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Making SPIFFS More Effective Globally

Reducing complexity and speeding payouts are keys to greater SPIFF use and impact. Enable regional program adoption with fast, flexible payout options.

When it comes to SPIFFs, operating efficiently and effectively can be a challenge for global program managers trying to support regional teams with cultural, regulatory and channel relationship differences. And, given that the ROI impact is highly dependent on partner adoption and partner sales rep engagement, how these channel incentive programs are designed is critically important to their success, user experience and satisfaction.

Let’s begin with two simple premises that should inform any SPIFF program designer:

  • Partners and their reps abhor complexity.
  • Rewards paid promptly make participants happier.


Keeping things simple may not be easy but it’s a key to partner adoption and partner rep engagement. Making accommodation to cultural norms and regulatory compliance, of course, is mandatory, yet it seems sometimes as though incentive program rule designers are operating under a maxim – why make things simple when it’s so easy to complicate them. A global template may not be operable in every region or country without modification but it shouldn’t be the excuse not to aspire to as much consistency as markets allow. And global program platforms are now widely available.
Unfortunately, when programs are designed in haste it can lead to unwanted complexities in an effort to address common objections. This extends beyond global and regional considerations to many other aspects of program architecture. What may have been intended as a workaround for a small number of participants becomes a burden that everyone must endure. The goal should be to automate as much as possible as it not only reduces costs but it also provides a measure of design discipline that discourages multiple exceptions and workarounds. Every aspect of program design from how incentive rewards are earned and claimed to how they are paid out should be subject to as much automation as possible. Simply put, program rules that are overly complex will reduce participation and program processes that require manual efforts for participants will further erode engagement.


From the partner’s perspective, the best claims process is one that requires no additional claims reporting at all. For program managers and developers, that may be a bit of show-stopper especially when the need for proof of performance is mandatory for compliance and finance. But think about it; in a market where ease of doing business can be the competitive differentiator and partner adoption is a critical success factor for any channel program, why ask anyone to submit data you likely already have? And, assuming that you and your field or sales operations teams already have a full plate, why add any additional requirements for verifying partner submitted data?
Challenge your program designers to work through each requirement to identify where required information is already being captured and stored in your PRM/portal, CRM, ERP, LMS or other internal system. If the program requires completing a new customer sale is that information captured in your Salesforce CRM? If the deal needed to be registered and approved is that in Salesforce and is the individual sales rep or SE identified? If there are training/certification completion rewards or qualifiers are they at the partner or individual level and where is that status captured?

Optimally, all the data would be extracted from your PRM/CRM tools and fed to a rewards platform to fully automate the issuance of rewards without your partner needing to bear additional reporting burden. That may not be viable for many firms given the disconnected nature of many channel automation tools but it should be your goal.


Once you’ve simplified the claims process for your partners and their employees as much as possible, you’re ready to turn your attention to making it faster and easier for them to receive rewards.To automate rewards, start by taking advantage of the digital wallet capabilities.

Many spiffs are paid quarterly. It should be no surprise then to find that the most frequent complaint made by partners and sales reps is that it takes too long to receive their rewards. Why then must incentive payments be so infrequent?

Anyone studying behavior will tell you that the closer the reward is to the actual behavior, the stronger the link and reinforcement value. Paying spiffs to partner firms and their sales teams, can be quite complex, especially when the program operates globally. With a global payments platform embedded in your channel automation tool, it doesn’t have to be.

By automating internal processes and data sources to confirm proof of performance, you can streamline the process for the partner and reduce, if not eliminate, additional time to validate and authorize reward payments. And, in doing so, create the potential for reward payments to be processed far more rapidly with any frequency that makes sense: monthly, weekly, daily, even instantly.

The platform can provide payments instantly to participant’s digital wallet in their local currency directly on the platform while providing them with their choice of payment method including:

  • Transfer to business or personal bank account
  • Digital prepaid via Virtual Visa
  • Rapid bank transfer (US/CAN only)
  • Plastic prepaid card
  • Digital gift cards (varies by country)
  • Paper check

The alternative methods enable a globally consistent approach that is flexible enough to accommodate the regional differences required to meet the marketplace realities.


Two key areas where flexibility is paramount for global program execution: SPIFF Payees and Reward Options including payee Choice.

SPIFF Payees – Individual or Company?
Incentives work best when the reward recipient is the one most directly involved with the desired behavior, such as making a sale. In the indirect channel, this means engaging the channel partners’ sales rep or pre-sale technical support roles directly. In North American markets it generally works well to reward individuals directly – with partner organization permission. To ensure success, it is critical that program offers are aligned with business strategy and that participation is easy.

In the EU and other countries where issuing rewards directly to partners’ employees can be problematic for regulatory or cultural reasons, consider aggregating the rewards at the company level while continuing to track individual performance via the claims process. Then, by providing the company with a rewards account that can both receive and payout rewards, the partner company is enabled to pay their employees directly using the rewards platform and program infrastructure to make it completely turnkey.

Reward Options – Cash or Non-cash?

Because we know that choice and transparent value are consistently reported as important reward attributes to recipients, it makes sense to give the choice to the spiff earners to determine their preference.

Plastic prepaid cards, despite their widespread usage and transparent value, are a largely outdated rewards payment form and they do not scale globally. Why incur the fulfillment costs of card personalization, production and shipping, or the security headaches of lost/stolen cards?

Digital wallets and tools such as XTRM AnyPay™ provide much better speed and security while also providing transparency and choice that reward recipients want. Payments are made directly to the recipient’s digital wallet so they receive payments instantly and they can then choose the form of payment from a predetermined set of options including prepaid debit, digital gift cards or ACH/EFT transfer directly to their personal or business bank account.

Legacy payment forms such as plastic prepaid cards or paper checks can be offered as options where the recipient makes the choice to bypass other forms of more immediate payment.

In some cases, however, the funding source (e.g., OpEx) or the local market may not permit or desire cash payments. Non-cash reward alternatives include closed-loop prepaid cards with limited redemption options or digital gift cards. The global payments platform can accommodate both cash and non-cash options.


Simplifying the claims process may not be achievable with one simple change, an incremental approach may be necessary while recognizing that every delay in claims processing erodes partner satisfaction to some extent. However, when it comes to paying out approved claims program designers have a more control and can accelerate the payments dramatically by embedding the release of payments into the claims processing to execute immediate payment or, at a minimum, batching approved claims for release more frequently. Using a global payments platform enable program managers to place funds instantly into partner or partner reps’ digital wallets in their local currency to further reduce time to payment receipt.

To learn more about how the XTRM Global Rewards Payment Platform can help improve your channel incentive payment operational efficiency and effectiveness visit the XTRM website
or contact us for a demo today. We’d love to help.

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