Are You Using the 48-Hour Rule to Your Advantage?
The 48-hour rule is about speed (responsiveness), accountability (commitment and personal integrity), and differentiation. (setting yourself apart from the crowd) Taken together, these are traits that most customers desire in a salesperson.
Whether you’re trying to promote an idea or push a project forward, the tempo at which you operate will influence your ultimate success. We don’t have the luxury of extended periods of time to command someone’s attention because in today’s economy everything moves at hyper speed. We all suffer from exhaustive communications, nagging problems to solve and more opportunities than ever before. What are the rules? How fast do we need to act? What failsafe methodology can we embrace to ensure that we are in the driver’s seat, at least most of the time?
The “48-hour rule” is one key to success. The 48-hour rule, simply stated, stipulates that to more effectively seize a new opportunity you should follow up or perform an action within 48 hours after interest has been established. Why? Because after 48 hours momentum is lost. Mindshare is gone. Your prospect has moved on.
The 48-hour rule is easy to understand but difficult to implement. Many people use a similar clock speed for every situation. How many times have you left a meeting with a list of action items firmly planted in the forefront of your mind only to find a new batch of e-mails requiring your immediate attention? The fresh ideas and actions from your meeting go into the vortex of “to do’s” to be acted upon at a much later time or maybe not at all. Your prospects are the same way.
How can you make the 48-hour rule work for you? Follow these simple steps and you will begin to adjust your clock speed. In doing so you will differentiate yourself from the pack and reap significant rewards.
Steps to implement the 48-hour rule:
The first step is to acknowledge or agree with the concept. If you’ve never considered the issue of timing as it relates to capturing a competitive advantage, then now is the time to consider your approach. Think back over your sales history. Can you remember a situation when your sense of urgency made the difference between winning and losing? Maybe you can recall a time when you closed a deal before your competitor had a chance to follow up. Certainly, in a sales situation, it pays to ‘set the pace’ rather than follow your competitors lead.
The second step is to analyze your current sense of urgency. How do you react to opportunities that arise with clients, colleagues or your boss? What is the typical lag time between an identified idea and action on your part? Have you noticed a difference between the times when you’ve acted right away versus the times when you’ve waited to respond? If your stack of obligations are unruly or if things seem to be slipping through the cracks frequently then the 48-hour rule will help.
Good news – the 48-hour rule actually gives you back time. How? Let’s analyze a typical scenario. You meet with a new client and discuss several issues and a couple of new opportunities. You’re engaged in the conversation and decide not to take notes. Multiple items for follow up are identified throughout the discussion. After the meeting, you agree to get back together soon. Unfortunately, the meeting runs a little longer than expected so you have to hurry to your next appointment. Somehow the rest of the day and even the rest of the week get away from you. You finally sit down to regroup and focus on this client but have a hard time recalling the details of the meeting, not to mention what commitments you made for follow up. In your next meeting, you have to recover some of the ground that’s already been covered and since your follow up was incomplete, several areas had to be reworked. Sound familiar? This scenario is played out every day. However, using the 48-hour rule on a regular basis will save you the time it takes to remember the details or re-review a project. You will completely eliminate the lost productivity associated with re-work. Follow up items seldom make your ‘to do’ list, therefore they don’t pile up.
The third step is to test the 48-hour rule. Pick a few important projects and take immediate action after meetings or after new ideas are introduced. Learn to prioritize those projects that are aligned with your goals. How does it feel? How do others respond? Do the results differ from times when you’ve waited to act? Ask a couple of co-workers, clients or your manager for feedback. Have they noticed a difference? The key to success in this step is discipline. Take detailed notes which can quickly prompt action. Be an end result thinker by continually asking yourself what the next step should be? Take care of quick actions immediately while they’re fresh in your mind. Use discipline to prioritize important actions. For instance, try completing action items prior to diving into e-mail.
The fourth step is to commit to the 48-hour rule. It may be a subtle change from your current approach but as everyone knows, the difference between winners and losers can be as small as a nanosecond. Form the habit of getting things accomplished in a timely manner.
As Albert Gray points out in his timeless book, The Common Denominator Of Success “The common denominator of success – the secret of success of every man (or woman) who has ever been successful lies in the fact that he (or she) formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.”
Note: Some people may disagree with the 48-hour rule. Their argument might be that moving too quickly can lead to bad decisions or other negative ramifications. Be assured that the idea is to move forward in a timely, positive and thoughtful manner. Sound judgment should always take precedence over speed.
The final step is to reap the rewards. Embracing the 48-hour rule will differentiate you with clients, colleagues and your boss. You will earn the reputation of a doer and someone who knows how to get to the end zone. In a world of lots of ideas but little ability to execute properly or expeditiously, you’ll stand out.
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About Lisa Magnuson:
Lisa Magnuson is an expert in corporate strategic sales and TOP Line Account™ revenue building. As a respected sales consultant and author, Lisa works with clients to build successful strategic sales programs that drive revenue from large new accounts and enable growth from existing high-value customers. Learn more at www.toplinesales.com.
Thanks for posting this. It’s practical and very much needed. I can’t put a number to sales opportunities I lost by not moving fast enough.
Great Sales insight.