Q: what do a Managing Director, an Account Manager, and a delivery driver all have in common?

A: They are all salespeople.

Groan. Yes, that old chestnut – but I’m not going to apologise for writing about it again, because it’s important. In fact, I’d go so far as saying that sales, or selling, are possibly the most important part of any business.

Believe me, that’s not easy for me to admit – as a career marketer I’d spent close to 15 years on the great marketing crusade, persuading and demonstrating that marketing is not just advertising or promotion but rather a strategic approach about finding out what your customers want, creating it for them and making a profit. And I still believe that. But after 8 years of running my own business and being exposed to many other businesses through our work, I also now believe that all of that means nothing if you can’t close a deal.

I’m not suggesting that the folks with the term ‘sales’ in their job titles are the most important people in your team, but rather that selling is the most vital part of your business. It doesn’t matter how great your product or service, or how great a job your marketing team does at communicating your product, if you can’t close the sale, then you’ve got a problem.

It’s not just the sales team that need to be able to sell, but everyone that works for you. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the best salesperson in your business should be the owner or MD of your company! They generally understand the business the best (or they should!), have the broadest knowledge of the market environment and the challenges faced, have the greatest opportunity to influence the key decision makers among your customers, and have the greatest stake in ensuring the success of the business.

In a world where product parity is common and many products and services become commodities, and the ever-changing technology means that consumers can often purchase from someone cheaper or quicker, the ability to actually sell something is getting harder and harder. You need to be good at it.

So what makes a good salesperson? You may be surprised to know that it’s not necessarily someone who likes talking, but rather someone who is good at listening. It’s someone who can build rapport and engage with people, talking about the rugby if it’s appropriate and the customer likes rugby, not just because they like rugby. A good salesperson is someone who can establish the customers’ needs often before the customer can, and then match those needs to their product or service, and demonstrate the value of their solution – not just dropping prices to get a deal. And finally, a good salesperson is someone who doesn’t move onto the next opportunity once the deal has been done, but who follows up and maintains an appropriate level of contact with the customer.

If you don’t have that, then you don’t have a viable business – at the end of the day, a successful business is about the bottom line. How’s yours looking?