President’s Club is the most coveted status within Sales teams. Achieving this milestone recognizes your highest-performing salespeople, and in a normal state, also rewards them with an all-expenses paid trip to an exotic destination in return for their hard work.
But here’s the problem. The existing approach to President’s Club is significantly misaligned with the needs and wants of the modern workforce. A problem that has become even more pronounced with the onset of COVID-19, which has brought all 2020 group travel plans for President’s Club trips to a complete standstill.
This week I moderated a webinar with our growth leaders Kevin Yip (Cofounder and COO) and Travis Ashby (GM, Sales Incentives), we’re sharing the video recording below. We took a look at how companies have been changing their President’s Club plans in response to the pandemic - and how some of these alternatives are actively harmful to the motivation and retention of your sales team (like canceling your Club all together).
We also walked through our exciting President’s Club Plan B(lueboard). Our Choose Your Own President’s Club solution delivers on your original program goals and can be put into action today, with exciting rewards that meet your employees where they are. They’ll choose from meaningful sales incentives for today, or plan a bucket list travel adventure for tomorrow.
The traditional President’s Club model is broken
Employees used to go to work with the simple goal of taking home a paycheck. But with the rise of millennials and Gen Z, our approach to work has since evolved. Modern employees want jobs that recognize them as individuals, give them opportunities to grow, and allow them to bring their whole selves to work. Given this, it’s clear where the traditional approach to President’s Club fails to appeal to today’s sales representatives:
It’s not personalized.
Most President’s Clubs reward top-performing sales representatives with the same trip to Maui and Cabo every year, with a one-size-fits-all itinerary. While this sounds nice on paper, these trips aren’t meaningful because they’re not personalized to the employee’s interests. They’re a forced vacation plan that everyone has to abide by, with little room for personal excursions or interests.
It’s forced “fun” and together time.
There’s a reason why we take vacations: people need the time and space to unplug from their job. But with President’s Club trips, employees and their +1’s are forced to hang out with their coworkers, boss and senior leadership - which means they don’t actually get the break they deserve. Instead, they have to be constantly “on” (often needing a vacation from their “vacation”). As a result, these trips don’t inspire the type of afterglow you get from taking a truly rejuvenating vacation or crossing something off your personal bucket list - an experience that can leave you feeling energized for weeks or months after.
Since President’s Club trips are expensive and have to be planned out at least a year in advance, there’s a cap on how many people can attend (which inherently limits how shareable the program can be). Most trips accommodate just 5-10% of the sales team. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that the same 10% end up going on the President’s Club trip every year. This is hugely demotivating to the remaining 90% of the Sales team, who will quickly realize if they will qualify for Club or not just months into the new sales period. This means you’re missing the opportunity to motivate your entire team and drive performance towards critical revenue opportunities. Not only does this negatively impact their performance and desire to improve, but it also gives them a reason to leave the organization and look for a job where their efforts will be recognized.
It’s extremely resource intensive.
President’s Clubs are a huge investment. Not only does the program cost thousands of dollars per sales representative, but it also takes hundreds of hours to plan. The administrators who are responsible for this trip also need to take potential sunk costs into consideration, which can come as a result of people dropping out at the last minute or - as we’re experiencing now - cancellations due to unforeseen circumstances. This means that tons of resources are being used for a trip that only 10% of a team can even experience in the first place and doesn’t even motivate employees to perform at their best.
The impact of COVID-19
COVID-19 has taken President’s Club group trips off the table. Now is the time for companies to build trust with their teams and prove their ability to deliver on what they promised - delivering an experience that’s at an equal or greater standard than the original plan. Instead, research from the Incentive Research Foundation reveals that companies are responding to the pandemic in counterproductive ways. Below are the most common responses and our take on the negative implications of these approaches:
The majority of companies (61.5%) have postponed their incentive trips into Q3 or Q4 of 2020, or even into 2021. There are two problems with this approach: first, employees need to be motivated today to hit their targets for the year. Not being able to reap the benefits of their hard work in the previous year can be extremely demotivating for your top performers. Second, even postponing into Q3 or Q4 poses a risk. With the uncertainty of COVID-19, that postponement may eventually be forced into a cancellation without a back-up plan in place. It’s also unclear if all employees will have the same comfort level with travel, a worst case would be planning a big event and having half the team opt out.
Cancelling or transitioning to cash bonuses:
Among the quarter of those surveyed who are canceling their programs, 75% indicated they were recognizing winners in another way. This includes offering merchandise, cash bonuses, and gift cards in place of the President’s Club trip. This is the last thing you want to do for your top-performing sales representatives. After working hard all year to exceed their targets, receiving branded swag or an Amazon gift card in return would feel like a huge letdown and make it clear that their company doesn’t value their contributions. Rewards need to be tied explicitly to an employee’s level of achievement - and cash bonuses and merchandise just doesn’t cut it.
At the time of the survey, 10% of companies weren’t planning to make any changes to their President’s Club plans. While we hope to return to normalcy soon, the future is uncertain and this is a dicey move. Companies that take the risk of not making any adjustments may have to deal with huge amounts of sunk costs and will find themselves scrambling to come up with last-minute solutions. Even worse, they’ll end up with deeply disappointed employees who were led to believe the trip was still happening. It’s better to take action early and have a Plan B ready in anticipation of the worst-case scenario.
Unfortunately, none of these alternative solutions deliver on the aspects that make President’s Club trips special to begin with. The alternative path you choose needs to meet these two priority criteria:
It needs to feel like a club:
Part of what motivates your top sales reps to work hard all year is to obtain an exclusive level of status - they want to feel like they’ve actually joined a special club for high performers. When they finally achieve this milestone, they expect (and deserve) to receive the special treatment that was promised to them. Incentives like cash bonuses and merchandise simply don’t create the same effect, and worse, let down your reps.
It needs to be timely:
If your company leaders have been building up anticipation around President’s Club for 2019 winners, your sales reps will inevitably be disappointed by any postponements or cancellations. Timing is inextricably linked to the perception of President’s Club and continually pushing the date back will make your top performers feel slighted instead of valued and appreciated.
This experience is showing us that the existing approach to President’s Clubs doesn’t hold water and that we’re in desperate need of a more flexible, scalable model.
How Blueboard can save President’s Club
That’s why we’re stepping in to offer companies an exciting alternative: Choose Your Own President’s Club. Instead of resorting to cash or postponed trips, give your top reps the opportunity to choose from a hand-curated menu of experiential rewards for employees that offer the exclusivity and prestige of President’s Club, but that are ready to distribute and redeem today.
The reality is that your employees are going to come out of COVID-19 with varying levels of comfort around group gatherings and travel - not everyone will want to go on a trip, and you’ll have to respect that. That’s why we’re offering a menu of exciting experiential rewards that meet all of your employees where they are:
In-home experiences for today
Our In-home experience offerings allow your sales representatives to pick an indulgent and memorable reward they can enjoy from the comfort of their own home. Some of our favorites include experiences like DIY greenhouse kits, a Vaonis Stellina Smart Telescope to tour the cosmos, and Peloton fitness experiences.
Our In-home experiences are designed for employees to connect with themselves or with their loved ones and to celebrate employee wellbeing. Experiences that help us uncover new hobbies, passions and interests.
Travel adventures beyond your backyard
For tomorrow, a menu of off-the-beaten-path and luxury experiences that are a short distance from home. Some of our favorites include an escape to Napa Valley compete with VIP wine tastings, Destination Wyoming, putting you into the wild of Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons, or Glorious Getaway, where sales reps can work 1:1 with our Concierge team to plan their ultimate bucket list adventure.
We love this menu of road trips, staycations and other adventurous excursions for employees who aren’t yet ready to get on a plane, but are itching for some R&R and to get outdoors.
Bucket list adventures for tomorrow
Our celebrated Curation team scours the world to find incredible, once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences and adventures that will truly transform your employees. For the future, employees can choose from adventures like chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland, touring Africa on safari, or taking a mission trip to Nicaragua.
These bucket list adventures are ready to redeem today, and plan for the future, building anticipation of what’s to come as top reps plan all the finer details with our celebrated Concierge team.
What exactly is it about these experiences that make them more powerful than incentive trips, cash, or gift cards? There are a few factors at play:
An exclusive and exciting experience that still feels like President’s Club.
One of the biggest draws of President’s Club is its exclusivity. Our Choose Your Own President’s Club still offers that feeling of being part of a special group since only Club winners receive Blueboard rewards. It’s even more exclusive because each person gets to choose what’s most meaningful to them. There are other ways to heighten the feelings of exclusivity as well, such as getting leadership involved and finding ways for sales reps to share their stories with them. Our Sales and Implementation teams will also help companies tie the program directly to their brand, whether that’s by coming up with a personalized Club name, customizing their menu with “brand exclusive” experiences, or giving their sales reps a special “totem” to bring along to snap in photos, building socialization (take a look at how we did this for our client Glaukos).
A program that’s ridiculously easy to execute.
Choose Your Own President’s Club comes with tons of benefits on the admin side as well. Instead of spending hundreds of planning hours on the flights, accommodations, and itinerary, our Concierge team handles everything for you. Admins only need to help with the employee recognition program launch and communications to drive socialization. You’ll also be able to skip many of the expenses traditionally associated with President’s Clubs, including: overpaying for food and beverage minimums, paying exorbitant fees for event spaces and entertainment, high-end transportation, and reserving spots on expensive group excursions that don’t get used. We’ll work together to deliver a program you’re proud of.
A program that builds authentic connections.
Experiences are a powerful socialization tool. You can use the experiences of your sales representatives to build awareness for the President’s Club program, encourage employees to share and celebrate with each other, and even for recruiting purposes. Our employee recognition platform has built-in mechanisms to help you capture media and content that you can repurpose - whether that’s in the form of photos, videos, and stories. Our Customer team will also work with you to determine the best internal socialization strategy to help create buzz around the program and establish natural workplace connections. These tactics will make your program more social and lengthen the positive effects, or afterglow, of every experience.
Looking forward to 2021
Even as we try to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, we also have to remember that 2021 is just around the corner. So whether you’re planning for today or the following year, our Choose Your Own President’s Club offering is evergreen and able to meet your varied goals.
Tomorrow’s President's Club will incentivize every sales rep to hit their targets and rewards them with an experience that’s truly meaningful to them.
At Blueboard, we’re executing on this vision by creating a tiered approach to President’s Clubs to give a broader swath of the Sales team the opportunity to earn a reward, not just the top 10%. We also want to treat every reward recipient as individuals and allow each top performer to choose the President’s Club adventure of their dreams.
We know how stressful it is to try to figure out next steps with your President’s Club trip right now - especially with so many unknowns. We want companies to know that we’re here to support them, and we encourage Sales leaders to use this as an opportunity to revamp your existing program into one that’s more motivating, memorable, and flexible for your team.
If you’re excited about Choose Your Own President’s Club and want to connect with our team 1:1, reach out for more information and a personalized demo online here.