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16 min read

What to Look for in a Sales Kickoff Speaker

by Shannon Galli
by Shannon Galli | 
15 min read
 | Oct 24, 2023
  1. Home
  2. Business Speaking
  3. What to Look for in a Sales Kickoff Speaker

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You already know that an impactful sales kickoff event is critical for driving success. But what you may not know is: What transforms an ordinary meeting into an inspirational experience that energizes your team?

An exceptional keynote speaker makes all the difference. They provide fresh ideas, develop the audience’s skills, inspire leaders and team members, enable growth, boost morale, and show clients why your product is the best choice. What’s not to love?

But with so many speakers to choose from, how do you find the perfect presenter for your annual sales meeting? What key traits should you look for when hiring a motivational sales kickoff speaker?

In this post, we’ll explore the qualities of a great kickoff keynote, what to keep in mind when selecting your speaker, why empowering your sales team is so important, and how an inspiring presentation can get your reps excited and ready to crush goals.

Let’s discover how to select a dynamic speaker who will deliver an unforgettable motivational presentation that energizes your team, accelerates performance, drives sales, boosts ROI, and makes this your most successful sales kickoff event yet.

Qualities of an Exceptional Sales Kickoff Speaker

Qualities of a great sales kickoff speaker

There are several important qualities to keep in mind while searching for the ideal sales kickoff speaker.

First and foremost, a great sales speaker should have real-world sales experience, not just theoretical knowledge.

They should understand the challenges and opportunities faced by sales professionals in today’s changing world, and be able to share their direct expertise and insights.

Furthermore, a top-notch sales speaker should:

  • Tailor their presentation to suit your industry and audience’s unique needs
  • Create a more meaningful and powerful experience for your salespeople
  • Motivate your people and drive performance

Real-World Experience

What makes real-world experience crucial for a sales kickoff speaker? Simply put, you’ll want someone who has been in the trenches and who understands the nuances and challenges of complex products and sales cycles.

Many business speakers are just that – speakers. They don’t operate day-to-day in the world of sales. And if they ever did, it was a long time ago. When it comes to innovative and effective sales techniques, things move fast; look at how much everything has changed in just the last few years. Recycled, generic strategies from five or ten years ago just don’t work anymore.

Keep this in mind when planning your sales kickoff agenda. Look for someone who is a successful salesperson right here, right now, using innovative techniques such as business storytelling to help your company stand out from the crowd.

Instead of bland theory or ideas that are a decade old, the right speaker can share valuable insights and methods from their personal experience, making their message more relatable, impactful, and relevant.

Customization and Relevance to Sales Teams

A great sales kick off speaker must have content that's truly relevant

Another key factor to keep in mind while choosing a sales kickoff speaker is their capacity to tailor their content to resonate with your audience. The right choice will provide up-to-date industry knowledge, best practices, and insights that are directly applicable to your sales team’s work.

Many sales kickoff keynote speakers take the same off-the-shelf keynote presentation everywhere they go. Whether for sales conferences, dealer meetings, workshops, or sales kickoffs, they’ll do the exact same thing every time.

But what if that doesn’t work for your industry, or for the goals of your event?

It’s worth having a few exploratory phone calls with the person you’re considering. Ask them if they understand your company’s challenges and objectives. Get a feel for whether they know your field, or are willing to learn. Are there specific objections your sales teams continue to come up against? The best sales keynote speakers will go out of their way to customize a presentation that addresses all of these specifics and more.

After all, you don’t want a keynote speaker who simply goes through the motions.

You want someone who will offer the sales strategies that lead to true business growth, increase sales, align with your kickoff theme, and take your company to the next level.

Delivering an Engaging and Impactful Presentation

The ability to deliver a highly engaging and impactful presentation is a critical characteristic of an outstanding sales kickoff speaker. They should be able to capture the attention of their audience and leave a long-term impact on their listeners.

After all, the ultimate goal of a sales kickoff meeting is to improve performance. An engaging and memorable presentation by the right sales speakers can make all the difference.

Some questions you might ask your candidates include:

  • Does your presentation include any interactive elements?
  • Is there an opportunity for the audience to immediately practice new skills and get feedback?
  • Do you offer any exercises or training materials the attendees can keep?
  • Do you include a Q&A session?
  • Do you give audiences a chance to speak to you directly after the presentation?

You might expect that any keynote speakers worth their salt would say “Yes, of course” to all these questions. But you’d be surprised at how many potential speakers will run for the hills once you start asking!

Empower All Members of Your Sales Teams, Not Just the Top Performers

Kickoff speakers should increase sales

Of course, the primary goal of a sales kick off event is to empower your people and motivate them to excel. But many organizations end up hiring speakers who will primarily benefit the people who are already in the top 25% of sales performers.

According to McKinsey, this is the status quo for most organizations – they’ve resigned themselves to focusing on their top quartile, expecting the majority of their results from that group – and take whatever the bottom 75% happens to produce. 

What these companies are essentially doing is accepting sub-par performance from three quarters of the team. Why? Because they accept the status quo thinking that there can be only a few elite salespeople, and there’s not much that can be done about the rest.

This attitude is shortsighted and flat-out wrong. Companies accept the disparity because they accept the long-held but incorrect belief that only certain kinds of people are cut out for sales – people who are comfortable talking to just about anyone, who have the confidence to bulldoze their prospects or use bulldog techniques, or who can simply charm everyone they come across. 

While it’s great that some salespeople can do that successfully, the reality is that organizations are missing out on a huge opportunity to see massive results from the whole team.

Let’s take a look at how the right speaker can get this done.

Nurturing All Performers

An excellent sales kickoff speaker should have the ability to:

  • Uplift everyone on the team, not just the high performers
  • Offer an inspirational message that fosters self-belief among new sales team members and sales leaders alike
  • Nurture all salespeople to maximize the value of leads, strengthen customer relationships, and foster communication and collaboration between the marketing and sales teams
  • Help in building a talented, reliable, and well-trained sales force, leading to improved sales performance and overall success across the board.

When evaluating sales speakers for your kickoff event, ensure that the strategies they advocate will work for everyone.

For example, having a clear-cut, step-by-step sales process may be particularly helpful for the quieter or more shy members of your sales team. That way, they can rely on proven, prepared talking points, rather than having to wing it or trying to barrel past objections.

Another example is leveraging storytelling, which works incredibly well for introverts and extroverts alike. When you can tell a compelling business story about a client who had the exact same problem as your prospect, how your product solved it, and what the incredible results were… well, your product basically sells itself.

A good question to ask the speakers you interview is, “What key sales strategies do you plan to share during your presentation, and how are they relevant to all salespeople, not just the charismatic extroverts?”

The Right Speaker Will Accelerate Strategy Rollout across Your Organization

Have you ever had a keynote speaker come and deliver some really useful insights and advice that ended up going nowhere? 

In many cases, especially in big companies, rollout is a challenge. Once the speaker leaves the stage, the organization is left on their own to apply the strategies across the entire company.

This can take several months or even years, if it ends up being done at all.

Why pay big bucks for a sales kickoff and take up days of your team’s time, if nothing is going to actually come of it?

Being willing to aid in the rollout and operationalization of the strategies and techniques discussed during your sales kickoff event is vital for true success.

Ask your speaking candidates if they continue to support your organization after the event. Do they help with implementation, or do they walk off the stage, never to be heard from again?

Measuring the Success of Your Kickoff Speaker

A great sales kickoff hire should offer insights on tracking the success of the initiatives they discuss, allowing your team to evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies and make informed decisions about their approach.

By measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) and analyzing the results, your organization can:

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the techniques implemented
  • Recognize what is working well and what needs to be adjusted or changed
  • Provide a benchmark for future performance
  • Set achievable goals and targets
  • Optimize operations and reach desired outcomes

In short, make sure that the person you choose will provide you with clear KPIs to watch.

For example, a business storytelling speaker may suggest that specific members of your sales team write three compelling customer stories (under the speaker’s ongoing guidance), and that the entire sales team can comfortably and confidently tell those stories by a certain date.

Ok, now that we’ve covered the meat and potatoes, let’s take a look at three quick checklists to help you on your search.

Checklist Before You Search For A Sales Kickoff Speaker

Checklist for hiring a sales kickoff keynote speaker

1. Understanding Your Goals

  • What are the primary objectives for your sales kickoff event?
  • Are there specific themes or messages you want the keynote speaker to convey?
  • What are the key takeaways you want attendees to leave with?

2. Knowing Your Audience

  • Can you describe the typical attendee profile at your sales kickoff event?
  • What are the common challenges your sales team faces that you would like the speaker to address?
  • Are there recent achievements or changes within the team or company that the speaker should be aware of?

3. Logistics and Format

  • Do you have a preference for a live speaker or would you consider a virtual presentation?
  • What is the time allotment for the keynote address?
  • Are there other events or speakers that the keynote should be aware of to complement or avoid redundancy in content?

4. Content and Engagement

  • Do you prefer someone who can provide interactive sessions or workshops in addition to a keynote address?
  • How important is it for the speaker to customize their content for your specific industry or company?
  • Are there specific topics or areas you want to avoid?

5. Post-Event Engagement

  • Are you looking for a speaker who can provide follow-up materials or sessions post-event?
  • Is there a mechanism in place for measuring the impact of the keynote speech on the team’s performance?
  • How do you plan to incorporate the keynote’s message into your team’s strategy moving forward?

6. Budget and ROI

  • What is the budget range for the keynote speaker?
  • Are there specific metrics you’ll use to measure the return on investment (ROI) for this speaker?
  • Beyond the speaker’s fee, what additional resources are you able to allocate for this event (e.g., travel accommodations, promotional materials, etc.)?

Tips to Help You Hire A Sales Kickoff Keynote Speaker

The task of selecting the ideal speaker for your sales kickoff event is pivotal to fostering success and empowering your sales professionals.

Here are the concrete steps to guide you in this process:

Prioritize speakers who have tangible, real-world sales experience. These individuals are not just theoretically knowledgeable but have also faced and overcome the challenges that your sales team encounters daily. They can provide unique insights and advice rooted in their own experiences, making their message more relatable and impactful.

Look for a speaker who will customize their content to align with your industry and the unique needs of your audience. This relevance is crucial for the speaker’s message to resonate with your sales team. The ideal speaker should be willing to understand your company’s challenges and objectives, and tailor their presentation accordingly. This customization can include addressing specific objections your sales team faces or sharing industry-specific best practices.

An engaging presentation style is a must. The speaker should be able to captivate the audience’s attention and leave a lasting impression. They should include interactive elements in their presentation, offer opportunities for immediate practice of new skills, and provide training materials that the audience can refer to later.

Prioritize a speaker who can uplift and improve the entire sales team, not just the top performers. The ideal speaker should be able to provide skills and insights that useful to everyone, from the seasoned sales veterans to the new hires.

The speaker should be willing to assist with operationalization and rollout of the strategies they introduce, to ensure these insights don’t just stay on the stage but are effectively implemented in your sales process.

The speaker should be able to provide insights on tracking success. This will allow your team to evaluate the effectiveness of their learnings and make informed decisions about their approach.

Questions to Ask Potential Speakers

Questions to ask sales kickoff speakers

Experience and Expertise

  • Have you previously worked as a sales trainer or keynote speaker for other respected companies in our industry?
  • Can you share some of your real-world sales experiences and how they shaped your current approach?
  • Have you ever held a leadership role in a sales team or organization? If so, how has that experience shaped your approach to sales training and keynote speaking?


  • How would you tailor your keynote presentation to align with our specific sales kickoff agenda?
  • Are you familiar with our industry’s unique challenges? How would you address them in your talk?
  • How do you ensure your content resonates with both new hires and seasoned sales professionals?

Engagement and Impact

  • How do you ensure your talk leaves a lasting impact on audiences?
  • Do you have testimonials from other events you’ve spoken at?
  • Do you incorporate interactive elements in your presentation to engage the team?
  • How do you adapt your strategies to fit different sales processes across organizations?

Sales Enablement and Growth

  • What is your perspective on the role of sales enablement in driving business growth in the current market?
  • Can you provide examples of how your insights have led to tangible business growth in previous events?
  • How do you ensure that the skills you impart can be integrated into our sales process for long-term success?

Feedback and Ongoing Support

  • Can you share feedback or testimonials from past events where you’ve been a sales kickoff speaker?
  • Do you provide ongoing support after the event to help operationalize the strategies and techniques discussed during your presentation?
  • How do you measure the success and effectiveness of the strategies you’ve helped implement?

Relevance to Audiences

  • How do you ensure your content is relevant to diverse sales teams and audiences, from industry experts to new hires?
  • How do you keep your content updated to reflect the latest trends and challenges in sales?
  • What sets you apart from other sales, keynote, or motivational speakers in our industry?


Choosing a great sales keynote speaker for your next event is a decision that shapes the future success of your sales team.

We’ve offered a detailed roadmap to navigate this selection, but the paramount takeaway is the undeniable value of real-world experience. A speaker’s firsthand tales from their sales journey can make their message resonate deeply, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and tangible practice.

As you prepare for your sales kickoff, prioritize professional speakers who can genuinely connect with your sales team’s challenges and inspire them towards greater achievements. After all, the objective of such an event isn’t just to tick a box, but to ignite a transformative spark that drives your sales team to new heights.

Interested in learning how Matthew can make your kickoff event an incredible success?

Visit our sales kickoff page for an overview of what makes him the best in the business.

About Shannon Galli

I’ve worked alongside introvert champion Matthew Pollard for over seven years, helping introverts recognize that our unique skills allow us to excel in any field. As the content manager for Rapid Growth LLC and the editor of the bestselling “Introvert’s Edge” book series, I’m dedicated to inspiring introverts everywhere to embrace exactly who we are, and to know we have everything we need to succeed.


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