The Evolution of SPIFFs Maximising Results with AI

Brad McEvoy
Co-founder and CTO of Kademi

24/5/2024 Incentives Marketing How-to Channel management

In the competitive world of sales, a well-designed incentive program can be the difference between stellar results and struggling to make quota. Enter the SPIFF—short for Sales Performance Incentive Funding/Financing/Fee—an attractive cash bonus that motivates frontline salespeople to drive sales of specific products. 

If you’re looking to add an extra spark to the typical commission structure, incentivise salespeople to achieve ambitious targets, or move certain products quickly, SPIFFs are a great way to do it. 


The term SPIFF can be traced back at least as far as 1859 and was a term used by drapers to encourage their staff to move old-fashioned or otherwise undesirable stock.

An 1890 article from the Pall Mall Gazette about the practices in London shops—The Ladies Corner: Round the Clock with a London Draper—refers to SPIFFs as premiums placed on certain articles “not of the last fashion”, sometimes indicated as such by “a marvellous hieroglyphic put on the price ticket.”

“These marks are well known by the assistant, and the almost invisible mystic sign explains why an article, wholly unsuitable, is foisted on the jaded customer as ‘just the thing’.”

Another reference, this time from the 1936 Rex Stout detective fiction, The Red Box, uses the term this way: “He stopped, smiling from Wolfe to me and back again like a haberdasher's clerk trying to sell an old number with a big SPIFF on it.”

As you might detect from the above passages, the use of SPIFFs has sometimes been associated with more aggressive or misleading sales tactics, or instances when the customer’s best interests take a back seat to a salesperson’s own financial motivations. 

Aligning interests: How SPIFFs benefit you, your partners, and the customer

But it needn’t be that way—SPIFFs are really about aligning interests: manufacturers want to move particular products, salespeople want to maximise their earnings by accessing financial incentives, and customers want great service.

SPIFFS are a way to bring those three things together.

When structured properly, SPIFFs reward the most skilled and hard-working sellers for their efforts. From the car dealership offering a trip to Rarotonga in return for a salesperson moving ageing stock, to the software vendor offering cash payments for the sale of high-margin products, SPIFFS are powerful tools for driving productivity and revenue growth across industries.

Customers may not always be aware of the precise SPIFFs at play, but they reap the benefits when motivated salespeople delight them with top-notch service and tailored product solutions at a sharp price.

The challenges of traditional SPIFF programs in the digital age

While SPIFFs have been a staple in the sales world for centuries, as channel partnerships have become increasingly complex in the digital age, manufacturers can face challenges in administering SPIFF programmes effectively. Lack of visibility into downstream sales data makes it difficult to validate claims and ensure incentives are disbursed accurately.

Fortunately, modern sales claim software provides an elegant solution.

These systems, such as Kademi’s sales claim programs, can be rapidly configured and deployed for SPIFFs, rebates and other trade incentives, providing manufacturers with full oversight and enabling partners to easily submit sales and claim rewards.

Unleashing the power of AI for streamlined claim management

Consider this example: a manufacturer wants to incentivise retailers through SPIFFs linked to specific items.

Traditionally, when a SPIFF-eligible sale is made, retailers would have to spend considerable time filling out claim forms and reports to share proof of sales and access their rewards.

With AI-powered claim software, this process is radically expedited—retailers simply drag and drop invoice files to lodge a claim. The process takes seconds and the claim is processed automatically, allowing them to focus on higher-value activities—like selling more of your product.

Partners can easily track their incentive earnings, which encourages them to maximise effort and ultimately nurtures greater partner loyalty and engagement. 

For the manufacturer, multi-layer validation cross-checks claims against predefined policies such as customer lists, product records, past sales histories and more, curbing fraud risks while removing the need for time-consuming manual reviews. AI-assisted batch approvals, payment integration and real-time dashboards provide transparency across the claim lifecycle.

Manufacturers are able to easily pinpoint high-performing partners, products, customer segments, and regions, allowing them to focus their incentive investments strategically. This data-driven approach not only prevents overspending but also ensures that SPIFF initiatives deliver robust returns on investment.

The result? An enormously simplified claim process, full transparency for manufacturers, and faster, more accurate payouts for partners. 

Simply put, the implementation of AI-powered sales claim technology streamlines your incentive programme, increasing transparency and optimising SPIFF programs for maximum profitability—so that everybody wins.

By seamlessly aligning incentives through simplified, digital processes, you’ll be better equipped to support your partner network to meet your goals, drive sustainable revenue growth, and foster exceptional customer experiences—a winning combination in today's competitive marketplace.


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