What is it about club trips that get people so motivated for success? Why in some companies are PreSales excluded from direct qualification to the club? If it’s important to you, how can you make sure you have the best chance of making your company’s next club trip?

A few years ago I put some thoughts down on club incentives and how they relate to PreSales on my Sales Engineer Guy blog. Since then, PreSales has grown rapidly in stature, with PreSales Collective and the broader community, it’s become more visible in terms of the benefit PreSales delivers to the company. So naturally, the recognition for the role is even more important than ever before to have a clear path to qualification.

Why does club exist as a benefit/incentive?

First up, it is a paid holiday to a high-end resort with drinks, meals, and activities thrown in. For some, this can literally be a holiday you’d not afford to go on your own dime. Often it can be a way to visit unique and exotic locations you would not have thought to spend your own money on.

It is also a way to connect to the executives of your company and network among the high achievers. This is literally putting PreSales on the top table in terms of recognition and having a voice to speak. The next time you ask the CEO or CRO for anything, they’ll have a memory of seeing you on the trip and the response might be different. For PreSales, it is about being seen among the top salespeople as part of the success of the company and at the highest levels of recognition available.

I’ve heard this described as the single largest line item of cost in the sales organization, so it doesn’t come cheap. However, this incentive is one of the key motivators to keep some of the top performers staying and is a strong motivator beyond just the financial value.

According to BrightSpot the top club destinations right now include Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Antigua (& the Caribbean in general), and African safaris. Many companies try to mix it up to keep it interesting, to keep repeat qualifiers interested. The past 2 years have been harder to organize, so splitting the destinations for parts of the company or offering alternatives has been a recent change.

How do people qualify? Why can it be harder for PreSales?

In some companies it is simple. “Hit 100% and you qualify for club”. Others might have a higher number, like 120% or 150%. Some companies run on a quota, like the Top X SEs per region/territory. The allocation to PreSales is not quite matching the same expectation as it is for salespeople.

In the PSLC Recognizing and Rewarding PreSales roundtable, leaders mentioned how positive this club recognition could be to top PreSales professionals. The extra access to executives, and spotlight for the general organization helps these top people get further earning and promotion opportunities in the future.

If you work in a pooled model rather than individual targets, then how is it determined who gets to go to club? Does hitting a team target means everyone is going to club? Is club funded to work that way? Often it might mean some selection on additional criteria than just pure attainment.

As an aside, this also impacts the aggregates and fairness of quota numbers in general. Someone supporting multiple reps, or a regional target, might be at a disadvantage when it comes to qualifying to club. Some organizations have a separate qualification pool for different types of targets.

To begin with, PreSales need fair targets. For SEs supporting multiple reps an under assign is usually necessary, in that their target is not the simple sum of the rep targets, but reflects a risk assessed proportional number. This is like how sales managers get recognized for territory targets.

Josh Dials of Conga says they have a "nomination process for an additional spot and have discussed tying other accomplishments to club such as being voted "SE of the year" by peers, or winning an innovation award, etc"

In the PSLC roundtable discussion, the main ways for PreSales to qualify were on a “fixed percentage of people set at the beginning of the year, or decided at the end of the year based on results”. However, other leaders set up points systems.

Some organizations are not so lucky. One leader mentioned that no PreSales individual from their region had qualified in several years. In these organizations, it becomes a disincentive and can be a cause of attrition for top performers – the very people you don’t want to lose.

Should you be lucky enough to qualify for club, what should you do while on it?

Enjoy yourself! This is an earned reward, and you should make sure you get the most out of it. Your work should be there for you when you return as well, and generally, your colleagues will help pick up any extra workload.

Remember you work with these people - reputations are important. Keep your behavior in front of them to be something that you won't be ashamed of or limit your career options.

Use the opportunity to network, build your connections around the organization, and learn what works in other territories. Finally, you could lift your targets to be a serial achiever. Regular club-goers have a personal plan each year on how they will achieve it and are proactive in ensuring they are well set to qualify. Partner with your reps and discuss how you can support them best. Talk with your manager and ask for their buy-in and support to help you qualify and give you a fair shot.

How can PreSales leaders help get their team members to club?

PreSales leaders need to ensure the process provides eligibility and a way to get a fair share of places for your team. Consider how you set goals for individuals and teams if these might impact their ability to qualify. Setting overlapping goals or territories may make it harder for some individuals to qualify than others.

Establish what the rules for qualification are, and how tiebreakers might be used if there are not enough spaces for everyone who hits the criteria and be transparent and clear about qualification. Using predefined measures "eliminates claims of favoritism" according to Chris Brown - Dynamic Signal, as opposed to having the head of sales or PreSales subjectively choose the team members to go.

Without the fair representation of PreSales at club, PreSales and sales are segregated and have an "us vs them" mentality which is toxic to the culture of the company. In many companies, this extends out to other roles as well. If the top 20% of sales reps go, then the top 20% of PreSales should go as well. This requires funding and needs to be part of the plan, and not something you react to at the last minute. The leaders of the PreSales organization are responsible to help ensure that this is an incentive for their team, rather than a disincentive. It is worth understanding how many club spots you can offer, and getting a firm commitment on this, and then making the process of qualification transparent so that individuals see it as a clear opportunity.

Having a team with a solid history of qualifying for club and other recognition helps you get the interest of new candidates and star recruits to join your team. This should help you build a strong team of high performers.

So, do you want to be on the next club trip? Have you got a plan on how you or your team can qualify? It’s worth getting started early, and then have a fun time!

Greg Holmes is the Regional Vice President of Presales at Apptio responsible for EMEA with over 20 years’ experience as an individual contributor and manager in presales. He has worked deeply in the IT Financial management space, with focus on Software, Cloud and Datacenter infrastructure. He’s also run a blog on presales since 2007 called The Sales Engineer Guy and has helped establish the PSLC as a founding council member. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn!

His club trips have taken him to fun places including Vietnam, Switzerland (snowboarding), and Mexico!

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The Leadership collective is a group designed for PreSales leaders in a management capacity (Manager+ title) who are looking to network, grow professionally, and actively participate.

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