Each year, American companies spend billions of dollars trying to figure out how to build business. Seminars, books, business gurus, longer work hours—you name it, and we’re trying it.

But while we’re experimenting with all this, the most obvious, effective, and economical solutions are right under our collective nose: our employees.

Using employees to grow business? Most business leaders have pretty much the same reaction to this solution: duh. But it’s not as obvious as it sounds. Think about it; how many employees know and can enthusiastically tell others about their company’s mission or vision? How many know about and can describe new products or services? How many really know what’s going on outside their department?

Studies show less than 30 percent of all workers have a clear understanding of their organization’s vision. Which means more than 70 percent are not as effective as they could be when talking about their company. And we’re not just referring to people with the word "sales" in their titles.

Everyone—from the mailroom, to the reception desk, to the corner office—is (or should be) an enthusiastic sales person for your company.

People talk about where they work all the time, whether they want to or not. In the 70s, the big question at cocktail parties might have been "What’s your sign?" But today, there’s no bigger question than "What do you do?" Employees typically don’t have any problem answering that one. When the bigger, broader questions come up about the company they work for, and it almost always does, that’s when the answers can get a little more vague.

That’s where you, as employers, come in. It’s your responsibility to make sure employees on all levels stay informed and have a clear understanding of what the company does and where it’s going. Because the more they know, the more effective they’ll be in talking about the company. Which, ultimately, will lead to greater company awareness and more sales.

There are other benefits to having better-informed employees. They will develop a sense of ownership in the business. A sense of "we" rather than "me" will be created. And overall productivity will increase as everyone finds themselves on the same page, working together toward a common goal.

As business leaders know, it’s not as easy as it sounds. One of the biggest obstacles to turning employees into real advocates for the company is attitude.

A study done in 1999 by the Chicago Sun-Times showed less than half of all employees nationwide described themselves as being "truly loyal" to their employers.

The world’s most successful companies have well-informed, highly motivated employees who don’t just memorize their companies’ purpose and advantages, they live them and believe them. And it starts at the top.

It’s up to the employer or managers to make sure enthusiasm is generated. E-mails, posters, group meetings, personal conversations, a note slipped into paychecks … whatever it takes to energize people and gain commitment, we need to do. Or what about some specific sales training for everyone to help them know and feel confident telling the company story?

Employees want to be in the know, to feel a part of and take ownership in the companies they work for. The more they know, the more they’ll be able to tell the world. The more they tell the world, the more the company benefits. And the more the company benefits, the happier everyone will be.

So the next time you’re searching for ways to increase sales, you don’t have to look far. In fact, the solutions may be right under your nose. IBI