What is a SPIFF?

A SPIFF is a short-term sales incentive strategy for a company where sales reps are awarded a small, discrete bonus for closing a sale or booking a demo. SPIFFs, unlike traditional sales incentives, typically have cash value. Today the most common form of delivery for a SPIFF is through reloadable debit cards. However, SPIFFs can also take the form of gift cards, select merchandise, or an incentive travel trip.

In this article, we’ll cover

A SPIFF (sales performance incentive fund, also written as SPIF or SPIV) is a great way to motivate your sales reps and help close more sales. SPIFFs typically have cash value, which makes them more attractive than traditional sales incentives. A SPIFF can come various different forms. They can be delivered a SPIFF is through reloadable debit cards, but they can also take the form of gift cards, select merchandise, or an incentive travel trip. If you want to increase sales and motivation among your reps, consider implementing a SPIFF program.

You can implement a SPIFF program in your company for a defined timeframe or on continuous basis.

Software developers and tech companies use SPIFFs to award sales reps and channel partners.

SPIFFs help manufacturers and distributors:

  • Increase sales for high margin products
  • Accelerate adoption of new products
  • Build brand preference with channel partners
  • Give a boost to sales for a specific time period (to meet quarterly sales goals, for instance)
  • Push specific behavior like cold-calling during a specific time period

What Does SPIFF Stand For?

SPIFF is an acronym that can be defined as:

  • Sales Person Incentive Forms
  • Sales Performance Incentive Funding Formula.
  • Sales Performance Incentive Fund.
  • Special Performance Incentive Fund.
  • Specific Price Incentive For Final Sales.
  • Special Pay Incentive For Fast Sales.

The History of SPIFFs

The word SPIFF originally appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary of 1859, which defined SPIFF as: “the percentage allowed by drapers to their young men when they effect sale of old fashioned or undesirable stock.” In 1890, the word resurfaced in the Pall Mall Gazette, in an article describing how London shop girls were rewarded for selling certain articles.

By the early 20th century, SPIFFs were common practice in wholesale and retail. It is believed that the acronym was most likely created sometime after 1930 to explain the origin of the word.

How Have SPIFFs Changed Over the Years?

So how have SPIFF incentives changed since their origin in the 1800s? In structure, not much has changed. However, in execution, today’s SPIFF programs in a company are very different. What changed? Digital transformation.

Examples of SPIFF Programs

There are two categories of SPIFFs: 

  • Cash SPIFFs 
  • Non-cash SPIFFs. 

Typically, organizations use a mixture based ontheir goals and budget.


The benefits of cash as compensation for a business are numerous. It is easy to disburse and employees have the flexibility to spend it on whatever they want. This makes it the most flexible SPIFF scheme. By setting aside a specific amount for the end of a quarter or year, you can ensure that your team remains focused on achieving goals. Additionally, this type of motivation encourages them to be innovative in their approaches.

Non-cash SPIFFs

Non-cash rewards can be extremely motivating for employees. In fact, nearly 84% of companies in the US use them as a way to encourage productivity. There are endless possibilities when it comes to non-cash SPIFF programs. Here are just a few examples:

1. Exciting Gifts

People always appreciate gifts, especially when they help them do their job better. That’s why Apple came up with the idea of giving away an Apple IIc computer plus a cash bonus to its top sales reps in the 1980s. The compact size of the IIc made it perfect for use as a notebook computer, and its capabilities helped Apple win retail sales against competitors. If you’re in a manufacturing business, you can offer your premium product to your sales reps as an incentive to meet or exceed targets. Otherwise, you can buy gifts for employees who reach certain milestones. Either way, showing appreciation is sure to boost morale and productivity in your workplace!

2. Gift Cards

Gift cards are a great way to reward employees in a company without giving them cash. You can ask employees what kind of gift cards they prefer, or partner with other businesses to get discounts on gift cards. This is a win-win situation for both management and employees.

3. Travel and Entertainment

Employees are unlikely to spend money on travel and entertainment. However, they may still wish to travel and have fun. Tickets to sporting shows, events, movies, or short vacations on weekends can be great options for SPIFF programs. These options will give them a fun-filled break from work.

4. Offsite Activities

You can take employees for golf or to the spa. Ask your employees what they would enjoy, and plan your programs accordingly. Also, keep multiple options as not everyone will like the same thing.

5. Subscriptions or Memberships

Gym memberships, book clubs, subscriptions to online shopping websites, food delivery…these are all great ways to encourage employees to do what they love besides work and complement their regular commission program.

6. Gamification Programs

Gamification programs are a great way to reward employees without breaking the budget. Leaderboards highlight top performers and give them recognition they deserve, whether it be in the form of a new title or better parking spot. Gamification also makes work competitive and fun, keeping employees engaged. CRM software can be used to identify these top performers so that they may be properly rewarded for their efforts.

7. Power and Access

You can give your best performers more responsibility to show other team members how it is done. Letting others learn from the success of the star performers will help them understand what it takes to be successful. For example, you can ask top performers to train new joiners and scale their selling strategy. You can even have the more successful salespeople get first dibs on a new client. However, incentives like these may not motivate all employees.

SPIFF incentives can vary depending on the organization and the sales reps. It is best to have a conversation with your employees before you decide on a SPIFF program.

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