Qlose is an interview format that meets the best experts in sales reps to find out how they contribute to the sales performance of their company.
For this fifth episode, Qobra welcomes Paul Barret, Team Lead Sales Operations at Glady, and he will share with you his methods, tips & best practices to build successful SPIFFs.
1. The context
Can you introduce yourself?
Paul Barret, I have been with Glady for two years now. I started as an intern as a Sales Development Representative (SDR), then I made the transition to a Sales Operations position, mainly on the acquisition side.
I started on the SDR side, now I'm in charge of the whole acquisition side, so SDR and Account Executive (AE). There are now two of us in this team.
We have several missions with five main axes:
- Sales rep processes and tools
- Revenue strategy (target letters, bonuses, etc.)
- SPIFFs and gamification
What is the interest and the objective of doing SPIFFs?
First of all, you should not do a challenge for the sake of doing a challenge, you should really have an objective, you should answer a problem.
So there are two main axes:
- The first axis is quantitative objectives, so it's really what is linked to the performance of SPIFFs. This means pushing employees to reach their objectives over a given period of time through gamification or occasional SPIFFs. These are individual objectives, and from there, the overall performance of the company comes from them.
- The second axis, which is very important, is to create a healthy competitive environment within the teams, to ensure that they are in a stimulating, rewarding environment, where there is collective emulation and where they all pull each other up.
When do you do SPIFFs? What thoughts lead to a SPIFF?
To begin with, we start with an objective, a problem. Then, at Glady, we have a very periodic activity.
As a leader in employee benefits, we have products for works councils, HR with meal vouchers, but also on the incentive side, everything related to SPIFF both externally and internally.
This incentive part with the gift vouchers, especially on the CSE part, is very periodic, we make a lot of sales at the end of the year, so we set up an important SPIFF at the end of the year, and another one at the beginning of the year to launch the year. We therefore set up SPIFFs at the most relevant times of the year for our business.
Then, during the year, we set up small SPIFFs that last between 1 day and 1 week. These SPIFF are focused on sales performance, i.e. making as many phone calls as possible, getting as many Meetings as possible, etc.
Generally speaking, these SPIFFs take place when a new class of sales reps is integrated into the team, thus creating a collective emulation.
We don't do SPIFFs too frequently, otherwise the sales reps wait for the challenges to perform.
2. The essential steps to follow
What are the steps to follow to create a SPIFF?
At Glady, we built all the necessary steps as we went along and we follow them closely with each new challenge because it is essential to have a solid structure. All these steps we have listed in a Notion that we use every time. In terms of numbers, today we go 4 times faster to set up a challenge than a year ago.
The first step is to clearly define the objective and the problem in order to give meaning to the creation of this challenge.
The second step is to define the participants, i.e. who is participating? Which pole? For how long? Will some people arrive during the challenge? Others will leave before the end? And so on.
The third step is to define the whole structure of the challenge:
- The objective
- The duration
- The format
- The theme
- The game mode (ranking, competition, etc.)
The fourth phase aims to explain the challenge, it must be done in one sentence, an 8 year old child must be able to understand the SPIFF.
The fifth step corresponds to the definition of the KPIs, they must above all be traceable, the sales reps must not be able to cheat on these KPIs.
The sixth step is the schedule for the SPIFF and the sales ops team to manage the challenge. It must include communication, animation, etc. It has to be very structured.
The seventh step is to define the budget for the challenge rewards.
Then, finally, we create the communication support for the challenge and launch the challenge. At Glady, we organize a meeting or a videoconference to present the rules and the challenges of the challenge.
At Glady, we hold a closing ceremony at the end of the long challenges, about a week later. This gives us time to analyze the results and check for errors.
After the ceremony, we distribute a questionnaire to get feedback from the sales reps. These challenges are made for them, so it's important to get their feedback on what they liked, what they didn't like, their wishes for the next ones, ideas for themes, types of formats, etc.
3. The different existing formats
What are the different types of SPIFFs? Any examples?
First, it depends on the participants, and therefore whether it is an individual challenge, a group challenge or a mix of both. This is the first type of format.
The second format is the time frame. At Glady, short challenges last between one day and one week, and long challenges last between three weeks and six weeks.
Then the third type of format is qualitative or quantitative, i.e. the volume of Meetings made or the quality of opportunities generated, or a mix of both.
Personally, I love to mix formats, a mixed long term challenge with quantitative and qualitative objectives. However, this is a decision taken with the managers. Without their support, the challenge will not work.
First of all, there is the manager's request, we take his request, we create the challenge, its structure, etc. Then we review it with the manager, modify it if necessary, and validate it. This way, we are sure that the challenge will work because it will suit him and he will be able to lead it.
We, the Sales Ops, are there to create the challenge and define the structure, while the managers will create the dynamics, create the collective emulation, which is why it is important to take their opinion into account.
How do you get inspired to come up with new ideas for SPIFFs?
There is no magic formula, but for example, by setting up a questionnaire to collect feedback and ideas from sales reps at the end of each challenge, there can be some very good ideas.
Then, to build the first SPIFF, it is important to start with the problem, the objective to be able to define a theme and a gamification mode.
For example, let's imagine a challenge with 10 sales reps, with a system of pairs where we want to reward the best pair, but also the best sales rep over the whole challenge. In this example, we can then create a challenge on the theme of Formula 1 with a reward for the best team and one for the best driver.
You really have to start with the structure and then bring in the gamification element.
4. Rewards to offer
How do you decide on the rewards for a SPIFF? Any examples of rewards?
Like most companies, we have a budget that is allocated each year for SPIFFs. We then divide this budget by team, and we also divide it according to the number of challenges.
At Glady, we have a big challenge at the beginning and at the end of the year, so we will allocate 80% of the annual budget to these two challenges. Then, the remaining 20% will be used for smaller challenges throughout the year.
As far as rewards are concerned, we tried to offer very individualized rewards, very personalized, we would order the desired rewards for each sales rep. The problem was that it took a lot of time and energy. Today, we distribute gift vouchers and the sales reps take what they want.
Soon, we will also have an Ali Baba's cave in our office with many prizes inside, and the sales reps will be able to choose what they want inside according to the prize won. This way, we will have great prizes at great prices because we will be doing group orders, and we won't have to go out and buy and pick up prizes at every SPIFF.
What I can add is that when we create the structure, each time, I do a budget simulation. There can be a tiered system for rewards based on goals achieved, so that way we are sure not to exceed the budget per challenge. And so, often, at the end of the year, we have some budget left and so on the end of the year challenge, we can propose bigger prizes.
5. The communication to adopt
What are the different communications around a SPIFF? What communication channels do you use?
Communication is the most important thing. First of all, before the challenge, the challenge must be really understood by everyone, both the managers and the sales reps.
If the challenge is not understood, there will be no support and the sales reps will not perform well. We therefore carry out a pre-communication where we explain the challenge, the rules, the goal of the game, etc. In order to create a dynamic. Generally, for long challenges, the pre-communication takes place on Friday, and the launch takes place the following Monday.
For the smaller challenges, we make a detailed and structured slack message where we explain the challenge, there is also a Notion page that serves as a communication support. This Notion page is based on a template that we reuse each time. This way, the sales reps are never lost.
About the communication during the challenge, first, we send a message on Monday to launch the challenge. At that time, we reiterate the main rules of the challenge to make sure that it is understood by everyone. We also ask the managers to put a message to create an extra dynamic.
Then, we set milestones, for example at the beginning and end of each week, with an update on the achievement of objectives. Another example is to highlight the best sales reps during the challenge to encourage the others to surpass themselves.
Of course, we also write a message at the end of the challenge with the quantitative and qualitative analysis and we announce the big winners. For large challenges, we also send a company-wide communication with the results of the challenge. From time to time, we also produce a newsletter and LinkedIn posts to share the results externally.
How do you feel about bringing in a new employee during a SPIFF?
As an example, we had the case at the beginning of the year on a challenge that we had launched for the SDRs, and we integrated a newcomer during the challenge.
Often, when we include a new person in a SPIFF, it's because they've just arrived or they've changed teams, so normally it's something that's been anticipated.
In my opinion, you have to integrate a newcomer if there is a challenge in progress because it allows him to join the team, to create this group cohesion.
6. KPIs to follow
What are the KPIs to follow? How do you analyze the results of a SPIFF?
Of course, we're going to track KPIs that are related to metrics that sales reps can earn points on because we have to track them to calculate points and know where sales reps are in achieving their goals. Some examples of these metrics are: number of Meetings made, number of Meetings completed, number of signatures, number of tasks completed, etc.
Then, you also need to track metrics that allow managers to coach sales reps, typically, it could be the Meetings that have been incorrectly reported on the CRM. These KPIs must be followed because they allow to improve the coaching throughout the challenge and therefore to improve the performance of the sales reps. Managers can give them advice.
At Glady, we track KPIs on Salesforce via tables that are created specifically for the challenge, and which are then linked to fully automated Google Sheets thanks to a tool called Salesforce Connector.
Then, it is essential to compare KPIs from one challenge to another, and from one year to another, to be able to compare results and know if they are good, average, etc.
7. Essential tools and resources
Do you use any tools and/or resources to create SPIFF?
I don't use many of them, but here is the list of those I use for each new SPIFF:
- Salesforce, to track sales rep activity.
- Google Sheets to calculate points and allow sales reps to track their rankings in near real time.
- Notion, which is the place where the communication medium will be located.
- Canva, in order to create visuals for the communication supports.
- Slack, to animate the sales rep challenge throughout its duration.
8. Common difficulties encountered
What are the common difficulties encountered during a SPIFF?
The first difficulty is to make sure that there is no cheating. For example, in a challenge on the number of tasks performed, some clever sales reps will program a lot of tasks. At that point, you have to be smarter than they are to figure it out, and you have to report regularly to Salesforce.
The second difficulty is monitoring. This is why the choice of KPIs is very important. They must be easily traceable.
The third difficulty is to maintain a good dynamic throughout the challenge, especially during long challenge. For example, at Glady, we launched a challenge called "The Glady Cup" at the end of last year, which worked extremely well. During the six weeks of the challenge, we had to keep a dynamic to motivate the sales reps and therefore involve the managers in the communication, create milestones, etc.
9. Tips for success
What are your tips for a company that wants to set up SPIFFs?
First of all, you should not make challenges for the sake of making challenges, you should start with an objective, a problem and then launch the challenge from that.
Then, you have to make the SPIFF simple, not take a lot of time in the construction of the challenge. On the other hand, you must take time to ensure that the challenge is well thought out beforehand so that it runs smoothly and there are no problems during the challenge.
Finally, communication is a very important point, whether it is before, during or after the challenge, and to make sure to bring animation to create a constant dynamic.
Which SPIFF performed best at Glady?
A challenge that we are proud of and that has worked very well is "The Glady Cup" that we launched at the end of last year. The challenge lasted six weeks and it was based on the codes of the World Cup. We stayed in the news because there was the World Cup in Qatar at that time.
There were about 20 sales reps on the CSE side who participated. They were divided into 4 teams: France, Germany, Brazil and England. To choose their team, we made a quiz about the World Cup at the beginning of the challenge. For the communication visual, each sales rep of each team had an avatar with his head and the jersey corresponding to his team.
Regarding the challenge, each team scored points according to the Meetings taken, the Meetings made and the signatures. For example, a Meetings taken was 1 point, the signature of a big contract was 5 points. Each sales rep could therefore choose to sign as many contracts as possible to score as many points as possible or to increase the volume by taking as many Meetings as possible.
Then, to make the challenge more dynamic, we created stage points. These milestones were matches where teams played against each other during a determined period, and according to the number of points scored during the match, for example France scored 10 points and Germany scored 5 points, the difference of 5 points was added for France in the global ranking, and it was withdrawn for Germany.
At the end of the challenge, there was a reward for the best team, which was a gourmet restaurant. There were also rewards for the best sales reps by segment, i.e. by account size and by role (SDR, AE), they each won a sum of money in lots that could be used on the store of their choice.
In terms of results, the number of Meetings taken was multiplied by 2 or 2.5, and the same for the number of signatures, with more qualitative opportunities generated.
For the closing ceremony, medals were awarded based on certain records such as the best opportunity generated, the biggest contract signed, etc. And the best team got a big cup.
The results of the challenge were communicated on Slack to the entire company, and we also communicated externally with a LinkedIn post.
When we handed in the questionnaire at the end of the challenge, we got very good feedback from the participants, whether it was on the animation, the structure, the rewards, etc. And the overall score was among the best ever obtained for a sales challenge. And the overall score was one of the best ever achieved on a SPIFF.
The last word...
Do you have one or more resources you like to consult that help you improve your Ops approach?
Exchange with Sales Ops from other companies, and try to do it at least once a week. This allows you to learn a lot about the business, about best practices.
Follow Tribes articles are also a good source of inspiration, as well as Qobra's Qlose episodes and articles.