Opportunity Knocks – how to never miss a sales opportunity ever again

Like many of my blogs, and ideas for how to keep improving at what I do – this one is inspired by a personal experience.

This experience was something relatively minor that happened this weekend, which would pass most people by without a second thought – but won’t stop niggling away at me.

Ever since I set up my business Cloverleaf this year, I have often found myself trying to explain to people what Business Development actually is. Sales? Yes. Marketing? Yes. Relationship building? Yes. Common sense? Yes.

Always keeping an eye out for opportunities to attract new customers, engage existing customers and sell more stuff? Absolutely!

The truth is, Business Development is all of these things – and more. Business Development is about using a constantly evolving mixture of activities to keep your business growing and moving. It’s like the recipe for Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce – nobody knows the secret ingredient – so we just have to keep experimenting until we find it.

I like to use a term I once read in a book – “Constant Vigilance!”. Meaning, always keep checking, thinking, watching, listening and looking to spot new opportunities that will make your business shine.

So, back to my little epiphany. It happened in Marks and Spencer’s of all places – and then again in Waterstones on Saturday morning.

My husband and I have a tradition. Every Saturday night he cooks us a curry – from scratch – whilst I lie on the sofa watching Saturday night TV. Usually he gets his recipes from one of his many books, but this week he saw Chef Vivek Singh create a delicious looking Old-Delhi style butter chicken on Saturday Kitchen – so we were despatched to our local shopping centre to track down ingredients, as well as the recommended wine to accompany said dish, and Vivek Singh’s new book – all promoted by James Martin that very morning on the BBC.

Imagine our disappointment then when we dashed into Marks and Spencer’s – only to find that the wine was nowhere to be found. Unperturbed, we trotted off to Waterstones to hunt down the book and our list of ingredients – which was also unavailable!

Now, in this wonderful world of instant internet – set backs like this mean nothing. Within moments I had Googled the recipe and we were off to Tesco for supplies. But one thing kept niggling at me – the weight of those wasted opportunities.

Far be it for me to tell M&S or Waterstones how to run their stores, but surely they were missing out on a few inspired, impulse sales here?

How many people watch Saturday Kitchen every week? An average of £3 million apparently – I wonder how many of them went out shopping on Saturday morning, hoping to recreate their own Butter Chicken served with Kings Ridge Oregon Pinot Gris 2013? And weren’t able to find the recipe book or the advertised wine either?

I half expected to find a big display in M&S – with said wine and ingredients – declaring “As featured on Saturday Kitchen!”. And the book on proud display as I walked into Waterstones. Wouldn’t that have been lovely? I love it when I don’t have to make an effort – when someone has done all the work for me – yet here I was, expected to actually search the shelves. But it didn’t matter, because the things I wanted weren’t there anyway.

The point I want to make here is that businesses (even super successful ones like Marks and Spencer and Waterstones) should always be looking for those golden opportunities to make a sale. And those golden opportunities don’t come along very often, so it’s a good idea to grab them whilst you can!

This got me to thinking about examples, things that anyone reading this might be able to take away and implement for themselves.

Imagine then, that your business is an independent hotel. A guest wanders into reception where you have a lovely Christmas display (it’s October, perfect timing!) and asks for information on your Christmas party nights for her boss. Your efficient receptionist dutifully hands over one of your fabulously designed Christmas brochures, and your happy guest leaves with the brochure in her hand. Job done, right?

Well, kind of…

If I was that hotel’s sales manager I would want to know – Who was that guest? Who does she work for? What kind of party does her boss want? She obviously is looking to make a booking, yet the first opportunity to bag that sale has already passed you by.

I agree that you don’t want to jump on the poor woman as she is just making a quick enquiry. But what if she stuffs that brochure into her bag and forgets about it when the next hotel she visits does seize their moment and convinces her to book with them?

How about this then? Any guest who enquires about a Christmas party at your hotel before the beginning of November is entered into a FREE prize draw to win a bottle of bubbly? All they have to do to be eligible is leave their name, number and party enquiry details for someone to check availability and contact them afterwards. Who can resist a free gift? Especially all of those hardworking office managers who get stuck organising the Christmas party every year? (A thankless task, believe me)

By taking contact information – even for what seems to be a general enquiry – you are showing that person you are interested in their business. You might need to incentivise them to leave you their details – and a competition is a great way of doing that without appearing to be pushy.

When you follow up that enquiry, you are beginning a relationship with a potential new client. Even if they don’t win the prize draw, what is to stop your friendly sales manager visiting their office with some Christmas goodies? You might not win their Christmas booking but you could have opened a door into a new corporate account for your hotel.

Sales managers spend hours, weeks and months trying to get a foot in the door of many a business and I have always maintained that hotel reception often holds the keys to bypassing those gatekeepers – without even realising it!

The moral of my story is – always look for those opportunities to build new links, because you never know where they might take you. Remember those two words “Constant Vigilance!”. Put them on a sticker and attach it to every phone on your reception, and just under the desk where your team greets new guests to the hotel. Stick it on where your restaurant staff stand to print guest bills and give one to your Porter who assists guests to their rooms. Every person in your team should be looking out for a golden opportunity to find new business.

This is just one example. I could sit here and write them all day, but I don’t want to keep you from your duties.

So there you have it, how one visit to Marks and Spencer’s inspired me to write to you. If you would like to add any more examples then I welcome you to comment below. And if you need some guidance in coming up with some ideas for your business – don’t hesitate to contact me for a complimentary Clover Consultation.

Oh, and if you have been landed with arranging the office Christmas party – we can help with that too…

Thanks for reading, I hope to see you again soon!