Your teams are always coming across opportunities, whether they realize it or not. The problem is that many organizations rob themselves of valuable opportunities because they often cannot recognize these chances, don’t have the capacity or capability to take advantage of them, or simply ignore them and let them pass by—wasted possibilities.

And while some employees may be able to recognize opportunities for value creation, they may not have the mechanisms or structure in place to actually take advantage of them. Instead, they are trained to follow a script, to pass any potential opportunities to someone higher up the chain of command, and to treat them as transactional.

Think of a time you’ve visited a retail store and asked the employee if they have a product in stock. There are several ways this person could answer: they don’t carry the item; they’ll check their systems to see if they carry it; they don’t carry it but they can tell you who does; they don’t carry the item but they’ll see if they can order it in for you; and, they don’t carry it but they have something in stock that could accomplish the same goals.

Which one of these responses best serves you as the customer?

When employees are trained to treat these chances at value creation as transactional, it’s a missed opportunity. No matter the industry, your team members exist to create value for your customers and to help your customers get their jobs done. Even this small interaction is an opportunity to accomplish that objective, and these responses can have a huge impact on building a relationship with that customer.

This is why it is imperative that every business leader understands how to identify opportunities and can train their team members to do the same. This one interaction could lead to a customer with lifetime brand loyalty for the company—or to a customer who finds their solution at another store.

What’s often missed is how exactly to recognize these chances so that your employees can respond in a timely way to provide increased value for the customer and the organization. Follow this five-step guide and you’ll learn how to teach your organization to respond quickly to opportunity.

Develop better listening skills. Teach your employees how to listen closely for the job to be done and to listen with empathy. Many customers may not know how exactly to accomplish what they’ve set out to do, but patience and asking the right questions will go a long way to gaining a clear understanding of the customer’s goals. Train your team to refrain from listening to respond and instead to listen to understand. By being able to reiterate your customer’s needs, you’ll establish trust and begin building that relationship, leading to more opportunities for value creation down the road.

Employ problem-solving skills. When a customer comes in with an issue, teach your team members to problem-solve in real-time with that customer. The customer’s confidence in your ability to solve problems correctly will grow, and they will likely come back to you for future solutions. For example, if someone walks into your hardware store asking for a chisel, ask what they are trying to accomplish and ensure they have the tools they need. Perhaps there is an opportunity to offer a better solution to the customer. At the very least, the ability to problem solve and be prescriptive helps the customer feel heard and understood, and continues to build trust in that relationship.

Empower your team to make commitments. Often, employees don’t feel they have the authority or the structure to make “off-script” commitments to customers—they may have to follow a lengthy chain of command or submit extra paperwork to get approval to take advantage of an opportunity. This will likely lead to the employee telling the customer they can’t help them to save time and energy—and lead to another missed opportunity. Instead, reduce these convoluted processes where possible so that employees can solve problems and promise solutions to your customers in a timely manner.

Create efficient communication channels between customers and employees. This step also tackles process efficiencies. If a team member has made a commitment to one of your customers, they should have simple and transparent lines of communication to that customer to update them on the status of their promise. This ensures that the customer doesn’t feel forgotten and allows the employee to respond quickly to any opportunities to build that customer relationship.

Enable your employees to execute quickly. Whenever a customer has a job to be done, it’s often a top priority for them. Your employees should be able to execute this opportunity quickly once it arises. In addition to the increased process efficiencies in the earlier steps, a clear path for execution will allow your team members to respond to any chances right away, whether a customer needs a solution, guidance on how to execute that solution, or for you to execute it for them.

These seemingly small missed opportunities happen every day—and add up to big losses in value creation. Don’t treat these chances as simple transactions. Look for ways to take advantage of various opportunities and build relationships for future opportunities. Following this guide will help you teach your organization to respond quickly to opportunity and, in turn, help your business and customers grow.

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