6 ways to crush your next sales kickoff presentation

Each year, like clockwork, the fiscal year draws to a close, the calendar turns over, and companies the world over find themselves back in Q1. Many mark the occasion with the yearly sales kickoff, or SKO.

This annual event serves as the jumping off point for the forthcoming year’s business goals and major initiatives. SKO season often aligns with an annual meeting, conference, or retreat.

At many of today’s complex, globally distributed, enterprise tech companies, SKO consists of dozens (or more) of individual business units coming together to compete for the affections of the internal sales teams.

The stakes are high.

Even though everyone in the room works for the same company, the competition between individual business units—sometimes numbering in the hundreds for the largest enterprises—can be fierce.

A successful SKO presentation sets the stage of a successful year of product sales. Crushing SKO, when it’s all said and done, can mean the difference between growing your headcount, securing budget for new features, and getting yourself a promotion—or not.

So why do many sales kickoff presentations fall flat?

For one thing, most teams and business units don’t think about SKO until they absolutely have to. With daily demands, feature releases, bugs to squash, and fires to put out—there’s a lot else going on. Understandable.

But whether you like it or not, SKO is coming. To make sure this year is your best yet, we’ve collected six of our top tips for making your presentation a success.

1. Tell your story

This is our number one recommendation. In our experience, the most successful presentations take the audience on a journey of discovery. Like your favorite book or film, your presentation should aim to follow a narrative structure—develop the setting, define your characters, create a rising action, build to a climax, find a resolution.

This time-tested structure works because it’s familiar. Humans have told stories in this manner for thousands of years, and few other approaches can captivate an audience’s attention as well.

What’s the story your business unit or product team has to tell? Where did you see success? Who contributed to that success? What were the marquee moments? Where are we headed in the next chapter?

Viewing your SKO presentation with a narrative lens is among the best ways you can set yourself apart and leave a lasting impression.

2. Make them the hero

Every great story needs a hero—make sure the salespeople you’re presenting to know it’s them. Odds are you have plenty of existing messaging materials that you’ve used over the course of the year, each targeted to a specific audience: senior management, your own team, end users, and likely many more.

Keep in mind your SKO audience might not fall into any of the groups listed above. Consider your content from their perspective. What are their goals? What are their priorities? What’s going to capture—and keep—their attention? Understanding your audience personas is a vital part of content creation regardless of format. As we often say, remember the reader and the result. Not just who you’re talking to, but what you want them to take away.

A few years ago, Harvard Business Review outlined seven personality traits of top salespeople—some you might expect, others might surprise you. According to HBR’s research, salespeople are a curious, achievement-oriented bunch, and aren’t prone to self-consciousness or discouragement. Keeping a picture of your audience persona in mind while you craft your SKO presentation will make it all the more resonant with the salespeople you’re trying to win over.

3. Share something surprising

It can be easy to fall back on the tried-and-true structure you’ve likely employed for many previous SKO formats. As we mentioned before, SKO is rarely a top priority until it absolutely has to be—and in that sense, going back to your templates or building from past presentations makes sense.

But if your goal is to stand out, don’t be afraid to mix it up a little. At the end of the day these are people you’re talking to, just like the rest of us. People you need to persuade and whose attentions you have only minutes to capture. People appreciate humor, they love eye candy, they respond to questions and conversations, they tire of the same-old same-old.

From a SKO standpoint, surprising your audience can take many forms: compelling video content, polished product demos, unexpected client stories, calling out specific salespeople for big wins, sharing personal anecdotes. Imbuing your slides with surprise and delight will greatly improve your odds of making a lasting impression.

4. Demonstrate real value

At the end of the day, sales is a numbers game. But many SKO presentations take this notion too far, and suffer from data overload. Be judicious in choosing which data points deserve the most attention. Select the data which support the overall narrative you’ve laid out for your audience—so the data feels like a supporting character in your story, not a speed bump or detour.

A goal of every SKO presentation is to demonstrate how your product or business unit’s growth aligns with the company’s goals. But more than that, it’s essential that you convey how your growth aligns with your audience’s own personal goals.

At the end of the day these are people you’re talking to, just like the rest of us. People you need to persuade and whose attentions you have only minutes to capture.

Demonstrate how selling more of your product or service will mean more closed deals for them, raise their own profile, drive commissions, and give them a chance to contribute to the company’s success. Help your audience see how their own futures will be made better if they start buying what you’re selling.

5. Polish and perfect

When you give your sales kickoff presentation, you’re not just representing your product or service, you’re representing yourself—how you see the future, and how you’re working to create it. There’s a healthy bit of you in your slides, whether you realize it or not.

Bring your team together to get a second (or third, or fourth) set of eyes on your early drafts.

If your SKO presentation was hastily prepared at the eleventh hour, or is just a recycled version of last year’s presentation updated with new numbers—your audience will notice. No doubt you want your peers to see you as an innovator and a leader; leverage your SKO presentation to help reinforce that perception in their minds. Polished presentation = polished product.

As ever, details matter. In your final revisions, take the time to ensure you’re using all the right typefaces, you’re working with the latest brand standards, and any multimedia elements will scale seamlessly to a large format screen. It only takes one faulty font or low-resolution image to undermine your entire presentation. No pressure. 😉

6. Ask for help

At New Kind, whenever we get stuck (as is bound to happen now and again) we like to remind each other: you need fresh eyes. The SKO journey can be a long and arduous one, but remember: you don’t have to go it alone.

Identify your most passionate people and ask them to work with you to develop this year’s presentation. Make liberal use of collaboration tools like Google Slides to streamline content creation and bring your team’s talents and best ideas to the table.

If all else fails, don’t hesitate to bring in some outside help. New Kind’s open collaborative approach is designed to work closely with internal teams, marrying our unique perspective with your expertise. We take on a number of SKO projects (not to mention lots more) each year, finding the human stories hidden within deeply technical products and services.

Is your sales kickoff looming in the not so distant future? Contact us today and we’ll crush it together.

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