Spiff vs. Commission: A Head to Head Comparison

Executive Summary: SPIFFs (Sales Performance Incentive Funding Formula) offer short-term, targeted incentives to drive specific behaviors and boost sales performance. At the same time, commissions reward sales representatives based on their total revenue.  

This article delves into the nuances of SPIFF and commission-based compensation structures, highlighting their distinct characteristics:

  • Time frame
  • Focus
  • Structure
  • Frequency

At the heart of every sales compensation strategy, Spiffs and Commissions are vying for the spotlight.

But what sets them apart?

And how do they fuel the fire of motivation in different ways?

Whether you're a sales manager looking to supercharge your team or a sales rep eager to understand the rewards that await you, we've got you covered!

In this article, we’ll provide a head-to-head comparison of SPIFF and commission. We’ll compare aspects like time frame, structure, frequency, etc.

Let’s get started!

SPIFF vs. Commission: A Detailed Comparison

SPIFF and commission are both forms of incentive-based compensation given to sales representatives to motivate and reward them for their performance.

However, they have some key differences. Let’s understand how they vary across structure, time frame, etc.

1. Overview

First, here’s a short overview of what SPIFF and sales commissions are all about:


SPIFFs stand out as short-term, special bonuses or rewards given to sales representatives for achieving specific, targeted goals.

Unlike regular commissions, SPIFFs are usually offered for a limited time and are designed to create a sense of urgency and excitement among sales teams.

These incentives are often tailored to focus on promoting specific products, clearing inventory, or achieving sales milestones. By providing a quick and tangible reward, SPIFFs aim to drive immediate action and boost sales reps' motivation.

Here’s an example of SPIFF:

Let’s say a retail company is launching a new product line of smartphones.

To promote these new smartphones and incentivize the sales team to focus on selling them, the company introduces a SPIFF. They offer a $50 bonus for each new smartphone unit sold during the first month of its release.

Learn more about SPIFF in this detailed guide.

B. Commission

What are commissions, and how do they fit into sales compensation plans?

Commissions are a standard component of sales compensation plans, where sales representatives earn a percentage of the revenue they generate through their sales efforts.

Commissions typically provide sales reps with an ongoing incentive directly tied to their sales performance. They serve as a motivator for consistent effort and sustained success, as sales reps have a vested interest in maximizing their sales revenue to earn higher commissions.

Commissions are prevalent across various industries, ranging from real estate and retail to technology and financial services.

Here’s an example of commission:
Let's consider a real estate agency with a commission-based compensation structure.

The sales representatives receive a 3% commission on the total value of each property they successfully sell. If they close a deal for a property worth $300,000, they will earn a $9,000 commission (3% of $300,000).

For more information, check out our article on sales commissions.

2. Time Frame

Let’s see what time frame these incentives follow:


SPIFFs are usually short-term incentives, lasting for a limited period, often a few days, weeks, or months.

For instance, a car dealership launches a weekend spiff program where sales reps receive a bonus of $200 for each vehicle sold during the weekend. The spiff program runs from Friday morning to Sunday evening, motivating the sales team to put extra effort into closing deals during this limited time.

B. Commission

Commissions are more of a long-term incentive, where sales representatives earn a portion of the revenue they generate over time, regardless of how long it takes to close the deal.

For example, an insurance company pays its sales agents a commission of 8% on the total annual premiums collected from their clients.

Since insurance policies typically have year-long durations, the commission structure aligns with the long-term nature of insurance sales, incentivizing agents to maintain and grow their client base over time.

3. Focus

Whether it’s SPIFFs or sales commissions, these incentives are designed for different reasons. Here’s what they both focus on:


SPIFFs focus on driving immediate action and achieving specific short-term goals. These goals are often related to promoting a particular product, clearing excess inventory, or meeting short-term sales targets.

Spiffs are designed to provide immediate rewards and instant gratification to sales reps for their immediate efforts.

B. Commission

On the other hand, sales commissions are long-term incentive programs that aim to motivate consistent performance and sustained achievement over an extended period.

Commissions are typically tied to the overall revenue generated by sales reps over time. They incentivize sales reps to focus on long-term customer relationships and continuous revenue generation.

4. Structure

Here’s how SPIFF and commission differ from each other in structure:


A SPIFF is typically a fixed amount or a flat bonus given to sales reps for achieving a specific, short-term goal. It is straightforward and easy to understand, making it an attractive incentive for driving immediate action.

The structure of a spiff may involve the following:

A retail store introduces a spiff program offering $50 to each sales associate for every 10 premium product units they sell within a week.

The spiff is independent of the sales price or total revenue generated; it solely focuses on the number of units sold during the specified period.

B. Commission

The structure of commissions is often more complex and tied to sales performance over a longer duration.

Commissions can be based on various models:

  1. A software company offers its sales team a commission rate of 10% on the total contract value for each new customer acquisition. If a sales rep closes a deal with a contract worth $50,000, they earn a commission of $5,000.
  2. Another company adopts a tiered commission structure, offering 5% commission for the first $100,000 in sales, 7% for the next $200,000, and 10% for any additional sales beyond $300,000. This tiered approach provides additional incentives as sales reps surpass specific revenue milestones.

4. Frequency

Spiffs and commissions also differ in frequency, reflecting how often sales reps receive rewards for their efforts. Let's explore these differences:


SPIFFs are infrequent and usually offered as special, time-limited promotions or incentives.

B. Commission

Commissions are more continuous and recurring in nature.

They are based on the sales reps' ongoing performance and are usually paid out regularly, such as monthly or quarterly, depending on the sales cycle and industry norms.

Key Takeaways

Spiffs offer immediate gratification and can be powerful tools to drive short-term performance and boost morale.

On the other hand, commissions provide ongoing motivation, encouraging sales reps to maintain consistent performance over time.

Understanding the differences is crucial for designing an effective sales incentive program. It should align with your organization's goals and sales team dynamics.

With the right mix, you can create an incentive program that drives performance and keeps sales reps motivated – ultimately leading to increased revenue and business success.

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