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Pump up your sales force: Focus on time, treasure, talent

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Working long hours doesn't make a sales staff successful; wisely allocating time does, says a new survey by global consulting firm Watson Wyatt.

The lesson: Encourage salespeople to spend more time with their best potential customers. The survey found that sales professionals at top organizations spend 40 percent more time nurturing relationships than sales staff at low-performing companies.

"It may seem fundamental, but the way sales professionals allocate their time is critical; even a couple more hours per week on these key activities can make a real difference," says John Bremen, director of Watson Wyatt's sales force consulting practice. "Who they spend their time with is also important."

Three other ways to engage your sales force:

1. Offer variable pay to sales staff based on their sales performance. Sales staff at the most profitable companies receive about 40 percent more of their total cash compensation in the form of variable pay than sales professionals at low-performing companies.

2. Sweeten the pot with stock options and other equity pay. Thirty-six percent of high-performing companies do it, compared with 18 percent of others.

3. Hire people who believe in your product or service. More than 80 percent of salespeople at top companies believe their products are among the best in the market, versus 57 percent at low-performing companies.  

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