"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.

At our company, we like to say that all our employees are in sales because they are selling our company every day.

No matter what field you are in, you will sell better by remembering these key pieces of expert sales wisdom:

• Do your research. Whether you are 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.

• Profile your buyers. Your product should fill a defined need. Don't start selling before you understand your customer's mind-set. First, analyze the kind of people who might benefit from what you have to offer. 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.

• 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 will get better results by asking questions about your prospect's problems and really listening to his or her needs.

• 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.

• 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.

• Stop selling, and let them buy. Most people like to buy things, but dislike being pushed into a purchase.

• 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.

• Deal with rejection. No one makes every sale. Deal with it and move on.

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

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.