Each year, selling becomes more complex. Business buyers are more empowered with every click, as AI and emerging technologies power new parts of the sales cycle.

Sales reps have to find clarity amid all the noise. That’s why a sales kickoff (SKO) is critical for sales teams to celebrate the previous year’s wins, share goals for the upcoming year, and align on key initiatives.

Previously, we shared tips to plan the ultimate sales kickoff – from the invite list to post-event learning. Now we’ll cover how to craft the ideal SKO agenda for 2020. Consider these must-haves as you plan your event.

Looking for even more tools to plan your SKO? Check out our interactive sales kickoff guide.


SKO agenda basics

Setting the agenda is the most important part of planning your SKO. You can invite the right people and plan the perfect party, but if no one takes away anything valuable, what was the point?

When sales leaders at Salesforce plan a SKO agenda, we focus on achieving four things:

  • Staying true to our goals (see our previous post)

  • Creating a balance between product enablement, selling skills, and customer acumen

  • Inspiring with energy and motivation

  • Encouraging participation and peer networking

Start by brainstorming what you need sales teams to remember weeks and months after the event, and go from there. 

Next, let’s get into eight agenda items for a successful sales kickoff.


Sales kickoff agenda item #1: Inspirational keynote

Every sales kickoff worth its salt starts with an inspirational keynote. Use this first session to get everyone pumped to be a part of the team and company. When everyone’s motivated to sell together, aspirational goals feel much more attainable. Lean into that excitement on day one with a dynamic speaker (or two).

Don’t be afraid to bring in an outside speaker. At Salesforce, we’ve found fresh perspectives can have a big impact.


Sales kickoff agenda item #2: Engaging breakouts

Breakout sessions will comprise the majority of your sales kickoff content. In SKOs I’ve attended, I’ve noticed sessions tend to be 30-50 minutes long. You can consider shorter sessions (think TED Talk-style) if you want to present higher-level topics quickly. For more robust content, you’ll want more time.

These breakouts should focus on your company’s big bets, how to deal with challenges, and actionable tips from your sales rockstars. Breakouts should also be engaging (see the tips below). If you have a mixed audience from different departments or regions, arrange certain breakouts along those lines. You want attendees to leave sessions thinking, “This was relevant – and I learned something I can apply to my job.”


Sales kickoff agenda item #3: Panels

People can only see so many slides before they’re ready for a new format. Let your employees hear diverse viewpoints from multiple customers, partners, or leaders by using panel discussions. Panels will help you tackle dense topics, host live Q&As, and dig into customer stories conversationally.

We’ve learned from our SKOs that customer panels are a perennial favorite. Ask a few customers why they chose your company, what’s top of mind in their industry, and how they’d recommend you engage with similar customers in the future. You can use customers creatively throughout your kickoff; see the callout box for tips.


Sales kickoff agenda item #4: Award celebration

Let’s be honest, the award celebration is what sales reps are most eagerly anticipating. Celebrate this time-honored tradition by recognizing salespeople and big wins from the previous year.

Have fun with the awards – and create some categories that are sure to inspire laughter among your team. Prizes can run the gamut of experiences like trips, gadgets like fancy headphones, and engraved gifts.


Sales kickoff agenda item #5: Leadership meetings

If you’re like most sales teams, your calendars are overflowing with meetings and you’re perpetually on the go. Use this time – when everyone’s in the same place, focused on the same goals – to facilitate conversations with key leaders to discuss everyone’s vision for the year.

You may find the best time for leadership meetings is the day before or after the main event.


Sales kickoff must-have #6: Equality-focused events

A memorable sales kickoff connects everyone around one shared goal. So there’s no better event to rally everyone around the goal of building a more inclusive culture.

During your SKO, consider having an affinity or equality group host a session on being better allies, and plan more inclusive team bonding activities that don’t revolve around happy hour.


Sales kickoff must-have #7: Networking opportunities

Don’t let this once-a-year internal networking opportunity pass everyone by. Create ways for employees and leaders from different teams to step outside their circles and make valuable connections. Icebreaker games, speed dating-inspired coffee chats, and leadership-hosted meet and greets will help folks engage outside their immediate circles.


Sales kickoff must-have #8: Fun and volunteering

Build some time into the agenda for teams to informally connect. That could be through welcome events, dinners, and volunteering. We like to incorporate volunteer activities into our kickoffs so team members can have fun while giving back to our communities.

These agenda items are just the beginning. We’ve collected much more advice in our interactive guide, How to Plan the Ultimate Sales Kickoff. Read proven tips and watch helpful videos for your best kickoff ever.