SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with Jeron Paul, CEO and Founder at Spiff

Sales as a role is never going away, every company will always need proactive and persuasive sellers to drive ROI and growth. To optimize how sales leaders manage their sales teams and to boost motivation, a strong sales commission management process has to be part of every sales leader’s management strategy; Jeron Paul, CEO and Founder at Spiff dives into the top challenges that can affect the typical B2B sales commission process while sharing a few best practices in this quick chat:


Hi Jeron, we’d love to hear about your journey through the years…tell us more about Spiff?

Thanks so much for the opportunity! Spiff is a “scratch your own itch” startup. We had tons of commission problems at our last startup, Capshare.  We felt first-hand how hard it was to get salespeople paid out on their commissions. Disputes about commissions were eating up a ton of time and demotivating our sales team. That didn’t seem right. After all, sales teams are the heart of every organization and they should have real-time insight into what they are making, as well as traceability behind the numbers so they don’t have to spend time hunting this information down.

At the same time, we were building an Excel replacement technology at Capshare for cap tables. We felt like we had become experts at using software to replace Excel. We used to laugh and say “if you show us a labor-intensive, mission critical Excel spreadsheet that companies are using to run an enterprise process, we’ll show you a startup idea.”

The lightbulb went off when we were looking at the spreadsheet Matt Stapleton, one of Spiff’s founders, was using to manage commissions for Capshare. We were like “duh why wouldn’t we automate this spreadsheet too?” We did some light competitive research and became convinced there was a huge opportunity. Then we sent a survey to about 120 people and asked them “How would you describe your commission process?” One person responded by saying “Commissions are like Victorian-era manual labor minus the smog and adverse working conditions.” When we heard variations on that theme over and over again, we became convinced we could revolutionize the space.

We like to say that Spiff is putting trust and transparency back into the sales compensation process. For some orgs, it’s literally like announcing an armistice in a cold war between sales and finance. The platform automatically manages and calculates commissions and, unlike other solutions on the market, can be adjusted real-time to account for business developments.

The impact on the business is enormous. Sales teams have lost confidence and trust in finance teams because the commissions process lacks transparency. And for finance, it’s an enormous headache that eats up a lot of man hours. It’s a real conundrum that Spiff is solving.

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What are some of the top challenges you see technology sales teams and B2B teams still struggle with when it comes to sales commission processes and management?

The process takes too long. There’s no visibility into it. The average company spends 10% of its entire budget on commissions. The purpose is to drive peak rep performance. But most reps aren’t even sure what they are making in time to make any improvements before they get paid. Plus it’s a huge demotivator when you make less than you thought even if the reasons are fair.

It’s frustrating for both sales and finance teams. Finance teams spend up to two weeks per month on it. In an era where customer experience is everything – and employee experience drives it – the commission process leaves a foul taste in everyone’s mouth.

To top it all off, because of these inefficiencies, we as a whole are focusing on the wrong things.  Compensation in its heart is meant to be motivational and to drive performance, and it has lost a lot of that identity with how it’s currently being managed.  There is a lot of room in the space of making commissions a key driver of collaboration and motivation.

How according to you should sales leaders use sales tech and sales commission software to drive better processes here?

At Spiff we think of this as a story with three acts. Act I, for most companies, is moving off Excel. Excel, in our opinion, is the most successful business software ever created and has made it possible for non-technical people to essentially write code, but it doesn’t scale. It’s not easily shareable at different levels of access. It doesn’t have an audit log. It’s not testable. It’s not inherently temporal in nature like commissions. It doesn’t manage teams and rollups. And most important of all, it’s not an object-oriented system so it doesn’t play well with your CRM, ERP, BI tools, etc., all of which are object-oriented. Excel will always be an amazing scratchpad, but it’s in its twilight years as an enterprise automation platform.

Once you get out of Excel, you can experience real-time commissions and decrease the amount of time your finance team spends by up to 90%.

Act II is all about helping your sales reps and teams reach levels of performance they didn’t know were possible. Spiff is building a future where a sales rep can learn how the best reps at a company (or even across companies) are generating their commissions. Spiff wants to allow reps to set goals, challenge themselves, and give them insight into how they can perform better.

Act III is where we leverage data from across the Spiff system to help companies find the optimal ways to compensate their team members. So ultimately we think software should help companies develop the best sales processes.

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Seeing how sales trends and salestech are evolving along with changing customer behaviors, how do you feel sales teams and the way they function will be influenced in the future – how will team structures and processes undergo change?

I’m a huge fan of the book To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink. It’s amazing. We are in the midst of an era where it’s become popular to think that Product-led Growth could really decrease the need for sales. I think automation is allowing / forcing all of us in any position in a company to move “up” in terms of adding value and strategic thinking. But I think there’s a strong argument that sales is one of the most human of all traits and will likely never go away. Selling is persuasion. Persuasion is arguably the most important and fundamental human trait.

There’s no doubt though that sellers of the future need to think of themselves more like doctors. They need to be expert at diagnosing problems and uncompromising in helping customers find solutions to their problems.

What are some core sales technologies that you feel should form the crux of a sales tech stack?

It’s crazy, isn’t it, how rapidly the stack is growing? It used to be, get yourself a good CRM and let your sales teams do the rest, but we’ve built around the CRM platform with technologies like lead intelligence, screen sharing, and call analytics. One look at the market – and the companies that operate in it – gives you an immediate snapshot for how hot sales performance management and sales enablement is. Salesforce is one of the biggest enterprise brands in the world, Zoom is now a word we use daily in our work vernacular, and Gong has a $7.25 billion valuation after its last funding round. This is a market ripe with innovation – and one that doesn’t show signs of slowing down.

A few last thoughts for startup founders…before we wrap up! 

Wow, that’s a big topic!

My last three startups were always so small and I felt like we were fighting for our life every day so much that being intentional about shaping culture was a luxury. I still feel that way sometimes.  This time around I was lucky enough to have time to really think about culture and how to be intentional about it. So some of my best thinking (as good or bad as it is) regarding startups is in our Intro to Spiff Culture document.

Some of the big things we like to highlight at Spiff is the importance of every person in every position being a leader and thinking like a CEO. We don’t have a fixed set of core values at Spiff instead we have a Definition of Victory and a Leadership Mandate. Finally, we talk a lot about achieving escape velocity. We even share our “super secret” plan to achieve escape velocity publicly.

I’m also a big proponent of warning software founders to avoid technical debt!

When it comes to building a business, I strongly believe that if you give me a process that is currently run on spreadsheets, I will give you a business in return. Excel, in my opinion, is hands down the most successful business software ever released and has made it possible for non-technical people to essentially write code, but it’s weakness is that it’s too powerful. And unless you are the minority that understands how to harness it, it doesn’t scale well. This belief is what I built my last two companies on.

When I was CEO at Capshare, I realized how hard it was to get salespeople paid out on their commissions – and that didn’t seem right. After all, these sales teams are the heart of every organization and they should have real-time insight into what they are making, as well as traceability behind the numbers so they don’t have to spend time hunting this information down. The problem facing most businesses – and we experienced too – is that they used antiquated technology, usually spreadsheets, to manage commissions. It just doesn’t work. Have you ever tried to use a spreadsheet to manage something as complicated as people’s money? It’s still an amazing scratchpad, but it has no place as an enterprise automation platform.

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