blog

Recognition & Rewards

Rewards & Recognition In Times Of Uncertainty [Webinar Recap]

Rewards play a huge role when it comes to the engagement, morale, and motivation of your sales reps. Given this, what should modern strategies for SPIFFs, experiential rewards, and President's Club look like in a post-COVID world? We hosted a digital panel with Modern Sales Pros featuring our own amazing COO and Co-founder, Kevin Yip, who sat down with the Head of Sales Development at Ambition, Chris O'Connor, to share best practices for rewarding employees in the “new normal” of the workplace. 


Right now, many rewards programs are up in the air as a result of COVID-19. In response, sales leaders may feel tempted to postpone these trips indefinitely or - worse - replace them with cash bonuses and gift cards. This quick-fix solution stems from the misconception that sales reps are “coin-operated” and are only motivated by money. However, this is a massive oversimplification.

It’s true that sales reps respond to incentives due to the nature of their role. It’s an easy way to track performance and is necessary in a high-risk, high-reward job. However, great recognition and rewards programs should drive positive behaviors and build a culture of engagement - which cash doesn’t do. Your reps need to be rewarded in a way that’s visible, meaningful, and makes them want to win again. 

We’ll dive into specific recommendations on how to build this type of program but, before we do, let’s take a look at the psychology behind President’s Clubs. 

The psychology behind President’s Clubs

Why are President’s Clubs so coveted in the sales world? About 30 to 40 years ago, getting a Rolex was the ultimate badge of honor on sales teams. It signaled a level of exclusivity and performance that made salespeople feel special. While the incentive is outdated, the psychology still remains true.

Sales reps want to be part of President’s Club because it’s exclusive. When you qualify, you’re proving that you’re the best of the best. Given the competitive culture of sales, that’s significant. That’s why companies invest a ton of resources into making sure everyone who achieves that coveted status feels valued and special.

So the question becomes: with the impact of COVID-19, how do you still give your sales reps this special experience - without having to push your program back to next year?
The answer lies in two parts: adjusting your strategy and effectively communicating those changes. 

Adjust your strategy

We know things can feel very overwhelming right now for sales leaders. Your top sales reps are demanding an answer about the President’s Club trip they worked so hard for, and you’re scrambling to come up with answers. At the end of the day, your alternative solution to President’s Club needs to deliver on two primary objectives:

  1. It needs to be timely. Sales reps worked their butts off in 2019 to earn this reward, and canceling or postponing it to next year will only create disappointment and depleted motivation.
  1. It needs to feel like a club. As we mentioned above, one of the main draws of President’s Club is notoriety and fame - gaining access to something that’s elite and special, and receiving a reward that you wouldn’t have normally invested in with your own money. 

Below are a few tips to help you adjust your strategy to meet these primary objectives. 

  • Let your top reps choose their own President’s Club. We’re offering sales reps the opportunity to Choose Your Own President’s Club. Instead of resorting to cash or postponed trips, top reps can choose from a hand-curated menu of experiences that offer the exclusivity and prestige of President’s Club, but that are ready to distribute and redeem today. From luxury getaways to chase the Northern Lights, dive the Great Barrier Reef, or retreat to a Red Rocks spa escape, we’ve got bucket list experiences to surprise and delight every quota crushing rep. The team at Ambition takes a similar approach and also allows their top sellers to choose their own trips instead of having to commit to a group trip. With this more flexible approach, sales reps can go to destinations that are actually on their bucket list instead of visiting Cancun for the third time. 
  • Get creative about creating camaraderie. There are specific benefits of President’s Club that sales reps will still want access to, even with an alternative solution. One of those benefits is access to leadership. There are many creative ways to build this offering into your new solution. For example, have your company executives commit time to your top performers. Either block out a few days for leadership and employees to spend time together, offer mentorship opportunities, or simply schedule one-on-one Ask Me Anything’s or lunches between your top reps and leaders. 

Effectively communicate the changes

When making changes to tentpole sales incentives like President’s Club, it’s critical to communicate them to your sales team even before they’re officially introduced. The last thing you want is to catch your top performers off guard, leaving them confused about the change in plans. Here are a few tips on how to effectively communicate these changes and gain their buy-in: 

  • Share your intention. Regardless of the solution you introduce, many sales reps may feel upset that they’re not receiving what they were promised. To help, explain your intention for the original President’s Club program as well as the thought process that led to the changes that are being introduced. While there might still be criticism, they’ll at least understand where you’re coming from. 
  • Practice vulnerability. Unfortunately, the pandemic is simply something that most organizations were largely unprepared for. As much as you may want to move forward with the President’s Club trips and give your reps what they deserve, their safety and health ultimately takes priority. Don’t be afraid to share these sentiments with your team. It shows them that you want what’s best for them and don’t always have the “right” answer to these situations. 

Looking ahead to 2021

Many sales leaders may be wondering what’s in store for their future recognition and rewards programs - especially with the lingering uncertainty around COVID-19. We put together a few ideas based on what we’ve observed amongst our own teams, as well as those of our clients: 

  • Focus on personalization. In the consumer marketplace, and increasingly in the workplace, there’s a premium on personalization. The more you can deliver something personal, instead of one-size-fits-all, the more positively your sales reps will respond. Think about what’s important to your sales reps and, wherever possible, build that personalization into your incentives - whether it’s in your SPIFFs or broader President’s Club plans. At Blueboard, we empower reps to choose the bucket list experience most meaningful to them - from learning to kitesurf to Michelin star dining, to taking a mastery photography course.
  • Think outside-the-box. There are ways to spice up your SPIFFs without relying on monetary incentives. For example, every Q3, a top seller at Ambition gets to pick a billboard in any location they want with their faces on it. This is a super fun, engaging incentive that recognizes top sales reps (in a very big way) and will have them snapping photos for Instagram. 
  • Don’t underestimate the power of free. If you’re running on an extremely tight budget, there are still creative ways to get your sales reps engaged! The team at Ambition recently convinced their CRO to get a bad haircut if they achieved their sales goals for the month. They did, so the top seller got to dictate to the CRO’s wife how his hair should be cut live on Zoom for everyone to watch. It was a fun way to motivate performance and gave everyone a much-needed laugh. 

It’s challenging to operate your rewards and recognition program during times of uncertainty. But by taking the flexible alternatives we suggested above, you’re not only setting up yourself for success in 2020 but for the foreseeable future. 

If you’re excited about Choose Your Own President’s Club or our experiential sales incentives and SPIFFs offering and want to connect with our team 1:1, simply reach out for more information and a personalized demo online here.

Looking for the best way to reward, recognize and incentivize your top people?

Reach out to see the experiences we’ve curated for your market and start building your ideal program.

Request a demo