The "people problem" at Corporate Executive Board (NASDAQ:EXBD) has reportedly been corrected, now that the business consultant says it's met its hiring goals earlier than anticipated. But it's still too early to say whether those new faces will translate into new sales.

Last quarter, CEB added corporations like MGM Mirage (NYSE:MGM), Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN), and Biomet (NASDAQ:BMET) to its already impressive client list. However, a reported lack of sufficient "feet on the street" still hurt its performance. At the time, the company was getting more resumes from prospective applicants, but wasn't sure how many of those candidates would be worth hiring. Apparently, CEB has been able to separate the wheat from the chaff with its new hires, but hasn't yet seen a corresponding increase yet in contract value.

Contract value growth is the best leading indicator for this Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. After peaking in the first quarter of 2006, that metric has been steadily declining. It took a sharp hit at the end of last fiscal year, and today, the growth rate lags 38% below its year-ago peak. Contract value is still growing, but at a slower rate, both year-over-year and sequentially.

Year-Over-Year Contract Value Growth





















Source: Company SEC Filings

Contract value reflects four driving factors: cross-selling opportunities, new client acquisitions, new programs, and price increases. Though the company didn't break these factors out, they have apparently been less robust than it hoped for. At least CEB has implemented four of the seven new programs it hopes to kick off this year.

Last quarter, the company also mentioned that it'll have to pass on higher prices to its customers gently and gradually. Thus, growth in the immediate future will have to rely on cross-selling and new clients, which the new hires should help it achieve -- eventually.

Even as contract value growth has slowed, the company's stock has also experienced an inexorable slide, from a high of $113 last year to its current perch around $64 a share -- a 43% loss of value.

On the bright side, that slide makes the stock look more attractive to new buyers or potential repeat purchasers. It's trading at about 15 times EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization), in line with rival Forrester Research (NASDAQ:FORR) at 13 times EBITDA and somewhat better than Gartner Group (NYSE:IT) at 18 times. It bests both, however, on a multiple to trailing earnings.

Until those feet on the street start gaining traction, CEB's performance will undoubtedly lag, and its stock price may continue to falter. I would hazard, though, that a lot of the pessimism about Corporate Executive Board has already been factored into its shares. To this Fool, the downside looks minimal from here.

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Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.