CultureProduct ManagementSaeedSales

Why don’t Product Managers go to Club?

It’s that time of year when companies are having their annual sales kickoffs and also announcing which members of the sales force sold enough in 2012 to qualify them to go to Sales Club.

If you don’t know what “Sales Club” is, you’re definitely not in sales :-).  Sales Club is a reward given to top producing salespeople. It is usually an all expense paid trip to a high end vacation resort in some place like Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico,  Tahiti, Bali etc. You get the picture.

While this is a great reward for salespeople, what about everyone else who also significantly helped the company achieve it’s goals?  The  top sales people didn’t achieve those numbers on their own did they?

Let me refer you to my Devil’s Dictionary definition of “Sales Club”.

Sales Club: n. A disincentive program for non-sales employees who make significant contributions but aren’t likewise rewarded with a trip to an exotic location.

Yes, I’m griping a bit here, but why not?   And don’t tell me because we’re not in Sales.

Product Managers (and Product Marketers) provide key strategic and tactical help to Sales. We are often called in by Sales, when they need some “big guns” to talk  product roadmap or strategy with the prospect to convince them to sign the deal.

We travel (often on short notice) to customer sites to support proofs of concepts or defuse tricky customer situations.

We focus on both the short term tactical activities — ensuring the funnel is primed for sales — as well as longer term strategic ones — ensuring product, positioning and messaging are aligned with market needs.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here and ask the following:

  1. Do any of you Product Managers or Product Marketers get invited to Club?
  2. If so, what is the criteria used to qualify?
  3. Who decided that PMs and PMMs should go and why? i.e. it had to be a conscious decision made by some executive at your company?

You can leave your responses in the comments.



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  1. Tobias

    Hi Saeed,

    To answer your questions.

    #1 Well, never got an invitation (as a Product Manager) but I’m always invited, to provide ideas for the next Sales Club location.

    #3 Openly speaking, I believe our Sales Managers never thought about it. I think it is related to the name branding – they just see their sales reps @ Sales Club.

    Good food for thought – will discuss this in the team. Maybe it would be worth to consider, that the PM with the most effective sales support strategy can join this club.

    1. Saeed

      Hi Tobias

      Thanks for the comment. In most companies I’ve worked in, Sales Reps (inside and outside), Sales Consultants, and in some cases leaders from other teams such as Professional Services would be the candidates for Club. Sometimes it’s called Sales Club, sometimes President’s Club etc.

      I would love to hear how things go with your proposal though I would caution on a couple of points.

      1. Behaviour follows incentive (or self interest :-)) , so if you will pick the one PM with the most effective sales support strategy, be careful that this incentive doesn’t cause the PMs to put too much focus on sales strategy at the expense of other important items.

      2. Make sure that whatever criteria is used to decide if someone goes to Club, it is unambiguous and easily measurable. e.g. for Sales people, it’s a single number…. did they meet the quota or sales target? For PMs, ideally, it should be something that simple. That way no politics or personal preferences involved.


  2. Geoffrey Anderson

    As a product manager, I have never been invited to the “club”. I actually don’t expect to be invited, and would probably be uncomfortable to be there.

    I don’t do product management for the accolades, and I fully expect that I will never get a “sales award”. I believe that Cranky Product Manager wrote about not expecting awards from sales.

    I would suspect that sales management will aggressively try to keep it an exclusive club.

    Good post, and a worthy perk, but I suspect that we are tilting at windmills on this.

    1. Saeed

      I don’t work just because I like what I do. 🙂

      While compensation drives behaviour, so does recognition.

      “Traditional” companies may view perks like Club as a Sales only reward, but if you look at many companies now, they talk about being one Team working together to achieve corporate goals. If that is the case, then align the compensation plan with that.

      I can honestly say that in every company I’ve worked in as a PM I’ve had a significant positive impact on the products I’ve worked on and the revenue that was generated.

      Now I didn’t get involved in every deal nor did I actually close sales. But I do know without my ongoing contributions things would have been a lot worse.

      And I also know that many (not all) other PMs in those companies had similar positive impacts.

      And so why not get rewarded and recognized for that, particularly if those products exceeded revenues or over achieved on their goals?

      The extra expense (say $10K per trip) is far exceeded by the benefits to those rewarded and recognized.

      1. Geoffrey Anderson

        I don’t disagree, but I think the real issue is that we need to have compensation/incentive discussions related to our performance, and not just be lumped in as an afterthought on a sales junket. Going to an exotic location to bask in the glory of sales people who are too busy patting themselves on the back is not what motivates me. If it did, I would get the lobotomy, and ethics-ectomy and join the sales team.

        I do what I do because I do love it. I have had a long love/hate relationship with product management, but when I do something different, I find that I am miserable, and always fall back into the fold.

        Product management always has a positive impact on revenue, productivity, and delivery of products (if it doesn’t, then we shouldn’t be in the organization). But we are unsung heros. It seems to go with the territory.

        Reminds me of a “fatherly” chat with a former boss. He chastised me for the amount of time I spent on what he thought was “useless tactical items”. Most of this was around the “closer” of deals. When I left, he had to pick up my role (it took them 8 months to replace me) and he almost melted down. Much later I connected with him for beer, and he suddenly had respect for the juggling I did.

        Unfortunately, even in “enlightened” organizations, this is not an uncommon belief.

        Oh, and I would far rather have the $10K in cash comp, than to have to sit through the self congratulatory drivel that seems to motivate sales people.

  3. Rohan Jayasekera

    A related issue: I’ve wondered why a salesperson would get me involved to help make a sale — but I wouldn’t get any of the commission. (Good thing I liked being involved because it gave me valuable market information.)

    1. Saeed


      In my experience, and nothing against any particular sales reps I’ve worked with, but some reps will pull any and all resources they think are needed to help close a deal.

      Most reps are judicious in this approach and certainly bring in the PM to deliver a roadmap slide or talk about product strategy and direction for a large deal makes a lot of sense. If it helps clear up any concerns from the prospect and close the deal, then it’s definitely worth it.

      And while compensation plans don’t usually reward non sales people with commissions, it would be really good to get some kind of compensation for assisting in a large or strategic deal.

      Some sales reps give personal thank you gifts when they get this kind of help.

      Most often though, unfortunately, a rep will send a broadcast “thank you for all your help” email to “the team” and cc some senior managers.

      Some enlightened managers give spot bonuses when they see these kinds of emails but it’s a crap shoot honestly at that point.


  4. Alyssa

    Interesting question, and one that’s often brought up in my organization as well, but from Engineering (the group I’m in). After all, doesn’t Engineering create the products that Sales is selling? I’ve been at my company 12 years, and there have been only 2 years they invited Engineering team members. The first time, I’d say it was about 70% Sales, 30% Engineering. Those were in the startup days when the money was more flush. The second time was about 5 years later, and only 5 team members were invited from Engineering to join all the Sales team members who made Club. I was fortunate enough to be invited both times, and I felt honored to be there, and just avoided the salespeople for the most part and hung out with my spouse and the other Engineering attendees. 🙂

    I have also seen Sales folks give very nice personal thank-you gifts to PMs and Eng managers that helped them on significant deals, but it’s been rare.

    1. Saeed

      Alyssa. Thanks for the comment. What kind of products does your company make and sell.

      I’ve not heard of Engineering team members attending Club though it is a nice perk. I worked for a company where after a VERY large and arduous product release, all the “Product Teams” were rewarded with a 3 day trip to a resort. It was a VERY nice thank you and was appreciated by all. Having said that, it only happened once.

      I think the heart of this discussion really drives down to the compensation plans we all have. Should Sales people be the exclusive recipients of perks like Club? Their success is not through their effort alone.

  5. Jeff Garlich

    I’m currently a product manager but had a 3 year stint in sales. Yes, there are some nice perks being in sales but in my experience, it is a very different compensation system all together. Very rarely was there very much gauranteed income in sales and your commissions are what you make. I will take the steady paycheck, being at home more than Saturday and Sunday, and no sales trip any day over living off commission.

    We can’t just look at what other people get and complain about their perks. We are all compensated based on the value we bring to the company. Yes, if an engineer doesn’t write the software and the product manager can’t gather requirements, the sales guys are going to suck. If you have great engineers and great product managers, a sales person’s job is quite a bit easier many times. However, when the economy turns down and sales fall, I still get paid the same while the sales guy takes a significant pay hit.

    Let’s stop worrying about what they have that we don’t and focus on building the best products we can so the company does better. Afterall, your recognition is promotion through the company, not having to travel 24/7, dinners at applebees, logging 85,000 miles in a car annually, and wondering where your next pay check is going to come from. If you are willing to tie your compensation 100% to sales of your product, then I would say you should be eligible to join them on the sales retreat.

    p.s – don’t think the cost of that trip isn’t already calculated into their overall compensation in one way or another.

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