Sales Force Cuts to Taper Off

April 9, 2009 ( - The number of employers planning to reduce their sales forces or use other short-term cost-cutting measures over the next several months is expected to decline, according to a survey by Watson Wyatt.

The survey found that only two of 10 companies (21%) plan to reduce sales headcount this year – a sharp decline from the 53% that did so earlier this winter, according to a press release. Additionally, just two of 10 of companies plan to introduce or expand special incentives (SPIFFs) or contests to energize sales, compared with 42% previously.

Watson Wyatt also found a similar decline in the number of employers planning to lower sales goals and quotas, or modify sales professionals’ territories.

The recession is providing most companies with a reprieve from the pressures of attracting and retaining sales professionals, the press release said. Only 20% of companies reported having greater difficulty attracting or retaining sales professionals this year compared with 2008.

Two-thirds of employers said they are taking measures to strengthen their recruiting and retention efforts in preparation for an economic recovery. For example, almost one-third (31%) of employers are adding to or modifying their sales training and reward programs for this year.

The survey, conducted in February 2009, was based on responses from sales and HR executives at 91 large U.S. companies.

Copies of the survey are available at .