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What Is a Sales SPIFF? The Game-Changing Motivator for Sales Teams

The sales world has lots of slang terms, and one of them is SPIFF, a backronym. It’s sometimes spelled as spiff, all lowercase. Another nickname for a spiff is a spiv.

You don’t want to be left scratching your head at your next sales meeting if someone brings up a SPIFF, right? Of course not! If so, make sure you read this little guide.

In it, we’ll answer the question: What is a sales Spiff? We’ll also explain where sales SPIFFs come from, how they’re different from commissions, and how to start your own SPIFF program, complete with reward ideas and dos and don’ts.

Keep reading!

What Is a Sales SPIFF, Anyway?

Okay, so let’s clear the air and explain what a SPIFF is. It’s an acronym for Sales Performance Incentive Fund. Well, technically, it’s a backronym, a type of acronym created to spell out a catchy word. In this case, it’s SPIFF.

If the backronym doesn’t clear it up, a SPIFF is a bonus made on a sale. For example, if your sales team sold 1,000 products in the last sales quarter, they’d receive a reward for it.

That reward is usually financial (like cash), but it can be anything from a vacation to a prize.

Chris Pine Money GIF

SPIFFs put sales teams to work, and they’re motivated to complete the work because they know there’s something great in it for them if they do.

Read also: Sales Quota 101: What It Is and Why It Matters to Your Business

Where Do Sales SPIFFs Come From?

Where did the sales SPIFF as we know it come from? The first known use of the term spiff dates to 1859, when the term appeared in a slang dictionary.

At the time, a spiff had a very different meaning. It referred to “the percentage allowed by drapers to their young men when they effect sale of old fashioned or undesirable stock.”

By 1890, the term evolved yet again, and its definition changed in kind. By then, a spiff referred to marking up the cost of a clothing item that wasn’t the most recent fashion to make it seem more desirable to the consumer.

A definition of spiff that appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary used it to describe a smart-dressed, dandy person. The word spiffy, which some people still use today, could have evolved from that.

Spiff has also been used as a shorter-handed version of the word specific.

It wasn’t until the late 1940s that the term spiff as we know and use it today was introduced. At the time, employees in the electronic goods field who sold a lot of products received prizes known as spiffs.

The acronym evolved from there. Although technically, it should have one F and not two, the reason SPIFF has two Fs in the acronym is likely to hold it truer to the original spelling of spiff.

That’s why it’s a backronym, folks!

Read also: The Sales CHAMP Framework and How It Can Help Your Business

How Is a Sales SPIFF Different Than a SPIV? What About SPIFF vs Commission?

sales deal
Source: Pexels

Now that you understand the basics of sales SPIFFs, let’s expand on the definition with some comparisons.


How is a spiff different than a spiv? Simple – it isn’t!

The two terms both refer to an incentivizing bonus given to salespeople who close more deals than the other reps on their team.

Spiff is obviously the more popular of the two terms, as it became acronymized, while SPIV did not.

SPIFF vs Commission

Now, there is indeed a difference between a spiff and a commission.

When salespeople receive a commission, they get a cut of the sale as a percentage of around 20 or 30 percent. This isn’t a single-time payment but a consistent one they can count on.

A spiff is a single-time payment made if a sales rep achieves a financial goal for the company. While a sales rep certainly has the opportunity to earn more rewards if they keep selling well, spiffs aren’t ongoing in the same way as a commission.

So which is better, a spiff or a commission?

Spiffs are still more advantageous than commissions to many salespeople for a few reasons.

Primarily, it’s because they receive an immediate reward for the hard work they’ve put in.

If you sweat outside all afternoon doing yard work, you don’t want that cold glass of lemonade days or weeks from now. You want it right now. It’s sweeter because you just earned it.

Further, it’s often easier for a company to issue a spiff than to pay out a commission. The company doesn’t have to track sales on nearly as long-term of a basis.

Read also: Sales Blitz Definition, Example, and Strategy

What Are the Benefits of Sales SPIFFs?

sales enablement ownership
Source: Unsplash

Sales SPIFFs–and in that regard, SPIFF programs–can be highly advantageous for businesses eager to maximize their sales. Let’s review some perks of incorporating a SPIFF program into your business structure.

Help Your Company Achieve More Sales Goals

Has your company only sluggishly achieved sales goals before, and you now wish to pick up the pace? Introduce a SPIFF program!

With the kind of dangling carrot that a SPIFF reward provides, your sales reps will begin smashing sales goals left and right like never before.

In turn, this allows your company to meet its sales quotas for the week, month, quarter, or year. As your income levels grow, you can expand your company, introducing new products and services to keep you on the cutting edge.

Keep Your Sales Team Motivated

When a sales team underperforms, sales managers might assume it’s because the reps don’t want to work or don’t know how to sell. While those can certainly be contributing factors, sometimes, a salesperson just doesn’t feel motivated.

Sales is a face-paced, cutthroat job. A promising rep can have their fire burn out from all the hard work and monotony.

They need a figurative kick in the pants, and a sales SPIFF can be exactly that. Knowing they’ll receive some sort of reward for their hard work will surely make them eager to work hard again and again.

After all, the sales SPIFF model allows employees to receive rewards whenever they do their best work. This can result in long-term motivation or at least bursts of renewed motivation when employees need it most.

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Increase Morale

Morale is a huge factor in retaining employees and reducing the rate of turnover. All companies should want to hold onto their sales employees for as long as they can.

It’s not only that keeping the same reps produces consistent results month after month. You can save time and money you’d have to spend interviewing, hiring, and onboarding employees.

The reps who receive rewards through your company’s SPIFF program will want to stay with the company to continue receiving rewards. The employees who haven’t yet gotten rewards will hear about the reps that do and feel motivated to work even harder.

Better Productivity

When sales employees do their best work consistently, they do more than benefit a company’s bottom line. They also improve the productivity of the business as a whole.

As we mentioned, more sales allow companies to introduce new products and services. The same superstar sales team members will sell those products or services, guiding leads through the funnel, encouraging conversions, and further increasing sales.

Maintain Customer Satisfaction

The last benefit of a sales SPIFF is better customer satisfaction.

A salesperson who wants that reward is going to work harder to sell to a customer. They won’t be too pushy, of course, but since they’re motivated, they won’t quit as soon as the going gets tough.

The increase in revenue will allow you to hire more customer service agents and expand your product roster, which also enhances customer satisfaction.

Read also: 12 Powerful Sales Growth Strategies for 2023 (+ Calculations)

How Do You Start a SPIFF Program? ( + Dos and Don’ts)


Have you decided to start a SPIFF program to increase sales performance and retain employees? Here are the steps to follow, including dos and don’ts, so you can roll out this change efficiently.

Step 1 – Determine You Goal(s)

Companies must give clear instructions if they expect their employees to do their best work. Internally, decide among key stakeholders what sales goals you wish to achieve with the SPIFF program.

SPIFF is usually about shorter-term goals with quick rewards to follow. If you’re interested in carrying out a longer-term goal, break it into smaller goals and reward sales employees at the completion of each goal.

This will keep your sales reps motivated to carry out the goal to completion.

Step 2 – Figure Out How Sales Employees Can Achieve the Goal(s)

With your goals decided upon, you next have to internally dictate what steps and processes your employees can follow to meet the sales goal.

After all, if the goal is impossible to complete in the allotted time, you’re setting up your sales team for failure. This will reduce morale and trust and could bolster employee turnover.

Create clear-cut steps illustrating how sales reps can complete the sales goal. Confirm that the goal is doable within the allotted timeframe. If it isn’t, break the goal down into smaller pieces for now.

Step 3 – Decide on the Reward

Now comes one of the most important parts of the SPIFF program, choosing a reward for the sales employees who complete the goal.

The reward must be worthwhile enough to whet the appetite of even your longest-term sales reps but not so extravagant that it costs your company a lot of money.

You might issue smaller rewards for basic sales goals and save the bigger rewards for the larger projects and sales goals.

If you’re having a hard time determining the appropriate reward, we’ll recommend some in a later section, so check that out!

Step 4 – Choose the Sales Reps Who Can Participate

This step is optional if your entire sales team is eligible for the SPIFF program. Some companies might decide to limit participation based on specific criteria.

For example, if new sales reps have been with your company for less than a year, you might disqualify them from the SPIFF program.

Try not to be too exclusionary, though. You’ll have fewer sales employees to achieve the sales goal, which always stretches everyone thin. It can also be harder to complete the goal if you’re practically short-staffed.

Additionally, you can create dissension among your employees. That could introduce bad feelings and possibly even contribute to turnover.

Step 5 – Set the Budget

How much will your company spend on the SPIFF program? To determine that, you must calculate how many sales employees will participate and the cost of the reward(s).

You should also look at past sales history for similar projects to determine how much your reps could earn on a similar project.

A budget with a bit of leeway is better than one that’s airtight, as you can expand the rewards if you wish.

Step 6 – Launch the SPIFF Program

At this point, your company is ready to deploy the SPIFF program among your sales employees. It’s officially go time!

Step 7 – Monitor Results

When the SPIFF program ends and the rewards are doled out, it’s time to deem how worthwhile the venture was.

Did your sales employees earn the projected amount, or was it even more? If you’re pleased with the sales figures, before launching another SPIFF program, ask for employee feedback.

Did they enjoy working on the SPIFF program, or did they find it too stressful? Was the reward commensurate with the amount of work they put in?

If your employees liked the experience and the SPIFF program financially succeeded, you might follow the steps above from the beginning and launch another SPIFF program.

Read also: The Challenger Sales Model: A 5-Min Guide to Close More Deals

5 SPIFF Program Reward Ideas

happy sales persons making a deal

Are you drawing a blank for how to reward your employees as part of the SPIFF sales program? As promised, here are a handful of great ideas to get you started.

Memberships or Subscriptions

You can offer a membership or subscription to your top-performing sales employees for the gift that keeps on giving. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive subscription or membership service, but it shouldn’t be so cheap that it’s unappealing, either!

Offsite Rewards

An offsite reward refers to any kind of prize outside the workplace, like a trip to a spa, a restaurant, or something in that vein.

It’s always good to get out of the office, and enjoying offsite activities for free ought to motivate a sales rep to focus more on their work/life balance.

Entertainment and Travel

Almost everyone loves traveling and entertainment, but they can be so expensive that your salespeople might not engage in these activities even though they really want to. Why not ply your top salespeople with tickets to movies, concerts, or sports games?

For the travel lover, hotel discounts or vouchers make a fantastic incentive to work hard.

Gift Cards

To simplify matters, you can always hand out gift cards at the end of a SPIFF program. This allows you to spread the wealth, so to speak.

What do we mean by that? Your top salespeople would receive the gift card with the highest value, while other contributing employees would receive smaller gift cards.


At the end of the day, every employee appreciates cold, hard cash. You can dole out cash the same way as gift cards, rewarding the hardest-working salespeople with the largest sums and others who pulled their weight with smaller sums.

Read also: 15 Great Sales Page Examples (And Why They Convert)


A sales SPIFF is a backronym that means Sales Performance Incentive Fund. Since the term spiff was originally created, it went through several definitions before becoming the informal sales slang term we know and love it as today.

A SPIFF program can be a great way for your company to supercharge sales as you reward your top-selling salespeople. The program can also boost morale, increase productivity, enhance customer satisfaction, reduce turnover, and, of course, pad your company’s bottom line.

Make sure you’re offering your sales reps worthwhile rewards, whether cash, gift cards, travel vouchers, entertainment tickets, subscriptions and memberships, or offsite services.

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