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Although the idea of having to listen for opportunities seems elementary, most companies miss more opportunities than you would think. Unless you have a limit on how much business you can handle, a lead generation department or an outstanding outside sales force, then my guess is you are not maximizing your team to acquire new clients.

Listening is an art that usually comes natural to business owners. They can sense an opportunity from a mile away. Business owners know their business better than anyone, however, employees and even friends and family often miss obvious opportunities. This is true either because they do not really care, have no incentive or simply because they have not been tuned to listen for those ever present opportunities.

Make your whole staff feel more involved
Training your staff to listen for opportunities will help them feel more involved in the company, which of course will add to retention of employees. Most staff members are looking for opportunities to rise up and be seen. Reward them for finding clients and see how they respond. You will find that your top go-getters, regardless of position, will rise to the top. This can be a great way to see who is who in your company.

Training your staff to be tuned to hearing opportunities is not all that difficult. Take the time to have a company wide staff meeting and include everyone that is in your employ as well as outside contractors if possible. At the meeting go through the worksheet and brainstorm what the keywords and buzz terms that staff could listen for to snatch up opportunities for your company.

Offer incentives to your staff. It is one thing to train your staff and get them excited about being involved in the growth of the company, it is quite another to give them a motivation for doing so. Offering a standing commission for anyone that provides a lead that becomes a sale is a great beginning. Though money is a powerful motivator it is not the only thing that can initiate people to action. Some other motivators are a free lunch, vacations, a new office chair and many others. Find out what motivates your staff and leverage that to your company’s advantage.

The fact is, is that every person that works in your company, even the janitor, is capable of helping draw more business. It is important to understand that everyone no matter position is a representative of your company. By training your staff on how to be effective listeners, you will have FREE word-of-mouth advertising which is the best type of marketing.

How to Listen
Part of listening is hearing what the needs are of a potential client. It is important not to just pick up on a word or phrase that triggers a conversation, but also to dig deeper to find out what that need is. When a potential client feels that they have been listened to and that their needs can be met, it makes it really easy to get their contact information and hand out a business card.

If a staff member is not a sales person, they should not try to sell your product or service. Instead train your staff to ask for contact information from a prospective client and ask permission for the client to be contacted by someone at your company. This keeps things not only simple but also makes it easier for all staff to feel comfortable picking up leads.

Always get their Contact Information
What percentage of people really keeps your business card and calls you back? Is it 5%, 2%, 1% or less? If you have had a person that has genuine interest or need, you can get an outstanding 80% capture/close ratio by requesting to have their contact information. If they are genuinely interested they will always give you their contact information without hesitation and will expect a call. Always follow up within 24-48 hours.

Example case
Lets’ say your secretary is at a party in which the subject of conversation is vacation time. Your business is a travel agency. What an easy opportunity it is for them to mention your travel agency, website and hand out a business card. Even though your secretary is not an agent or on commission they just presented an opportunity to expand your business.

Top 4 Things To Listen For:

1) Need
Statements that are predicated by “I need” is a flag that should tell you that they are in the market for whatever that need is.

2) Dissatisfaction
If anyone starts to speak of their dissatisfaction of their current service or product, they may be in the market for someone that can resolve those issues for them.

3) Loss
If anyone mentions that they just lost something (a product, provider, service, etc.) then they may be looking for someone to replace it for them.

4) New
If anyone has recently moved to the area, just started a business, or introducing a new product, you may have an opportunity to be the first to introduce yourself in your industry.

When you have an office of expert listeners, it is easy to get the new leads that you have been looking for. Make sure you do some kind of update or exercise with your employees to keep them up to speed on the latest greatest about your products or services. Many companies have a once a month all staff meeting to keep all employees involved in the company. This is a great time to leverage your employee base to listen to all of the potential opportunities.