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How to use SPIFs effectively in sales

4 min readJuly 16, 2019

No matter how consistently you coach your reps or how well they’ve performed in the past, there are always times when sales teams struggle to hit their goals. This can be especially true at the end of a challenging quarter or year.

Your reps may be giving it their all, but seem to be running out of steam, and are struggling to make their numbers. That’s when it’s time to inspire them meet their goals. One of the easiest ways to do this is to offer special incentives. Doing so inspires them to push further and generate the extra leads, demos, or deals to meet or exceed targets. These incentives are SPIFs, short for sales performance incentive fund.

The challenge is to make sure your SPIF creates the desired results and ends up being worth the associated time and expense so you see ROI on your investment. How do you do that? Follow these rules when setting up your SPIF to increase the success of your promotion.

Define your goals

When planning a SPIF program, start with a clear goal. Are you looking to promote a new product or feature, build a stronger pipeline or close more business? If you do not clearly and specifically define your desired outcome, your program will not be successful because there will be no visibility into success.

Determine behavior to be modified

Once you know your goals, it’s time to identify the behaviors that begin, change, or increase, so the program generates the desired results. Do you need reps to do more discovery calls, schedule more demos, or sell more of a specific product to achieve your specified outcomes?

Select rewards

This is where you need to know your audience. Most sales reps are interested in cash rewards, but yours may be motivated by prizes, gift cards, recognition, or other experiences. For cash rewards, you can simply add the funds to their paycheck, pay them in a separate check or give them a reloadable debit card – some of these are even branded with your company logo. If you aren’t sure, perhaps you should consider polling them to reveal what would motivate them the most. Without the right rewards, you won’t receive the desired results.

Designate program length

The duration of your SPIF program is important. You want it to be long enough for your audience to know that it exists, understand the rules, and influence their behavior in the correct way. If it’s too short, a month or less, you risk having little impact. If your SPIF program is too long, greater than three months, reps will grow to expect rewards for the specific behavior in the long-term, or become unmotivated again. Plus, you won’t want to have a habit of always offering these sorts of promotions too often or at the same time of year. This reduces their effectiveness. So, create a special event where reps have the chance to be rewarded for increased success.

Allocate funds

Setting a budget for your incentive program is an important aspect of the planning process. Promotions like these are typically funded by a portion of the annual commission incentive budget. So, when preparing your annual budget, you should consider what percentage of incentives to set aside for SPIFs throughout the year.

Create guidelines

It’s critically important to the success of your SPIF program that you create clear and concise guidelines. State who is eligible, who will participate, when, what the award is, and exactly how it will be earned. Plus, it is extremely important to clearly state the start and end dates. Creating these specific guidelines will allow reps to understand exactly what they need to do, and prevent confusion and frustration for all involved.

Measure success

Finally, you need to determine how to measure the success of the program. You can do this from two perspectives – performance and ROI. Identify which key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess performance and measure ROI of the program. Then, be sure to run reports routinely throughout the duration of the promotion to monitor its impact. Don’t forget to also review how smoothly all aspects of the program were implemented such as claim submissions, processing and time to payout. This will help improve the effectiveness of SPIFs in the future.

SPIFs can have a positive impact on sales performance and results on the short-term. Follow these steps to increase the odds of success. Doing so will result in a win-win by generating the desired behaviors while motivating and rewarding those who actively participate.