Marketing

Creating a Successful SKO in a Virtual World

May 12, 2020  |   Daniella Harkins

At LiveRamp, we were recently tasked with the challenge of kicking off the new fiscal year in the midst of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders. We needed to find a way to inspire, empower, and inform our sales team via a virtual sales kickoff. Let’s face it—sellers like to be with other people, so we asked ourselves how we could kick off a fiscal new year and keep people engaged when forced to be virtual. 

Our key challenges:

  • Being virtual makes it difficult to keep sellers motivated to attend the sessions  
  • Attendees not being able to network and have meaningful conversations between sessions
  • Engagement is almost impossible to track 

Addressing those challenges, we held our virtual sales kickoff at the end of April. I think everyone walked away surprised at how well the event went, so I thought I’d share the key points I believe drove success.

Acknowledge the current situation

It’s so important to acknowledge that this is an emotional time. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and scared due to the pandemic, while also wanting to focus on work, drive business, and win. On an average day, a salesperson is worried about establishing a new “normal” working day, how to homeschool their children, and how to support clients who are in difficult situations while still driving business. What happens to their job if they don’t hit their quotas in a difficult economic (and health) situation? How do you balance everything and still maintain some semblance of boundaries? Our first session of the day was focused on acknowledgement of the current pandemic and the challenges it brings while also incorporating optimism and moving business forward. 

Tailor the event for the virtual setting

Ensure positive energy

Even though it’s a virtual event, it’s critical to have an emcee who can keep the event moving. Choose an emcee for the sales kickoff who brings authentic leadership and high energy. The emcee should have established credibility, someone who can step in during sessions to translate concepts in a way sellers will understand and absorb. When necessary, the emcee can lighten the mood. For example, our emcee played a hype song by Pitbull at the beginning of day two to get everyone excited and ready. A few of the executives got out from behind their desks and danced. It was a great way to kick off the day and connect with people on a fun level.  

Having the right emcee is also paramount for when technical issues arise (which they always do). You need someone who can keep the conversation moving, even when technology isn’t agreeing with you.

Logistics

Figure out the right video conferencing technology platform to ensure everyone is muted, and have a single driver of the content. Also, make sure that any external speakers can access the video conferencing system. Having a technical producer managing the slides, the entrance and exit of outside speakers, and recording the sessions will make all the transitions seamless. 

 Take advantage of the technology

While it’s impossible to engage with hundreds of sellers virtually, we encouraged everyone to use the chat and Q&A functionality throughout the sessions. Attendees shared their POV, asked questions, and interacted with one another. We asked questions, and they responded via chat. We also ensured there were key executives engaging in the chat to respond, reinforce messages, and participate in the conversation. 

Keep it short

At a normal sales kickoff, the session content can be robust because of the in-person engagement. When doing a virtual session, the content must be concise. You can’t control engagement on the other side of the video, so keep it clear and simple. Pick the key themes and focus on them—don’t overwhelm everyone with too many slides or overtalking. 

Also, keep the sessions brief. Nobody wants to be on a video meeting for two full days.  LiveRamp had two, three-hour sessions that represented what would have been the main stage content at an in-person event. We then scheduled weekly product update sessions throughout May. Additionally, each sales team had an all-hands meeting leading up to the kickoff and another virtual session focused on fun activity the day after the kickoff. This kept us all together for four days of the week, but didn’t require being on video calls all week. It also allowed us to reinforce important messages. 

Lastly, bring in an outside speaker, be it an analyst or a client (we did both). Even though we’re virtual, hearing from our clients is still extremely important. Also make sure you always have a visual for the session, even if it’s a fireside chat. It’s difficult to keep a team engaged without visuals outlining key takeaways.  

Engagement is more difficult these days, but remember, we’re bringing people into our homes via video. If you’re a speaker or executive, let everyone see you, and get out from behind a desk. We are all working from different parts of our homes. Some days are in an office, while other days at the kitchen table. Let the team see you—be it in the garage (as our CEO did), your backyard, or your porch. Share and show your children, dogs, family. It’s so important during this time for people to be able to connect and relate. Take advantage of the tools we have and use them to connect. Keep your content concise, stay authentic, and ensure positive energy. Good luck!