President’s Clubs: The Sales Incentive Program You Should Be Planning

By HMI Performance Incentives

There are many ways to motivate someone. As a new parent, I’ve started thinking about this stuff, about the various strategies I could use to get my son to be the best he can be. Do I use a “tough love” approach—similar to my old high school football coach’s philosophy that “pain is weakness leaving the body”—or do I offer the type of constant encouragement that’s linked to the “everybody gets a trophy” crowd so reviled by these older-school types?

For anyone who’s been a parent, a coach, or the manager of a business, you know these decisions are far more nuanced than simply choosing whether to use the carrot or the stick. Typically, a combination of both is required, and often in varying degrees, with differing means depending on the situation. Heck, you even have to use different strategies to motivate different individuals, even if their situations are the same!

In other words, motivation is a complex psychological process that requires the use of myriad tools and approaches in order to be implemented effectively. In business, trying to figure out the best combination of these tools can lead to much hand-wringing as you wonder how in the world you’re going to motivate Person A to accomplish Task B. Understanding and overcoming this challenge, in fact, is why incentive programs exist.

Unsurprisingly, different incentive programs are designed to solve different challenges in your business.  Sales incentives, for example, are not just one-size-fits-all: they can be implemented to achieve any number of different goals, from motivating under-performing personnel, to capturing a greater share of market, to accelerating sales of specific products.

One particular type of sales incentive that tends to fly under the radar does so because it happens to be one of the more traditional strategies: the President’s Club program, also known as a Chairman’s Club or Diamond Club program. This type of incentive program is often designed for a company’s top salespeople and is typically built around a high-end travel award that brings these high-performing individuals to an exotic location.

But when it comes to motivation, a President’s Club program functions a bit differently than other sales incentive programs whose main goal is to improve incremental, year-over-year sales growth. That’s because a President’s Club program tends to function as more of a recognition program rather than an ordinary incentive program. It’s a status symbol achieved by people who are motivated by such things, and consequently any good President’s Club program should be built with this in mind.

Choose Your Program Wisely

What this means, however, is that a President’s Club program isn’t for everybody. If you have a bunch of underperforming salespeople that you’re looking to motivate, this type of program might not be the best approach, because either it could end up alienating your best sales performers by lowering the bar for achievement, or conversely, the rules structure could leave many in your middle 60% feeling like there’s just no way they’ll ever reach the goals you’ve set for them, so why even try?

What a President’s Club can do, on the other hand, is motivate your high achievers by recognizing them as such. These are your MVPs and earning points so they can buy a new TV probably isn’t enough to really move the needle for them. That’s why an exciting incentive travel experience is most commonly used, and should be the main focus of this type of sales incentive program.

Furthermore, keep in mind that a President’s Club isn’t really an incentive program, it’s a recognition program. It’s not really designed to help your salespeople do something they’d otherwise be unmotivated to do (i.e. sell more effectively); rather, this type of program is built to recognize and reward them for who they already are, and what they’re already able to do.

In this way it’s also a great retention tool, as it will keep these top people engaged and present in your company throughout the sales cycle in order to achieve the reward (namely, the trip) at the end. And hopefully, if your President’s Club program is successful, you can run it again the following year to continue retaining these top people who tend to bring in the majority of business for you.


These three Rs—reward, recognize, and retain—are what a President’s Club program is all about. If you’re able to structure it effectively and target the right people, this type of program can motivate your top performers to maintain and/or elevate their great performances consistently throughout the sales cycle. Whether or not it will work with my son is still to be determined.

Looking to get the most out of your best salespeople? Contact the Incentive Marketing Association

Keywords: motivation, sales incentives, incentive programs, president’s club program, chairman’s club, diamond club, recognition programs, employee recognition