How to Make Hybrid Sales Kickoffs Successful

Before the pandemic hit, the sales kickoff (SKO) was an event where sales organizations could come together to celebrate the past year’s successes, receive training to prepare for the year ahead, align on priorities and build camaraderie. But as the pandemic disrupted every facet of life, SKOs weren’t spared. Instead, they had to be reimagined in order to deliver the same, or as close as possible, experience to reps. Enter virtual events.

For the past two years, virtual meetings have been the saving grace for organizations to continue holding SKOs while keeping their workforces safe. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t prone to challenges. Operating solely in a virtual environment can make engagement and social interactions – two critical aspects of the SKO experience – more difficult for reps. In fact, according to research from Bizzabo’s Virtual Attendee Experience Report, 51% of attendees didn’t gain as much knowledge as they had hoped for from attending a virtual event.

While that stat is concerning, it’s still possible to have an effective SKO, whether sales teams gather in-person, in a virtual setting or both. But it’s not as simple as replicating what worked for in-person-only SKOs and hoping it will translate to a fully or partially remote medium. Virtual and hybrid SKOs, in particular, require a new approach to ensure attendees get the same fulfilling experience that they would in-person – specifically, a three-phase approach that focuses on what to do before, during and after the SKO.

Phase 1: Preparing for the SKO

Pre-event preparation is an essential part of an SKO that can impact how well the event turns out. It’s especially crucial in the hybrid era in order to get attendees engaged and up-to-speed beforehand, mainly since there may not be as much time to spend on content materials as there would be during traditional, in-person SKOs.

Optimize the opportunity by gradually releasing pre-recorded content – such as welcome videos, product information, presentations, etc. – for reps to consume asynchronously in the days leading up to the event. With dispersed attendees working on their own schedules, they’ll get time to digest the information instead of being bombarded with it all once the SKO starts. This will make content sessions more productive because reps will come with background knowledge and experience greater learning retention because they learned at their own pace.

Phase 2: Executing the SKO

Engagement tends to be a major pain point during hybrid events due to having to account for both in-person and remote audiences. As a result, hybrid events need to encourage audience interaction in order to get reps involved. That way, they won’t feel like they’re attending a one-way lecture. Consider incorporating activities like opportunities for sharing and simulated customer interactions and role play in order to elicit participation and give reps an active role to play during the SKO.

With all sales reps gathered in one place, SKOs are also a great opportunity to recognize those who performed well during the year. Present these reps with awards, like Rep of the Year or the President’s Club Award, in order to thank them for a job well done and motivate their peers to strive for the same in the future.

Finally, gamifying the experience can make a world of difference in how reps enjoy and learn from hybrid SKOs. Throughout the event, send quizzes and poll questions, which add a friendly competitive aspect. Take it one step further by rewarding reps who answer correctly with incentives like gift cards. Simply switching up the format of hybrid SKOs can produce favorable results.

Phase 3: Reinforcing Learning and Analyzing the SKO

Finally, the SKO has come to an end, but that doesn’t mean the work has. There’s a lot of knowledge and information-sharing that occurs at SKOs that reps can’t afford to forget. That’s why it’s important to reinforce learning after the event ends. Capture and share content, like live presentations, that reps can watch when they need a refresher on specific topics. Regular reinforcement exercises, such as online flash drills, can also build proficiency and help reps retain the knowledge they gained at the SKO.

In addition, be sure to take the time after the SKO finishes to plan for the following year’s while it’s still top of mind. Take the event elements that worked and incorporate them into next year’s plan. For the elements that didn’t work, either improve them or forgo them entirely. Audience feedback is crucial for this phase in order to gauge if hybrid SKOs are enjoyable, effective and hitting the mark.

SKOs look a bit different now, thanks to the pandemic. But the experience can be as rich and fulfilling in a hybrid setting as it is in-person. All it takes is the right approach before, during and after the event to make it successful and memorable for sales teams.


  • George Donovan

    George Donovan is Chief Revenue Officer of Allego, a sales learning and enablement platform built for today’s distributed teams.

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