If you know what steps to take to make a sale in your industry, why not reward salespeople for following those steps? At ESP Systems Professionals, a $5-million executive search firm in Minneapolis, about 20% of the base compensation of a new sales hire is based on activity. ESP tracks three activities weekly: daily calls to potential job candidates, company visits, and "balls in the air" - leads that could convert to sales. President Bob Hildreth used ESP's best salespeople as a benchmark for his activity list.

A salesperson who meets the goals can earn, on top of salary, up to $400 a month in bonuses. Placing an average of 30 calls a day reaps a $100 bonus for that month; making three company visits a week also nets $100. One to four balls in the air weekly is good for an additional $100. Doing all of the above brings in another $100.

Hildreth admits the bonus program is a risk, but a calculated one. The six reps who followed the regimen are still with ESP, billing on average about 200% more than the industry norm. Part of the reason? The program focuses the sales training process and gives new salespeople more confidence. Making 30 to 40 calls daily "really helped establish a network, which gave me lots of referrals," says one salesperson.