Spiffs are short-term incentives targeted at individual sales reps to accelerate sales of a particular set of products within a specific span of time. Also known as channel incentive programs and sales incentive programs, spiffs produce performance improvement, measurable results, and engaged participants.


Spiffs are short-term incentives targeted at individual sales reps to accelerate sales of a particular set of products within a specific span of time. Also known as channel incentive programs and sales incentive programs, spiffs produce performance improvement, measurable results, and engaged participants.


These days, spiff programs are a fundamental element of sales management and can serve many useful purposes. Incentive programs can provide general motivation of the sales force, or they can improve performance in targeted areas.

Improve Performance
If selected, implemented and monitored correctly, incentive programs increase performance by an average of 22 percent.

Engage Participants
When asked to persist toward a goal, people increase their performance by 27 percent when motivated by incentive programs.

A program’s success and return on investment depend on how well it’s implemented. We’ve got the roadmap to get you started.


Define Your Spiff Goals

The first step, the most important step, is defining your goals. The #1 mistake made by frantic companies is racing to implementation without clear, concise, written goals.

What should you consider when defining goals?

What factors are critical to the success of your business?


Market share

New customers

Pipeline generation

Employee enablement, training, education

Engagement of employees, customers, partners

Customer Service

Keep in Mind
The two most important perspectives to keep in mind as you develop and evaluate any spiff program are:

Will the executive sponsor of the incentive feel the program’s investment generated a satisfactory return?

If you were a participant in the program, would you put forth the extra effort required to take advantage of the earning opportunity?

Your Target Audience

Now, determine who can impact your goals and how. Start by making a list of who is in your target audience.


  • Employees or customers
  • Sales reps, channel partners, third-party agents
  • Age — average and range
  • Male / female
  • Average income
  • Functional role, job titles, and levels
  • Number of participants
  • Number of locations, stores or companies
  • Countries, regions, divisions


  • Level of buy-in or engagement presently
  • Current level of motivation
  • Capability to improve, learn or sell
  • Extrinsically or intrinsically motivated
  • Attitudes, interests, opinions

Engaged Participants

70% of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged”.

Move the Middle

This advice is counterintuitive — motivating middle performers fuels more sales growth than focusing on top performers. In the 20-60-20 breakdown, top performers are fewer in number. So, the company’s average performing sales reps, the “middle performers,” are actually your greatest opportunity.

Spiff Incentive Structure

An effective program structure, or incentive contest rules, must be designed to achieve your objectives and budget parameters. Tell the participants what you want them to do and what they will earn for doing it.


Open-ended Programs
Enable all people who achieve program goals to earn awards.


Closed-ended Programs
Have a pre-determined, limited number of award earners.


Plateau Programs
Provide awards at different levels of program achievement.

Contest Duration

Research consistently suggests that spiff programs that are too short in duration often fail to achieve buy-in because it takes people too long to learn about them before they’re expected to act. Alternatively, longer-term programs can suffer from “program burnout” because employees simply lose interest. It usually makes sense to align the program with a buying cycle or the business’s financial reporting period.

Spiff Award Recommendations

A common trap is for the award provider to select awards they prefer rather than awards the recipient would like.

Participants can select their award of choice for lasting trophy value

Prepaid Cards
Branding offers personalization; great for channel spiffs

Gift Cards
Best for short-term spiffs and employee reward programs

Sharable rewards create memorable experiences

Determine the most motivational awards by asking

• What will catch their eye?
• What have they done or earned before?
• What is the hot destination or cool gadget?
• Do they have children?
• Are they sports enthusiasts?


Cash or Non-Cash?

Everyone asks: “What is better: cash or non-cash awards?” The mob of sales reps clamor, “Give me cash, not prizes.” Before launching a spiff program, Human Resources wisdom advises that basic, monetary needs must be met first by existing compensation structures. Conclusion: Cash is king for base compensation and non-cash spiffs add extra motivation.


Technology Platform

Spiff Software or Spiff Tracking Software

Behind the scenes of your spiff program lies the backbone of its long-term success. More than just a pretty web design, the technology infrastructure and databases supporting your spiff are vitally important to its smooth performance, engaging UX (user experience) and ease of maintenance.

Good spiff software will include:

Key webpages:

  • Home
  • Program Rules
  • Enrollment
  • Current Promotions
  • Claim Form
  • My Account
  • Award Catalog
  • T&Cs
  • FAQs
  • Contact Us

Website deliverables:

  • Website development
  • Customization options
  • Content management systems
  • Online forms
  • Redemption or shopping cart functionality
  • Secure data center hosting and monitoring
  • Real-time reporting

Ignite Your Program

Ignite™ is Brightspot’s flexible SaaS platform that enables quick launch and provides robust technical options for your online incentive program website.



Far too often, the incentive promotion strategy is an afterthought late in the spiff launch. Like any successful marketing effort, an effective spiff program needs a comprehensive campaign strategy.


Hints at events to come and piques interest


Delivers exciting announcement right to participant’s inbox


Don’t rely solely on email


In-person demonstrates a commitment to the spiff’s success


Catch attention with a well-designed mailer


Themed super billboards embellish large spaces


Frequent communication keeps program top-of-mind


Tangibles generate excitement – consider at kickoff and mid-way points

The Strategy

The #1 mistake is tiny communication or promotional budgets. The incentive becomes the best-kept secret.

Spiff Budget Recommendations

Properly designed, a spiff program will be self-funding with incremental gross margin on the increased sales volume. It pays for itself!

Key Budget Drivers

  • Number of participants
  • Percentage of participants achieving incentive levels
  • Duration of program
  • Average award amounts
  • Forecasted results

Incentive Budget Tips:

  • 1 – 2% of sales revenue (make this first in list, then the gross profit tips)
  • 2-3% of annual sales rep pay

Rule of Thumb:

Our incentive budget rule of thumb is 10% of total budget for each support component. For large programs or simple programs, the percentages could be lower. For programs that are small, short-term or complex, the percentage could be higher.


Ready to build your very own spiff program?

Let this Planning & Design Worksheet be your guide.