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The Guide to Getting SPIFs Right

Feb 28, 2024
4 min read

Alright, let's get real here. When it comes to SPIFs, there's a lot of jargon flying around. Some people say it stands for Sales Performance Incentive Fund (SPIF), while others claim it's just a fancy way of saying "spiffed up (SPIFF)." But let's not get caught up in semantics. The bottom line is, whether you call it a SPIF or a SPIFF, it's a surefire way to make sales more exciting and reward your Sales team.

But here's the thing; SPIFs are not a magic potion that can fix everything. They should be used strategically to complement your existing incentive plans and ignite short-term performance. Don't rely on them as a band-aid solution when your core compensation plan needs some serious TLC. We'll talk about that later.

When to Use a Sales SPIF

So, when should you whip out a SPIF and make it rain incentives? Here are some examples:

  • Accelerate your Sales Pipeline: Light a fire with reps to move deals through the sales funnel, especially when business is slow or it’s the beginning of the quarter.
  • Get Hyped for New Products or Services: Create a buzz around your latest offerings and make sure your sales reps are hyped to sell them.
  • Conquer New Frontiers: Explore untapped markets and industries, and push your reps to chase down leads in new territories.
  • Revive Low Performance: Boost sales during dry spells. Just remember, if poor performance lingers, it might be time for a deeper dive into your compensation plan.

SPIF for Increased Profits

SPIFs are like secret weapons in your arsenal. They give you the flexibility to target specific goals and motivate your team. And when used correctly, they work like magic. In fact, according to the Aberdeen Group, over 50% of the most successful companies out there have seen increased profits thanks to SPIFs.

Quick rules for building a SPIF:

Now, let's talk about how to build a killer SPIF. Here are some quick tips to get you started:

  1. Know Your Purpose: Be crystal clear about why you're launching the SPIF. Is it to boost sales of a specific product or to close more deals within a certain timeframe? Make sure it aligns with your overall sales goals and gets your team fired up and ready to crush it.
  2. Know Your Audience: Tailor your SPIFs to meet the needs of your individual reps or groups. Use data and an incentive compensation management solution to create targeted incentives that really hit the mark.
  3. Time is of the Essence: Design your SPIFs within a specific timeframe to drive that sense of urgency. Give your reps enough time to see results, but don't let them get too comfortable.
  4. Keep it Simple: Don't overcomplicate things. Clear and concise SPIFs that align with your reps' actions are the way to go. You want them to know exactly what's expected and how to earn rewards.
  5. Get Specific: While simplicity is key, you don't want to be too vague. Benchmark against past data, use predictive modeling and structure your Sales team for maximum impact.
  6. Embrace Spontaneity: Make your SPIFs exciting by introducing them sporadically. Surprise your reps with unexpected incentives (we recommend up to 8 to 12 times a year). They'll be performing at their best when they least expect it.

The Payout: Cash or Non-Cash Incentives?

Cash incentives are always reliable to get the job done and keep reps laser-focused on specific goals. Like offering fixed-amount bonuses for smashing targets within a set time frame — talk about motivation!

You can also use the SPIF as an accelerator or multiplier to the current incentive program:

  • An extra 0.5% of revenue for any deal that qualifies.
  • Double credit towards retiring quota (or hitting the next accelerator tier), allowing reps to be paid at a higher rate.
  • Extra credit towards President's Club — this can be especially useful towards the end of the year when many reps are looking to qualify.

However, don't forget about the power of non-cash rewards. They can add a little spice to the incentive recipe. Case in point: at a one-day contest we held at Xactly, we floated balloons to the ceiling, each with an envelope attached. Whenever an SDR booked a meeting, they grabbed a balloon to see what was in the envelope. The rewards ranged from restaurant gift cards to iPads. The energy was electric in the office that day.

Here are some killer ideas for non-cash incentives:

  • Gift Cards: Let your reps choose their own adventure with their favorite gift cards.
  • Food Delivery Credits: Who doesn't love free food? Offer credits for popular food delivery services like Doordash, UberEats, or Postmates.
  • Streaming Service Subscription: Netflix and chill? Give your reps temporary subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video.
  • Tech Gadgets: Appeal to your tech-savvy salesforce with trendy gadgets like tablets or smartwatches.
  • Wine Club Membership: Wine enthusiasts will raise a glass to this one.
  • Subscription Boxes: From beauty to fitness to gaming, you can let your reps choose from a variety of subscription boxes.
  • Gym Membership: Encourage a healthy work-life balance by offering gym memberships or fitness-related subscriptions.
  • Learning Opportunities: Invest in your reps' professional development by providing opportunities for classes or seminars.
  • Self-Care Services: Show your team you care about their well-being with gift cards to spas or other self-care facilities, or even subscriptions to apps like Grokker or Calm.
  • Employee's Choice: Give your reps the freedom to pick their own perks within reason. Use a platform like Snappy to offer a range of gifts.

Remember the Audit Trail

Last but not least; don't forget to keep a record of everything. Once your SPIF is done, take a good look at the results. Did it hit the mark? Did it drive the desired behavior? Learn from your successes and failures, and use that knowledge to make your next SPIF that much better.

SPIFs: A Key Player of Your Sales Strategy

SPIFs are not just a sidekick in your sales strategy. They're a key player that can help you achieve your sales targets and keep your reps motivated and engaged. Think of them as a quick reward for a job well done, but remember to keep them limited to a certain time period and dollar amount. You don't want SPIFs taking over as the main compensation plan.

Remember: SPIFs are like a spicy seasoning in your sales strategy. Use them sparingly.

  • Compensation
  • Cloud/SaaS
  • Incentive Compensation
  • Sales Performance Management
Jen McAdams, Chief Marketing Officer at Xactly
Jennifer McAdams
Chief Marketing Officer

Jennifer McAdams is an accomplished leader with the ability to work across organizations to design and deliver measurable marketing campaigns. Jennifer has a strong record of driving integrated programs to support sales growth and business objectives. She also has a proven ability to oversee all elements of marketing strategy and execution.