"I'm starving, and it's Dave's fault," a manager complained to his assistant.

"What did Dave do now?" the assistant asked.

"I asked him to pick up a sandwich for me before he returned from lunch," the boss replied. "He's over there at his computer; so where's my sandwich?"

Just then, Dave ran into the boss's office and said, "You'll never guess what happened to me at lunch today. I was at that little bistro on Main Street, when who should walk in but the president of ABC Company that we pitched last week. There wasn't an empty table in the whole place, so I waved him over and invited him to join me."

Dave went on: "I jumped on the opportunity to remind him why he should consider working with us – and he agreed! He wrote me a check for the retainer. I raced back here and just worked up the preliminary projections for the new account."

"Did you remember to pick up that sandwich for me?" the boss asked.

Dave blinked and looked confused. "Huh?"

As a salesman, when I hear stories like this, I cringe. There are no jobs unless someone brings the business in. Sales are the lifeblood of any company, and it's amazing how many people don't get this point. Sales are even more important today during the pandemic.

Don't get me wrong; everyone is important, but sales are critical to a company's success. I hammer away at this concept repeatedly.

At our company, we like to say that all our employees are in sales because they are selling our company every day. Career success often depends on your ability to sell a product, a service or an idea. No matter what field you're in, you'll sell better by remembering these key pieces of expert sales wisdom:

  • Do your research. Whether you're selling a book or trying to get a job, start by learning as much as you can about your industry and the people in it. The more you know, the better you'll be able to present your product when the time comes.
  • Profile your buyers. Your product should fill a defined need. Don't start selling before you understand your customer's mindset. First, analyze the kind of people who might benefit from what you have to offer. Do they already use something similar? Do they need to be educated about what you can do for them? Find out where they are so you can target your sales efforts effectively.
  • Tailor your approach to match individual buyers, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all attitude. Spend some time getting to know their personal priorities and professional preferences, and what they're looking for when they consider products like yours. You'll do a better job of selling to them if you focus on satisfying their requirements instead of yours.
  • Listen more than you talk. Don't think of sales as the art of pressuring a reluctant customer into buying something he or she doesn't want. You'll get better results by asking questions about your prospect's problems and really listening to his or her needs. Then you'll be better able to position yourself effectively.
  • Follow up. Persistence pays. Don't make a pest of yourself, but check in regularly with your customers and prospects to find out what they need. You don't want them to forget about you.
  • Develop your sense of humor. You don't have to memorize a string of stale jokes, but you should learn how to see the humor in most situations. If you can make a customer smile, your job is halfway complete.
  • Stop selling, and let them buy. Most people like to buy things, but dislike being pushed into a purchase. Don't be overly aggressive with your idea. Be ready to answer questions and present your idea as an opportunity.
  • Manage your time wisely. Keep track of how much time you spend on your sales process. Identify the activities with the greatest potential, and maximize those while delegating or cutting down on any that don't add value. Look for ways to use your time more efficiently every single day.
  • Deal with rejection. No one makes every sale. Rejection is a part of life. Deal with it and move on.

Mackay's Moral: Don't just make a sale, make a customer.

(Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at Mackay Mitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.