Sales Recognition

Planning pandemic-proof President’s Club & SKO events in 2021

Your Sales Kickoff and President’s Club are likely looking much different than they did a year ago. As 2020 flew by - with many of us having to fly by the seat of our pants—many of our decisions to adapt sales recognition programs and events were forced to be made on the spot.

Now that sales leaders have a chance to look ahead to 2021’s sales events with more time and learnings, there’s finally an opportunity to address the situation, lay out your options, and create a plan.

This past week, Blueboard hosted a panel of superstar sales leaders who have created exciting (yet safe and realistic) plan B’s for events like President's Club and Sales Kickoff:

Read ahead or tune in below to learn what went well, what flopped, how they navigated planning & executive buy-in, and what they are advising teams to do for 2021 sales events like President’s Club and Sales Kickoff.

How has the pandemic and Covid-19 impacted sales recognition programs and events?

“If Covid-19 has taught us anything - this separation, this isolation - it has taught us that a plain commission check is not enough at the end of the day. There is a severe longing for something more connected - more related to who we are and the motivation we desire.” - Tom Castley

The very first thing that the panelists addressed was the external factors that are affecting the motivation of their reps. With pandemic pressures and the shift to remote work, sales reps are having to adapt their entire process. Thus, it should be no surprise that the ways we celebrate and recognize their achievements are changing too.

In their discussion on how motivators have changed during the pandemic, the panelists agreed that while the mechanisms have had to change, what motivates top sales reps has stayed the same. The distinction is that while motivators are the same, there are areas that are being neglected that weren’t before.

To Tom’s point in his above quote, this pandemic is not changing what reps are motivated by - instead, it’s exposing motivators that have always existed. In the past, intrinsic motivators like community, belonging, and connection may have taken a backseat in reps’ minds. Now, they’ve become a priority and are top of mind for sales reps everywhere.

Another factor to consider: the people who will qualify for President’s Club this year are not going to be the typical winners. With many having to adjust their sales process due to the changes to remote sales, or industry-wide impacts outside of their control, you’ll likely have many new or first-time President's Club qualifiers. Sales reps who have navigated the pandemic with hustle and grind, forged new client relationships, or who sought new ways to innovate their process might be new faces in your President's Club incentive program, and may not be motivated in the same ways as your past winners.

With all these shifting priorities and moving targets, it’s crucial to figure out what aspects of your sales events and incentive programs need to be adapted for this coming year.

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How to adapt your in-person sales incentive events:

“We have no idea when there’s going to be an end to the pandemic. So we have no choice but to move ahead like traditional travel is not going to be a thing”. - Jeff Austin

2020 provided a couple key lessons when adapting your in-person travel incentives:

  1. There is going to continue to be extreme uncertainty. You need to account for the reality that we do not have a clear path to a vaccine, so there will be continued risk that plans could fall through.
  2. Your reps have varied interests. There are mixed personal comfort zones with regards to travel and group gatherings, so whatever the solution you decide on, it needs to be inclusive and offer the power of choice (personalization). 
  3. You need to account for the variables outside of your control. Think issues like international travel regulations (that are constantly changing, either from health and political influences) or the risk of having all of your top performers together in one room without a vaccine. And when the booze starts flowing, so do the hugs and high-fives. 

Teri Turner focused on the idea that “the most important part about President’s Club and Sales Kickoff is how they make you feel. The exclusivity, lasting memories, and building motivation while building on momentum is what truly matters.” 

So with in-person sales recognition events likely off the table for 2021, what can be adapted, and most importantly, what should be adapted to maintain the “feeling” of these events?

"The most important part about President’s Club and Sales Kickoff is how they make you feel." - Teri Turner

Options that will still deliver on your goals for sales recognition programs in 2021.

Below is a list of options that many leaders are deciding between for 2021 group travel events. The panelists shared their insight into the risk and results they’ve seen from each strategy:

Keep your plans. 

Risk: You are stuck in a waiting game as the pandemic continues. You could lose hefty deposits with hotels or event venues. Uncertainty and anxiety will build with top reps as you swirl around final decisions. 

Postpone it.

Risk:  You can only dangle a carrot for so long until people become frustrated, disinterested, or demotivated. As you leave reps waiting, you also run the risk of churn or leave in the next 6-12 months.

Cash out.

Risk: Cash feels like just another paycheck. Plus, with cash being neither exclusive or memorable, it misses the primary goals of your in-person sales events or incentive program.

Go virtual.

Risk: Virtual events just add to Zoom fatigue and decreased engagement. And similar to cash, they also miss the opportunity to create lasting memories or give your reps the adventure they’re craving. 

All of these options have risks that outweigh the pros. However, there are options out there that allow you to mitigate risk and celebrate the pieces that made your pre-pandemic sales incentive programs and in-person events great.

As Tom Castley said, “you just have to get creative!”

And one of those creative options is a sales recognition program like Blueboard that offers the choice of individual luxury experiences and bucket list trips that reps can do on their own.  

How Blueboard’s Choose Your Own President’s Club program works. 

  • Send an experiential reward to your rep’s inbox in less than 15 seconds.
  • Employees browse a hand-curated experience menu and choose their favorite reward when they’re ready.
  • Our celebrated Concierge team works 1:1 with your reps to handle all logistics, scheduling, and their final itinerary. They’ll also bring to life the surprise and delight that make President’s Clubs so exciting and memorable. 

Experiential Sales Incentive Program Review
Marc from reflecting on his President's Club experience

Best practices for planning your adapted in-person events.

“You don’t have the option to plan just one big event this year... and planning small, local events would create twice the work for your team. An organization like Blueboard can make this transition possible.” - Teri Turner

Here are a few steps to consider when kicking off the planning process for your 2021 sales recognition events:

Starting the process.

The health and wellbeing of your employees should be your #1 priority when it comes to planning alternative President's Club and sales kickoff events in 2021. Taking the additional time to listen to employee feedback through surveys and conversations is crucial before making any decisions. The goal should be to deliver beyond their expectations regardless of what adaptations need to be made to your sales recognition program.

Building an incentive program that delivers on core goals.

In order to deliver on your core goals, your adapted sales recognition and incentive program needs to do the following:

  • Build motivation to perform
  • Build anticipation and buzz leading up to the event
  • Provide a connection with peers and leadership
  • Feel luxurious - with high-end/white glove service and a 5-star experience
  • Creates lasting memories (afterglow)

With the amount of sacrifice it takes to to make it to the President's Club, it’s important that the reward acknowledges the time and personal commitment from the rep. Especially this year, which goes down as one of the most challenging sales years in recent history. 

Ultimately, as Teri points out, “President Club and kickoff is all about how they make you feel. At kickoff you’re building connections and excitement for the upcoming year. At the President's Club, you're celebrating the year’s successes and participating in extraordinary experiences you might not otherwise do. Keeping the focus on these outcomes will set up your program for success.”

Identify new ways to forge meaningful connections.

Another important consideration is that sales kickoff and President’s Club are often the only time global employees get a chance to meet, interact and get to know each other. Finding an alternative reward or activity that reps can socialize and learn more about each other from is a great way to capture that Club and SKO feeling.

A great example of new programs to form connection between leaders and ICs is a story that Teri shared about Reltio’s new “Journey Lines" initiative:

“We recently welcomed a new CEO and he has introduced a Journey Lines initiative. He shared his life journey and how different experiences shaped him and his core values both personally and professionally. This began with leadership and continued to move throughout the company. It has been a fantastic way for all of us to connect with each other!” - Teri Turner

Education and buy-in.

Gaining leadership buy-in for your new recognition and sales incentive program is a crucial piece of the puzzle. The key is to understand what is important to them, what they need for their teams and include them in the process.

Setting clear criteria from the beginning on what you do not want people to miss out on and what you want people to get from sales kick off is a great place to start. The education piece comes with sharing how this alternative will live up to the standard of a President's Club. The buy-in comes with establishing that health and safety is top of mind. 

Impact and measuring your adapted sales incentive program's success.

The best way to gauge the success of these alternative events and recognition programs is the “afterglow.”  As Teri mentioned, it’s all about how you make people feel. The buzz factor of how much everyone is talking about their experience, the memories, and feedback on cultural alignment are the true indications of an event's success. And not only do successful programs benefit your team’s engagement, but ultimately, it leads to long term impact on revenue. 

Blueboard partners with companies making the shift to individual travel incentives from group travel incentives by showcasing valuable program data in our Admin Tools suite. We offer a post-experience feedback survey to every recipient to capture both qualitative and quantitative feedback and anecdotes, and offer real-time utilization data to prove how your program is being adopted. 

Sales Incentive Program Feedback
A sample of feedback available without our Admin Tools suite

Make the switch to individual experiences in 2021.

So, what’s the big takeaway here? 

Sales events aren’t something you slap together last minute. They’re a way to show your reps you truly value them.

Don’t take the easy way out. And don’t create unwanted stress (haven’t we already had enough this year?).

Get creative. Give them a choice in how they want to celebrate this amazing achievement of qualifying for the President's Club. But above all, reward your sales reps with an experience they’ll remember forever. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with loyal reps who go above and beyond every day. 

If you’re planning ahead for sales incentives and recognition events, grab a copy of our sales incentive toolkit. If you are curious to learn more about individual President’s Club experiences or Blueboard rewards, request a personalized demo online here.

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