The many and varied answers I received could be very revealing, sometimes even forcing us to completely re-think our strategy and approach.
Since forming my own company, which deals in training and developing individuals as well as motivational speaking, I have continued to ask the same question!
I am extremely pleased to report that the last 660 days have been the most fruitful of my solo career. Over the last two years, I have managed to cooperate and work for the likes of Ericsson, Microsoft, McDonald’s, GlaxoSmithKline and many more. You don’t need me to tell you that these are companies whose brands are, in some cases, better known than certain countries!
Had I not asked my question, I might have attributed my “lucky streak” or “well-deserved success” to the idea that I was perhaps gifted, talented, knowledgeable, smart or a great marketer. But even if I were some or all of the above and a rare case of one in a million, that means that in a global population of 7 billion, there are theoretically another 7,000 people exactly like me.
So I have methodically persisted in posing the question to all of my prestigious customers so that “the truth”, which would not only shape my strategy but perhaps determine my future, could be revealed.
I have a feeling that their replies will surprise you as much as they surprised me. They all (and when I say all, I really do mean 100%) said the same thing and they needed only seven words to tell me: “Michael, you are very prompt in replying.” Full-stop!
I have now made a habit of not only looking up the dictionary definition of that word “prompt” – “done without delay; immediate” – frequently but also of practising promptness with each and every one of my customers and prospects, irrespective of company size, turnover, number of employees or the potential for increased business.
I have also come to challenge a version of the 24-hour rule (for years, my dad and my most prompt and punctual university lecturers preached it to me) which states: “Always get back to someone who has initiated any kind of contact with you within 24 hours.”
Challenging the 24-hour rule was not easy – I am certain that you know many people who are incapable of responding within several days – but I knew that, if I wanted to differentiate myself from those one million gifted competitors, I had to. So I came up with the more challenging 7 x 7 x 7 rule. This not only added promptness to my arsenal of differentiation but also helped me convert prospects into customers with a certain amount of ease. Prospects like Bayer CropScience, Tipico, Interlaw and JHI.
The 7 x 7 x 7 rule refers to giving a response within 7 seconds, 7 minutes or 7 hours
- 7 SECONDS: If you receive an enquiry and you are not working on something else, respond immediately. Not only will your prospect be delighted but pleasantly surprised too.
- 7 MINUTES: If, on the other hand, you are working on something, take the second option (7 minutes) or the third (7 hours). If you finish your task within minutes, then go for Option 2. You will still pleasantly surprise your prospect or customer (or partner, spouse, etc.) and you will, at the same time, be making a name for yourself because you will be responding more promptly than 80%-90% of professionals in your chosen field.
- 7 HOURS: You may be wondering how the 7-hour option came about. Well, the seminars that I deliver on customer care and various other topics tend to have a duration of just under 7 hours. During that time, I choose not to reply to e-mails or other correspondence and communication out of respect for the customers that have hired me to train their team. Hence Option 3: Respond within 7 hours.
Among the synonyms for “prompt” are the following:
- In good time
- On time
Would you hire a professional with all the above qualities? I certainly would and so have Ericsson, Microsoft, Glaxo SmithKline, McDonald’s, Bayer CropScience, The American P&I Club, Tipico, Interlaw and JHI.
And the moral of the story is…
Apply the 7 x 7 x 7 rule to your professional and personal life without caution!