The other morning I was buying a coffee from my favorite cafe, and having an early morning chat to the owner. He was telling me how a very famous celebrity stuck his head into the cafe just as he was closing a few days back. The celebrity owns a chain of coffee shops and he obviously had an interest in what my friend was doing as he could see the large coffee roaster from outside.
My friend was disappointed in himself because he didn't have any business cards with him, he didn't have any of his own roasted coffee to give the celebrity, in fact, he had nothing at all to promote himself and his business. It was a completely missed opportunity. I see and hear this a lot. People have a great opportunity presented to them but they just aren't prepared.
The potential for a new customer is always just around the corner and the astute business owner and entrepreneur knows this fact well. They are always ready for action. To truly take advantage of any opportunity you need to be prepared. You need to keep a supply of business cards on you and your promotional material handy and be ready to talk to someone about what you do.
I know that many business owners are outwardly shy when it comes to talking about their business. They are almost afraid of saying what they do. While the humility is nice, it really isn't a good strategy for building a business.
Look for any opportunity to promote your business and you will find plenty of them. Look at any chance encounter as an opportunity--who knows what will come out of it. I have made a surprising number of excellent contacts and customers from people I have sat next to on planes or been forced to wait in a queue, or just bumped into for some reason. If you are genuinely interested in other people, you will find they will reciprocate and be interested in you.
I am not advocating you stalk people, just that you be prepared to tell people about your business and be prepared to give them more information--never judge a book by its cover. I have come across a lot of people who at first glance may look more like they need a job rather than being in a position to give me work and it is easy to judge based on appearances alone. But by keeping an open mind you will not categorize people as quickly and the potential for a new customer could be standing right in front of you.
Interestingly, the starting point here is being able to say what it is you do. A lot of people actually struggle with this part of the interaction. When asked what they do there is a kind of mumble with downcast eyes. I recommend you have a very clear line in your mind: when asked what you do, stop, look the person in the eye and tell them loudly and proudly exactly what you do and why you do it!
Always be prepared for an opportunity. Be brave, it might need you to move outside your comfort zone, but you never know where it could lead.