The downsides of the Superstar Salesperson

To build a valuable business – and sellable one day – sales need to continue after you’re gone. In most businesses this responsibility lies with the business owner and they often replace themselves with a superstar salesperson, but that’s often a trap.

If you replace yourself with a single salesperson, you’re simply swapping a dependency on you for dependence on a sales rep, and your business is no more sellable as a result. When we analysed the users of The Sellability Score* (a self-assessment test business owners use to understand how to drive up the value of their company) we found that businesses that could easily replace their top salesperson are over twice as likely to get an offer to buy their business when compared to those companies reliant on a single salesperson.

Therefore to build a valuable business your company needs a sales team – not just a one salesperson. But how do you build a sales team? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to hire a sales rep first? An emphatic no! Hiring a single sales rep will only keep your business reliant on one person, so you need a team and the faster the better. Here are our 3 top tips for building a sales team on a budget:

1. Charge up front

Good sales reps are expensive to both recruit and train. In order to avoid running out of cash before they are fully ramped up, can you change your terms to charge some or your entire invoice up front. If you already stagger your billing, simply ask for a larger payment up front. If half your customers agree, you’ll have more cash to build your sales team and more time for them to train up.

You might also consider introducing a subscription or service contract model, as most people understand that subscriptions are paid up front. Can you get an annual contract with an incentive for full payment in advance? For example, if you charged £700 p.m. for a maintenance contract, but offered clients a £7,000 p.a. option, provided they paid up front, you would have £7,000 in the bank for each contract sold. If a fully effective sales rep is able to sell ten service contracts a month, could a new rep not sell three? If so, a new rep should be able to quickly get to the point where they are covering their monthly cost to you.

2. Carve territory into small chunks

Sales territory is an asset of your business and, like any reward, it is easy to give and harder to take back. Look at carving up your market into sales territories that provide enough opportunity for each rep to make money. It’s okay to leave a territory unfilled for years, so avoid the temptation to give the territory to another rep, as it will become impossible to take back when you’re ready to fill the position.

3. Hire a second rep as quickly as possible

At the start hire two sales people, if you can, not just one. Salespeople thrive on competition. If you can demonstrate to a buyer that your company has sales driven by a team you will have a much more sellable business. Also if you’re charging up front or on a subscription model, you should quickly get to the point where each sales rep is at least covering their costs to you.

Replacing yourself as your company’s rainmaker is the right strategy; but avoid trading one weakness in your control, i.e. you, with one that depends on someone else. Instead, hire a sales team and watch your company – and its value – grow exponentially.


Paul Dodgshon is a Regional Partner in Business Partnership, who have been helping business owners sell their businesses since 1979. You can learn more about Paul and Business Partnership here.

*The Sellability Score is a cloud-based software tool that allows a business owner to assess the “sellability” of their company. The researchers at The Sellability Score analyse the data from 2300 companies around the globe in order to understand trends in the business market, with a particular focus on the liquidity of privately held businesses.

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