee event where sales leaders discuss upcoming strategy, motivate their teams, celebrate recent successes, reward teams for jobs well done, and ensure alignment on annual goals.

These types of internal events are critical for team morale. In fact, 64% of planners say internal events are vital for employee retention. Of course, it's not as though these events are simple: according to 55% of planners, managing internal events is more difficult than managing external events.

But don't worry – we're here to help!

Sales Kickoff Goals for 2024

While business goals and internal priorities can shift, in general, sales kickoff goals remain the same year over year. Here are a few goals that might be relevant to your SKO event:

  • Create an engaged community: For many sales teams, an SKO event will be the first time – and perhaps the only time – colleagues will meet each other in person this year. So, creating an engaged community of sales reps is more important than ever. Your SKO should inspire your team to work together toward common goals.
  • Boost morale and productivity: This is important for SKO planners because your ultimate goal is improving your business sales. By delivering a top-notch internal event, you’re hopefully making a positive impact on your company’s topline revenue.
  • Educate new and veteran teams: Things change – and your sales teams especially need to know what's new in your industry, what challenges they'll be up against this year, what advantages they might have in the market, and what strategies they can use to meet their goals.
  • Seamless planner execution: In-person, virtual, or hybrid – no matter the event format, ensuring your SKO runs smoothly is every planner's highest priority.
Excellence Awards Cvent CONNECT 2023

Sales Kickoff Event Challenges

When we think about the last few years of sales kickoffs, here’s how they roughly played out:

  • 2020: In-person SKO events were the norm, but the pandemic loomed.
  • 2021: Organizations leaned into virtual SKO events as pandemic regulations remained in place
  • 2022: As in-person events began to be possible again, hybrid SKOs became popular for widespread teams
  • 2023: In-person SKO events returned with a vengeance. While virtual and hybrid internal events were still popular, in-person dominated.

Unfortunately for internal event planners, "doing what we did last year" hasn't really been an option for several years, and 2024 is no different. In 2023, planners had to deal with tighter budgets, inflation, staffing shortages, and so many factors outside of their control, and many of these factors remain in 2024, including:

  • Inflation Remains a Concern: While inflation appears to be on its way down in 2024, things won't entirely level out for some time, and organizations will need to maintain a balance of cautious optimism to put on great events without too much financial risk.
  • Travel Costs Remain High: Unfortunately, travel costs spiked in 2022, and there don't appear to be signs of that changing significantly anytime soon. 
  • Food and Beverage Costs: F&B costs are still higher than expected, according to 65% of planners, and this will remain an issue for in-person events throughout 2024, forcing planners to spend more of their budgets on F&B.
  • Distributed Workforces: Many organizations have a mix of on-site, fully remote, and hybrid employees, and considering the cost of travel and accommodations, this can put a strain on internal event budgets if employees must travel to attend in person.
  • Global Considerations and Uncertainty: There's always some level of uncertainty involved in planning events, but especially in 2024 – when 50 countries are holding elections – political unrest, wars, cultural shifts, and difficulties with travel can all create even greater uncertainty.
  • The Revenge of In-Person Events: In-person events are slated to be bigger and better than ever, with more digital features, more ways to interact, and more exciting experiences to meet increased attendee expectations. How can planners balance the "more, more, more" mentality with their budgetary concerns?
  • Sustainability Is the Name of the Game: More and more organizations and venues are focusing on sustainability, but this comes with new costs and challenges to consider.

So, what's an SKO planner to do in this minefield of challenges?

6 Essentials for a Successful Sales Kickoff in 2024

Sales Kickoff Team

To help you navigate these challenges, here are six essential components organizations must think about when hosting a successful SKO in 2024:

1. Marketing and Communication

Usually, we look at marketing and communications through the lens of an external event and for generating engagement. But this is just as important for internal events like sales kickoff. Your teams don’t just need to know when and where the SKO is; they should know the agenda, what they can expect from your event, and why they should be excited to attend – particularly if they have to travel to do so. Create a personalized experience for your sales reps and make them feel that their personal success is a priority for your organization.

2. Venue Partnerships

Whether you have a standing relationship with your SKO venue or you're starting from scratch, your venue must be more than the location of your event; it must have all the features you and your sales team need and want. Your venue sets the tone of the entire event, so you must ensure your venue's goals align with your own, consider ease of access for employees traveling in, ensure any accessibility needs are met, evaluate the A/V capabilities of the venue, and so much more.

Not sure where to start with selecting your venue? Leverage a venue sourcing tool to search for venues with helpful filters, visuals, and comparisons.

3. Content

For your sales team attending SKO, your sales kickoff content is the most critical component of the entire event. It doesn't matter how spectacular your venue is; without great content, your event will fall flat. Especially if you're hosting a hybrid or virtual SKO, you'll need to consider different digital content strategies to ensure your content is delivered meaningfully and seamlessly while keeping attendees engaged. 

Regardless of your event format, here are a few ideas to help you keep your content engaging:

  • Host skills-focused training sessions and panel discussions
  • Include live Q&A in each session
  • Host breakout working sessions that allow for discussion and collaboration
  • Provide on-demand recordings of content to help keep your teams engaged with the content and keep goals top of mind after your event wraps.
  • Offer an event app to help attendees know where to go, make agendas readily available, and send push notifications during your event.
  • Build a custom SKO website that promotes the event, includes all the details your attendees needs, works as a point of reference for any questions, and hosts your on-demand recordings of event content.
  • Keep attendees engaged with polls and surveys during and after your event. 
  • Showcase recent success stories, including best practices from top performers.
  • Host networking and social experience to help your teams connect and meet potential mentors.
  • Reward your top sellers with an awards ceremony to recognize their achievements!
  • Plan a talent showcase, "Shark Tank"-style presentations, skits, or other fun elements.
  • Bring in exciting speakers and industry experts to get your teams excited for what's to come!

4. Community

With 30% of workers switching jobs each year, it's no surprise if a large portion of your sales team is new within the last year or so. That means that for some, if not many, of your sales team, will be meeting their colleagues in person for the first time and/or attending their first SKO event. Building a sense of belonging and community, especially for these newer employees, is one of the strongest pillars of a successful SKO. Ensure your sales kickoff promotes a culture where your sales team feels connected and motivated in the upcoming year and is armed with the tools and strategies they need to succeed.

5. Suppliers and Partners

This might not apply to every sales kickoff, but a number of internal events include suppliers, resellers, and partners, where SKO is the major event of the year to drive awareness around partner programs. This also helps sales reps collaborate with various partners to achieve their quotas for the year, so don’t overlook your suppliers and partners while planning your SKO. Educate and drive awareness across different partner programs.

6. Event Insights

At a sales kickoff, you may not be looking for the same ROI as an external event, as your KPIs will look very different. That said, don’t forget to set clear goals for what you want to get out of your SKO, and be sure you have the tools you need to measure your success. With the right event insights, you can not only measure metrics like attendance rates, but also attendee satisfaction and engagement, cost of experiences vs perceived value, favorite sessions and experiences for future reference, and more.

Get Ready for a Kick-A** Sales Kickoff

Having the right sales kickoff event technology can help you plan a successful SKO, from pre-event strategy to day-of execution and data insights.

Although your SKO is an internal event, don’t forget to drive curiosity and excitement, from an informative custom website and event app to announcing the theme of the year! Curate the registration process to drive attendees to provide as much information as they can about their roles, interests, and what they're looking to gain from the event so you can curate their experience and better measure success.

Hope Swedeen

Hope Salvatori

Hope is a Senior Content Marketing Associate who has been with Cvent for more than two years. She has 8 years of experience producing content for corporations, small businesses, associations, nonprofits, and universities. As a content professional, she has created content for a wide range of industries, including meetings and events, government and defense, education, health, and more.

How Accessible is Your Event to Attendees with Disabilities?
How Accessible is Your Event to Attendees with Disabilities?
How accessible is your event?
Answer 12 questions & then calculate your score to determine your rating

Subscribe to our newsletter