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How to Inspire Your Reps Like Never Before — Even After Cancelling the President’s Club Trip

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Between rushing to save deals, pivoting products, and adjusting messaging, these last couple of months have been a whirlwind for sales teams. And as the dust has begun to settle, that annual trip to Hawaii — or any President’s Club incentive trip — is out of the question.

Now, sales leaders are scrambling to claw back invested expenses and strategize new alternatives to President’s Club to keep their reps motivated.

So, as a sales leader, how do you move forward, save your president’s club, and ensure your reps are more motivated than ever before?

What Not to Do

According to research by the Incentive Research Foundation, most organizations are postponing, canceling, or translating their sales incentive programs into monetary rewards (cash, gift cards, and swag).

All of these solutions come with big problems, though. And they all fail to achieve the goal of a sales incentive — to excite your reps and inspire them to do great work.

Let’s look at why.

Postponing

Even if you push your incentive trip to the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021, chances are there will still be reps who won’t feel comfortable traveling. You also risk additional postponement as group travel is still very much up in the air with no vaccine confirmed in the near future.

This means you are committing to continued reinvestment with the potential of lost funds as you reserve hotel blocks, airfare, and activities. And more importantly, you run the risk of having to disappoint your reps yet again by delaying a second time.

Canceling

Getting rid of your program altogether is completely deflating to your reps who’ve worked so hard to earn this reward.

This will lead to reduced motivation to hit targets and a lack of trust that future incentives will be honored. There is also a risk this could lead to a mass exodus from your organization by your top performers.

Transitioning to cash and gifts

Cash is the last thing your well-compensated top performer needs. Any cash bonus will likely go to paying off debt or covering monthly bills. And while this is useful, it doesn’t build any long-term impact, memories, or loyalty.

Plus, cash is the same reward they get when they earn commissions. Your reps are already expecting to earn commissions, so, there is nothing unique, special, or exciting about an extra monetary reward.

A Better Option for Saving President’s Club

The good news is you have other options besides postponing or offering cash rewards.

Most importantly, when considering alternate paths to take, remember that your alternative President’s Club solution needs to deliver on two very important goals.

It needs to feel like a club

The alternative plan you choose needs to feel exclusive, exciting, and create a sense of pride for those attending.

Cash and cancelations don’t feel any different than ordinary incentives or SPIFFs offered throughout the year, and as a result, it leaves your reps feeling slighted or deflated.

It needs to be timely

Your reps have worked hard and are waiting for the reward they deserve. You’ve already poured hours into planning your original Club trip, and it’s impossible to assume you have that much time to give to a Plan B.

Your alternative solution needs to be quick-turn and easy to administer.

How do you deliver on these goals?

Tom Castley (VP Sales, Outreach UK) and Kevin Yip (COO, Blueboard) sat down and put together a plan for sales leaders to adapt sales incentives for our next normal. They introduced the idea of personalized, individual, experiential rewards as an alternative for the current President’s Club model.

Personalized experiential rewards allow you to motivate the individual. Tom had this to say:

When I was thinking about the whole individual trips thing, there’s part of me that thinks — hang on a minute — there is a huge opportunity to be really creative around motivation, individualization, diversity…

More than ever, reps are craving personalization. And the pandemic has brought with it more needs and responsibilities that they’re navigating on top of work.

Some reps might be craving a creative outlet, others a new adventure, others might need quality time with family. Individual, personalized trips offer reps the opportunity to choose what’s most meaningful to them, right now.

Tom continued with a comparison to traditional sales quotas and the concept of the peanut butter spread compensation model that most of us have been guilty of implementing:

Companies that peanut butter spread quotas (i.e. all are equal) performed 4.8% worse than ones that did individualized quotas. You can infer it’s exactly the same with President’s Club.

You can watch their conversation here.

Why Individual Rewards?

There are several reasons this alternative option is a better option than the status quo — cash, canceling or postponing. We touched on a few above, but let’s dive deeper and look at the four main benefits that come with personalized incentives.

Increased shareability

Nobody is going to talk or Tweet about the cash bonus they received — it’s uncomfortable, it feels braggy, and it isn’t unique or special.

On the other hand, who wouldn’t want to publicly document a family trip to Machu Picchu? This type of virality will increase engagement in your program, motivate your employees to go for that top-tier trip of their dreams, and build loyalty for your organization.

Your rep’s comfort

Individual awards allow a rep to choose an experience that is personalized to their exact comfort level. That includes location, amount of people accompanying, activity, date, and any other specifications.

People are very different. What may be a relaxing, fun reward for one rep may be an uncomfortable, nerve-wracking experience for another.

Custom, personalized incentives give reps the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments when they are ready, in a way they are truly excited about.

Diversified risk

As a sales leader, you’ve likely noticed that you lose many top performers after your annual President’s Club trip to Hawaii (or wherever you go).

The reason?

They were waiting around to get their reward, but didn’t feel the need to do it again next year. Individual experiences, on the other hand, can be redeemed on unique schedules, and you can actually diversify that risk of your top-performers leaving all at once (as reps travel on their own schedules throughout the year).

Also, you’ll find employees aren’t as willing to leave an organization that gave them an all-expense-paid trip to swim with whale sharks in Mexico (or something else that had been on their personal bucket list).

It provides grounding

Unlike the office, where you may have had Bagel Wednesdays and happy hours to anchor your work experience, COVID-19 has made it difficult to keep track of what day it is.

Experiences are a great way to punctuate those days and serve as a hook in the year with regards to our memories.

Think about it. You’ve probably had the experience of flashing back to a trip or other peak event to keep track of what happened and when. It helps to ground you in difficult times.

Looking ahead

These changes don’t have to be short-term. As you’re putting together your new sales incentive playbook, remember that you have a unique opportunity to overcome some of the existing challenges with traditional sales incentives.

Friction within organizations

Certain sales incentives, such as President’s Club, can create friction within companies. It demotivates the 90+ percent of the sales team who don’t achieve that elite status, and it can also demotivate key teammates in supporting departments (like product, client success, or marketing) who play a critical role in closing strategic deals.

As a sales leader, take this opportunity to reinvent what success looks like in your organization and democratize your sales incentives strategy. Personalized incentives allow you to involve more of your organization and ensure that everyone has something to strive for.

Easy to opt-out

The truth is that going on a President’s Club trip is a lot of work. You fly for an entire day to get to Hawaii, spend two days being on making small talk with people you work with every day, and then you spend another day flying back.

After the third or fourth year, it gets old.

As a result, some employees choose to opt-out so they can take a real vacation with their families instead. This means those reps don’t get the full value of the reward they worked so hard for, and those last-minute drop-outs lead to sunk costs for your organization.

Custom incentives bring diversity to your rewards and makes sure everyone is excited by what’s on offer.

Not personalized

Sales reps are often thought of as being coin-operated, which is why many organizations still default to cash incentives. But with the rise of millennials and Gen Z in the workplace, the coin-operated model has become out of date.

Personalization and the power of choice are key.

Your sales reps want the option to choose a reward that’s most meaningful to them, write it on a Post-it, and hustle towards that bucket-list experience. This gives you the opportunity to cultivate real motivation towards your demanding revenue goals.

Where to go from here?

“I don’t have time to handle the logistics, planning, and payment for individual trips for every club winner,” I hear you saying to yourself.

Luckily, you don’t have to go this alone. There are several companies that can help you through the planning process, and they give you the added benefit of dealing with the logistics of implementing the rewards as well.

So, don’t be afraid.

Instead of 2020 being the year of canceled President’s Club incentive trips, you could make this year’s trip the best President Club yet.

What do you want for your sales team?

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