We met for a business meeting at 2 p.m. and by 9 p.m. that night I knew she was "the one". We'd talked about life, values, the past and the future and I was hit with a new kind of feeling I hadn't had before. As cliché as it sounds, I was sure I would end up marrying this woman.
It's funny how my story of meeting my wife matches that of many other couples. That sense of "knowing" set in around the first few dates for many people. It's also funny how people tend to make all sorts of big decisions in this same way business context.
I've observed that big purchasing decisions will take about seven hours. Whether you are buying a new car, making a career move, engaging a consultant or choosing a holiday destination, when you add up all the time you spend thinking about it, you can be fairly sure it totals about seven hours.
It's also logical that if someone is willing to invest seven hours getting to know about a topic, it's only because they're interested. If they hadn't felt any connection, they wouldn't have hit the seven-hour mark; they would have walked away. During those seven hours, people establish their criteria, look for relevance, develop an emotional connection, build trust, rapport and understanding.
The something magical happens at about the seven-hour mark. You get sick of thinking about it and you're ready to make a decision.
If you sell something to which a purchaser is required to have an emotional connection, develop trust or gain a new understandting - and if he or she must make a significant decision - you would be silly to try to force the deal to complete sooner than seven hours.
Japanese businessmen know this. They will rarely talk business until after a round of golf or two. It can actually blow the deal to bring up the topic of business too soon.
None of this matters if you are selling something trivial that a person doesn't need to learn about. It also doesn't matter if you're happy to compete purely on price with tiny margins. But when you want to offer something new or important and you want to be fairly rewarded, the seven-hour rule is vital. Expect your interested people to "think about it" for up to seven hours while they explore their options. Also consider whether they would be more likely to choose you if you provided them with seven hours of content, ideas, conversation and connection.
To scale this concept, your goal is to clock up seven hours with as many people as possible using your tools of entertainment and education. You don't want to do this in a creepy, annoying or pestering way. You want people to want to spend seven hours with you. Maybe you host a great parties, maybe you chair industry meetings, or maybe you take people out for coffee once a month. As long as people like spending time with you it won't be time wasted.
Two great things happen after you have a seven-hour relationship. Firstly, you don't feel uneasy offering something of value; and secondly, you are less likely to blow the relationship by offering something you don't fully believe in.