Everyone loves the kickoff for the New Year. Reinvent your sales kickoff. Go beyond the customer panel, motivational speaker and endless PowerPoint slides. Do the unexpected. Reverse engineer common components. Think outside the box.  Your team will love it and you will set yourself up for greater success.

Yes, you think your sales kickoff is different and exciting. And it is – to a certain extent. But, every year, every sales kickoff includes the same common components: annual objectives, product training, recognition, blah, blah, blah.

Consider changing up the common components. If it’s too bold to reinvent the entire sales kickoff consider changing one, two or three common components. You just might surprise yourself! You will delight your team! Here are just a few out-of-the-box ideas to change up some of the most common sales kickoff elements.

Annual Objectives. Play the movie in your head. The doors open, music is playing, the stage lit, the room buzzes as people file in to find their seats for the opening keynote address. The music fades, the room hushes and the CEO or VP walks out on stage to a round of applause. The big cheese is mic-ed up so as to not trip over any cords while pacing back and forth in front of endless PowerPoint slides reviewing last year’s performance and laying out the goals for the year ahead. OOPS! That movie is a rerun! It’s a rerun of last year, the year before and pretty much every year that you can think of.

Consider turning the box inside-out. Ask. Don’t tell. If your company is growing and you are in a growth market consider asking your team to present the goals for the year ahead to you. Divide the participants into manageable groups, 6-12 work best, and ask them to develop the goals and action plan to present to the group. Provide each team with last year’s performance, industry projections and other relevant data that will help them make good estimates. In a growth market or fast-paced company will be optimistic and self-assign stretch goals. Groups can work on top company level goals or distributed goals for products, services or geographies. Oh! Did that sound too scary or risky? Try re-engineering the box by giving teams the goal for the year and asking them to develop strategies to BEAT the goals.

Competitive positioning. Competitive education is like taking vitamins. You know it’s good for you but it just isn’t at the top of your most favorite things to do. Customers today are knowledgeable about the competition and alternatives, your customer-facing teams need to be too. You know this. It’s why a mandatory session is scheduled at kickoff reviewing competition. Strengths, weaknesses, and strategies to beat the competition.

Reverse engineer the box. Leave the competitive matrix at home. Set up small teams of 10-15, give them 45-minutes to “think like the competition” and develop a presentation on how the competitor plans to win over your company. Each team will have sub-teams working on win-strategies over your company based on product features, industry expertise, company resources or other relevant sub-categories. They are to develop a presentation outlining strategies and positioning in each area. They will present this to another team who will be responsible for developing a counter strategy. The counter strategies will be presented at main-tent or in smaller groups and video recorded for future use. This exercise requires people to dive into learning competition as well as use analytical thinking to develop counter-strategies. It’s an amazing experiential learning process that will position you to crush the competition.

Updated company (or new product) presentation. The company is always refining, improving and shifting presentations to best position itself in a fast-paced, competitive business world. It’s important to have everyone present the best possible positioning and have it be consistent throughout the company. Common sales kickoff practice is to have marketing present it while explaining and elaborating on important points not to miss on every slide. Funny that so many people are paying more attention to their smart-phone than they are to the presentation about a presentation.

Blow up the box. Don’t wait until the sales kickoff for the grand unveiling of that new presentation that you want everyone to master. Distribute the presentation in advance – without a script! Ask teams to conduct local contests, videotaping every individual contributor and manager that would need to master this presentation and having their team vote for the best one to advance to the quarter-finals. After “corporate” review of the local winners, distribute a script (“corporate” will learn a lot from the local presentations to build a better script). Ask the winners to select an audience, use the script and re-record their winning presentation for semi-final. Present semi-finals at kickoff for selection of the winner. Everyone will have practiced the presentation at least once, local “experts” will emerge, and everyone will have seen multiple excellent deliveries to model their own after. Visibility along with appropriate rewards can add to the fun and motivation of learning this new presentation.

Product training. What is peanut butter without jelly? What is a sales kickoff without product training? The two are inseparable. And they are as inseparable as dull and boring.

Think outside the box. We love those guys in product marketing and product management. We love their endless slide decks of product detail. We need to know all of this stuff. Really. No kidding. But if you want the customer-facing team to really listen, learn and understand here’s an out-of-box approach to ensure you will have 100% of their attention. Wait for it. This is my favorite. It really works. Ask your customers to deliver the product training. Yes, your customers! Ask real users. It’s not hard to find these customers; they were part of the alpha or beta test programs, or customers on the pre-order list. Guaranteed that this will be the favorite part of sales kickoff and it will have a whole lot more impact than a customer panel of clichés and industry platitudes.

Motivational speaker. Rather than scouring the public speaking circuit for a big name or interesting speaker, consider searching inside your own company. Companies big and small have employees doing amazing and interesting things. Have a single, panel or collage of inspiration from within your company.

Think inside the box. Employees competing in athletic events, like triathlons, cycling events or golf tournaments know the value of preparation, training and goal setting. Artistic employees that participate in little theater, paint, create digital media or write view the world in a unique way with imagination, creativity and originality. Volunteers understand paying forward or giving back to something bigger than themselves. Coaching a kid’s soccer team requires understanding the importance of teamwork, skill development and role definition. Leading a boy-scout or girl-scout troop develops values and respect for diversity. Travelers have tapped into the global consciousness and can share perspective how vastly different yet closely parallel different parts of the world are.   The possibilities are endless to motivate and inspire from within!


Want to reinforce the really big ideas happening at sales kickoff? Want to keep the buzz going long after the event is over? Consider hiring a graphic recorder. They are graphic “note” takers recording in real-time the important high-impact elements of sales kickoff. It is usually done in a panel 3’-4’ high by 20’-40’ long. Everyone will congregate around it, review and recall meeting highlights. It’s amazing!

Looking for more ideas? Contact us at KickStart Alliance!