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How to create a virtual SKO your team will LOVE

December 15, 2020
Nehal Tenany

Nehal Tenany

Sales Management

Your annual sales kickoff (SKO) is ALMOST HERE. 

(Groans from the planning committee. Excitement from sales reps!) 

SKOs have long held significant value for sales organizations. They’re a superb way to boost morale; build a sense of community, networking, and culture; celebrate big wins; and recognize individuals. They get everyone on board and fired up with new goals, products, and services. 

But here’s the catch: We can’t meet in person this year. No planes, no cocktail parties, no award dinners. While that means unused budget, it also presents new challenges—and opportunities—to build the human connection that sales orgs have come to love and cherish.

Going virtual sounds daunting, but you CAN make it a resounding success.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, you need a way to connect all the messages and people inside your organization more than ever. And going virtual is the only option.

The positive? A virtual SKO will save you a ton of money because there are no flights or accommodations to pay for. And you can use your online platform to record everything as reminder reviews for teams later on. 

The downside? You have a couple months to get it together. But we’re here for you! Tips are on their way… read on.

Only you know your team’s product messaging and yearly targets, and you’ll need to bring those to the foreground during your SKO. But to start, let’s look at the bigger picture by considering four people-focused objectives: celebration, alignment, connection, and momentum. Explore each one below to see how they set the stage for a brilliant event.

(PS: Don’t miss a thing when planning your virtual SKO with our Ultimate SKO Checklist. Download it for free here.

1. Celebrate BIG wins

Kick things off by celebrating your reps and cross-functional revenue teams for their successes and their contribution to the company’s growth.

Personal recognition ceremonies always create an award-winning atmosphere. At Gong, we salute people in the President’s Club and celebrate our Outstanding Gongsters. Today, that means mailing their trophies to them and throwing a virtual banquet where people can choose to dress up. They always have a friend or family member film their reaction so we can share the fun with their peers. We do whatever we can to make the moment special. You have our permission to steal this idea. Because we hope your team has as much fun watching unboxings as ours does.

And the award goes to…

For SKO, you can also create a sizzle reel (a crowd favorite!) using recordings from the best calls of the year. With Gong, you can easily find recordings where people thank your team or say something they love about your product. Voila. Your highlight reel is ready to go. 

Already use Gong?

Celebrate your team—their big wins and accomplishments.

It’s important that despite being tied to virtual celebrations, we continue to recognize the value people bring to the table. Your team needs to feel good right now and you can make that happen online. Sure, it was a tough year, but everybody’s got something to celebrate.

2. Align your teams

Teamwork makes the dream work (so cheesy, so true).

Your SKO brings teams into alignment across your organization. It gets them onto the same page about what went well this past fiscal year, what was learned along the way, the vision for the year ahead, and how to achieve that vision together. Here are a few ways to make that happen.

The CEO’s presentation

You’re prepping people to dive into the coming year, so it’s important to hear about the company’s top goals and vision. The best person to deliver that? The CEO. Help make your CEO’s keynote a triumph by including one key message on each of the following: 

  • Where you’re headed as a team
  • Which new products and services reps need to be ramped on
  • What success looks like next year 

Now, how do you do that without losing folks along the way? 

Have a few polls during the presentation to take a break from the heavy content and create engagement. Throw in relevant memes to add some humor. Having an auditor on a slack channel to reply to questions and comments. And don’t forget to encourage your leadership team to engage in the chat rooms to encourage participation across teams.. It’s helpful if they throw in cheers and applause every now and again.

New company offerings

In our last SKO at Gong, we introduced the team to our Deal Intelligence offering. It reimagined how revenue teams manage their pipeline by identifying and mitigating at-risk deals. We brought everyone on board for its launch at the SKO by holding an expert demo session that ran through the tool and highlighted it’s amazing capabilities. Deal Intelligence has since redefined our company.

There’s deep value in aligning teams across your organization. Because you can either run a functional circus or one that’s pure mayhem. You pick. 

At the SKO, members of different teams get real visibility into what’s happening across the organization—often for the first time. This cross-functional view ensures that your entire company is working together in the quest to deliver an amazing customer experience and improve retention. 

Take a look back

One of our favorite ways to bring everyone together is to celebrate our common vision by looking at the year’s largest deal. It almost always involves multiple teams and steps that are useful to highlight for the coming year. Walk everyone through the process of how the deal was achieved. Talk about whether it was multi-threaded, how it involved numerous internal resources (the CEO, post-sales, customer success, etc.), and what the engagement levels looked like (email velocity, etc.). This is a great way to bring celebration and alignment together. 

By dissecting the largest deal of the year, you can promote a formula that works, while inspiring everyone to replicate habits proven to work in the coming year. 

Landing those types of deals depends on getting alignment at the SKO. 

Alignment with the company’s goals and vision. 

Alignment across different teams. 

Alignment amongst reps.

3. Connect across company

It’s time to get to know each other, people. Did we mention that the whole company’s popping by your place? (Virtually, of course.)

Virtual spaces offer you an opportunity to bring people together to create unique and memorable experiences that break down communication barriers. 

While your extroverted sales folks will miss face-to-face interactions at in-person SKOs rest assured, you can recreate games and interactive bonding opportunities online. 

Start with a virtual zoom background and some photoshop skills. 

Wondering how? Consider organizing virtual happy hours using Zoom’s breakout room feature, virtual group cooking classes, and award ceremonies to recognize individuals and teams. (We’ve done all of these at Gong and have been delighted with the results.) If you’re planning a happy hour or dinner, send everyone a make-your-own cocktail or dinner basket or maybe a digital wine-tasting event. Rest assured, they’ll show up online pumped.

Host a virtual paint night to get the creative juices flowing.

Take it a step further with some culture-building activities. These are some ways to add a fun, human element to your SKO: 

  • [COMPANY NAME]’s Got Talent: Encourage employees to showcase their non-work skills during a talent show. Set the line-up in advance. (You know *somebody* picked up the ukulele during the pandemic!)
  •  A pitch off: Host a sales pitch competition with funny themes or ‘unsellable’ products. Have people pitch based on the SKO’s key messages and approaches.
  • Team Olympics: A little friendly competition gets the juices flowing! Keep your current teams or assign team mash-ups to help people get to know each other. Dole out points along the way during your SKO activities.

Olympics, but make them virtual…you can look this silly in your room!

  • Ultimate rock/paper/scissors: This is a Gong favorite. Play the standard game and each time someone loses, they join the winner’s team. The winner plays on behalf of everyone on their team, until the entire company is on two teams and ready for a huge showdown.

Connect through friendly competition and in breakout rooms, like you’re all there in person.

These events still have the power to make people smile, and that’s worth so much right now.

Don’t forget to mail out awards so employees can post on social media.

It’s totally worth putting some budget behind your creative parts of SKO that bring people together. .

(We hear the Airpods Pros are having a sale if you need some game prize inspiration!)

4. Keep the momentum going 

Your SKO is not just a one-time thing!

An often-overlooked objective of SKO is to keep the party going. (Think ongoing reinforcement.)

Studies show that without reinforcement, 87% of training can be lost within 90 days. Falling into that bucket means a huge waste of your time and resources.

Here’s how to ensure that doesn’t happen to you:

Make your SKO presentation and follow-up materials available as soon as possible. Your people need fast and easy access to what they just learned. Do you use a knowledge portal like Guru? Add all the new content there for easy access 24/7.  

Conduct a post-SKO knowledge assessment to gauge how well your people understood the new material. You’ll see what landed and where more training is needed. Using a learning management system (LMS), you can create lessons, distribute them across your team, and track success through quizzes and knowledge checks. Take your team’s success to the next level with Gong’s Free Master Class training sessions.

Establish tracking metrics to help sales managers ensure that crucial concepts are used on the front lines. Sales tracking software can help. For example, with Gong you and your managers can give reps visibility into their pre- and post-SKO calls. Use stats to help them understand what worked and what didn’t work last year, and what’s working now (talk-to-listen ratios, new messaging, clarifying next steps, etc.). 

You can also incorporate your SKO training and information into your sales onboarding so new reps come up to speed quickly. This way your upfront investment pays dividends for new hires who join throughout the year.

Boiled down to two words, your virtual SKO should be an ongoing celebration. Continue to shout out reps and leaders, especially when they succeed using the approaches and products you unveiled at your SKO. 

Continue having teams work together and collaborate on deals. Remind them that alignment works. Foster ongoing connections. Make space for people to connect with each other and their customers via email, slack, phone, text, and anything else that works in your context.

YOUR KEY TAKEAWAY: Time is limited, but we’re fully confident that you can reshape your SKO to create a successful experience customized to your team. Maximize what they learn and ramp up reps while creating a truly memorable and virtual SKO. 

We promise, it’s doable.

Ready to start planning? Grab this checklist.

If you’re nervous about your upcoming SKO, don’t worry.  We’ve compiled a one-pager that’s got your back. It’s the ultimate SKO checklist. 

The main tasks are outlined there for you, and all you have to do is… check them off!

Download the checklist here:

Looking for more on how Gong can be a fundamental part of your sales kickoff? Check out our kickoff kit for more ideas, videos, and courses to make your SKO unforgettable.

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