It’s that time of year: Everyone is frantically locking in the agenda for Sales Kickoff (SKO). The SKO is where leaders bring their teams together to communicate the Fiscal Year strategy. Having been to dozens of SKOs, I’ve seen great ones and many that missed the mark. The ones that have inspired and aligned the organization have one thing in common. The CEO knows their role and how to execute it.


To help you prepare, download the 10 CEO Questions for Sales Kickoff tool. 


Before I answer what their role should be, I want to address another key question. Should the CEO attend the SKO? My answer is a resounding YES. You are the face and leader of the organization. Unless you are going through a transition or leaving the organization, you should always attend. Having an absent CEO at kickoff sends a negative message through the organization.


So, the next question is what role should the CEO play? There are plenty of roles you can play. You may be the MC, a facilitator, or just a participant in the crowd. Based on working with hundreds of CEOs, here are the three roles that I think are most important:


  1. Communicator– You are responsible for creating and communicating the Corporate Strategy. In this role, you need to clearly articulate to the corporate strategy to the organization. This should include things like objectives, goals, mission, and how the organization is going to win. The corporate strategy sets the direction for the entire company. Everyone should hear this from the CEO and have it reinforced from the leadership team. When teams don’t have that direction, they will make it up on their own.


  2. Reporter– In this role, you should be reviewing how the organization did over the last year. This should be a recap of how the company performed against last year’s objectives and goals. A couple of things to discuss include where the team performed and fell short. The key in this role is to be genuine and transparent. The performance from last year helped create the strategy for the new fiscal year and provides context for decisions.  


  3. Collaborator– This last role is where the CEO needs to shine. Many organizations work in silos. These could be business units or functional departments like product, marketing and sales. When speaking at SKO or any company meeting, it’s important to speak about collaboration. Collaboration means how Product, Marketing, HR, Sales and support functions are working together. You need to discuss how the corporate strategy is being cascaded through these teams. Then demonstrate how you are interlocking. The top 22% of organizations we work with have metrics and KPIs that tie each of these departments together.  


In preparation for SKO, the teams presenting should work together to have one consistent message. Each executive will have their moment on stage to highlight their strategy. By spending time together beforehand, the message can be built for consistency and interlock. 


To assist you in preparing for these roles, I created a 10 CEO Questions for Sales Kickoff  tool. This has emerging best practices topics that you can leverage to build an inspiring message. 




During the kickoff there will be the opportunity to spend time face-to-face with the teams. Ensure that you are walking the halls, sitting with the teams at meals and being present. If you can, start asking the team to recite it back to you. The more you communicate it, the more it becomes part of the culture and execution going forward. Remember, this is an important action you have coming into a new year. Don’t try to wing it. Spend the time to make it a rally point for the entire organization. Then reinforce it at every opportunity you have and share it not just internally, but externally to clients and partners.


Good luck … and have fun doing it.


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Josh Horstmann

Brings a deep level of experience and insight in helping organizations develop and execute their corporate, sales and marketing strategies.

Josh specializes in helping clients solve demanding sales and marketing challenges through aligning functional strategies within an organization. He has worked with clients in manufacturing, ecommerce, software, financial services and technology sectors.


Recently he helped transform an international services company ‘go to market’ strategy, which included assessing talent, re-organizing the sales force, increasing team productivity, reducing the cost of sale and aligning the marketing and sales strategies.


Josh continues to provide thought leadership to his clients advising them on how to build inside sales teams, develop compensation programs, share best practices on social selling, transform sales organizations, drive demand generation programs and acquire and cultivate talent. Along with this he helps organizations align functional strategies.


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