The 7 Hour Rule.

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Big decisions take 7 hours.
Whether you are buying a new car, making a new career move, engaging a consultant or choosing an annual holiday destination, if you add up all the time you spend thinking about it, you can be fairly sure it totals more than seven hours.

Something magical happens after seven hours. If you have invested seven hours in getting to know a person or a topic its only because you have established a high degree of relevance, emotional connection, trust, rapport, understanding and even bonding to the person or idea.

If you hadn’t you wouldn’t have come close to hitting the seven hour mark.

So why is this important?
If your business sells something that requires a purchaser to adopt a new idea or deal with a new person and if the decision is significant you would be silly to try and get the deal done 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 like coffee or chewing gum. It also doesn’t matter if your 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.

So how does it work?
Simple. Your goal is to clock up seven hours with as many people as possible. 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 great parties, maybe you chair industry meetings, maybe you take people out for coffee once a month, as long as people like spending time with you it wont be time wasted.

After you have a 7hr+ relationship two great things happen. 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.

The beauty of social media is that you can leverage this process. If people read your blogs, follow your tweets, watch your YouTube channel, listen to your podcast, click through your slides or flick through your photos, it’s as good as sitting face to face. Strangely, the human brain can’t distinguish between digital media and real life (which is why we still feel sad when a celebrity dies even though we didn’t ever really meet them).

My belief is that celebrity endorsements work for companies because you are seeing someone familiar (who you have most likely spent seven hours watching) recommending a product. Companies are effectively buying lots of 7hr+ relationships when they hire the celebrity.

Try out the seven hour rule in your own business and see if life gets easier. If you experience what I have seen, you will find that you don’t need to push for a sales, you get better JV’s and partnerships and you have more fun in business too. All by spending quality time with people.

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  1. Glen

    I digg the insight and am curious about the comment that social media interaction in all its forms is as good as face time. My gut instinct disagrees with that (but am happy to be wrong)

    In my experience nothing tops breaking bread (or the half way mark on a bottle of red) with someone. There are some things Twitter just can’t do (nor should it).

    Not my any means am I suggesting social media is not valuable – I just see it as an ‘onramp’. A way to create multiple streams of candidates for eventual face time while getting your message out there.


  2. wealthdynamicsupdates

    I watched some old footage of poor John Lennon getting approached by two hippies. The hippies were convinced that John had writen his songs for them, they felt a special connection to John and they were very comfortable being around him. Not the case for John, he was a little worried and kept saying to them that he didn’t even know them, he had never met them and that he certainly hadn’t deliberately written songs just for them.

    The human mind can’t tell the difference between digital content and real world experience. The evolutionary development of the brain has not caught up with video, audio, photography and text.

    For this reason, if your clients listen, watch, browse and read your content, they are forming a real bond with you.

    Without a doubt bread and red is far more special however its not so scalable. ;)

    • Glen

      I agree 100% that with online social media interaction, a bond is forming.

      I disagree 100% that it is ‘as good as face to face’. That’s all.

      Affinity, bond, connection, scalability… yes.

      As good as face to face?


      • wealthdynamicsupdates

        Fair Point. Certainly true with friends. In business though, I would say that in some cases, depending what you want to achieve, digital can be BETTER than face to face.

        Heres 4 reasons why:
        1. People watching you on Digital aren’t just being polite. In some cases a face to face meeting may be out of sheer politeness whereas a person who is actually watching your video is doing it because they are engaged with it.

        2. You can get your message right. Everyone has their off days but when you create a recording or a video you can make sure you get your message just right before you release it.

        3. It can be more media rich. Digital allows you to communicate your ideas in pictures, sounds, diagrams, slides, links, etc – for some ideas this is much better than just talking.

        4. Digital can position you as an authority – Sitting face to face with someone may be great for rapport however in many ways it can position you as a friend rather than an expert in a chosen field or a thought leader. I’m friends with a guy who gave a TED talk, when I watch him online I think of him as an authority, when we sit face to face he’s a friend. Depending how you want to be perceived, digital could be a better way.

  3. The seven hour rule works for me, it’s all about the synergy and making a human connection.

    Digital media allows the connection to begin and grow, touching all the senses of sight, speak, and touch which builds to taste and smell. You can taste and smell the connection; it’s about that wonderful moment when you connect with someone else who you know is just talking your language; its that magical sixth sense and gut feel a meeting of minds!

    People sell to people, the connection has to be made and it has to grow…. digitial media helps it on the way; a taster before the main meal!

  4. To be fair with Multiple inter actions and thousands of views possible, the benefit far outweighs the fact that there is a marginaly reduced value in ‘thru media’ interaction, then actual F-2F.. I have seen people chat straight away like they no me on trader clips, and are straight away on to what part of SAfrica are you from having detected an accent when I have never yet engaged directly with them.

    Immense value, I have been those hippies too, You mean Bono did write ‘Still haven’t found what I am looking for’ for me…. Rats..Yes I do Think I know him at least a bit anyways..

  5. Philippa

    Your warmth and direct response in addressing peoples concerns is what makes you so engaging as a digital friend. There is a lot of people just pushing content. It is great to see you engage so often. It is this conversational quality to your digital presence makes you stand out in my mind. And leaves me much more receptive to what you have to say.

  6. Debo Adebayo

    Hi Daniel,

    I’ve been following you for a while and have found your information on social media to be really interesting and enlightening. So that’s why we should all become golf players!! I always wondered about that.

    I think it’s fascinating to learn how the human mind works. It is interesting to observe the best people who do this in action. You can see how social media does this especially how YouTube videos and Vlogs allow you to build that relationship with the customer.

    Just one question? Isn’t there a limit to how many meaningful relationships you can form? I’m not sure but it appears like you are forming some sort of meaningful relationship. Is that all ok?

    Thanks a lot for the message by the way

  7. wealthdynamicsupdates

    Hi Debo,

    In answer to your question, I feel that if your communication is authentic, clear and of genuine value to people there is no reason why you can’t have a meaningful relationship with a lot of people.

    Consider how many people quote Tony Robbins as a person who made a huge impact in their life, yet most people have only seen him on video, listened to his recordings or read his books.

    We only need to look at religion to see how easily the human mind can form a meaningful relationship. I’m not judging, I’m just showing an example where billions of people claim that their MOST meaningful relationship is with someone who existed in a different millennium.

    It would seem that all the “meaningfulness” in a relationship happens internally for people. The mind responds to stimulus by assessing the logical and emotional attributes and then deciding if it wants to attribute any meaning to it.

    To practically apply this principle I recommend sharing more of yourself in videos, blogs and social networks. From your willingness to open up and share you will see that people respond in kind.

    I’m discovering all sorts of amazing opportunities showing as a result of sharing ideas openly online.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Dan

    • Debo

      Hi Dan

      Thanks a lot for the reply. Really looking forward to your book. When will it be out? Are the any books/resources which help with Social Media?


  8. Heidi

    Hi Daniel,

    Interesting read. Sheds more light on our conversation the other week. To echo someone elses comment, your response to my feedback then showed me why people do business with you – responsive, insightful and sincere.

    Two thoughts on this…

    First – if you use multiple forms of social media to accumulate your seven hours with a prospective client, because you are detached from the connection, how do you actually know what stage they are at in warming to you? I would think this information is key in terms of knowing how to tailor your communications to them. If you could track their interaction with you online then you could shape the tone and style of your approach. I’m not really sure how one would track this if an individual is looking at your twitter feed, facebook, slides etc. In the online word, I think the objective would be for you to want to know when they are at the cusp so that you can decide the best way to nudge them over the edge.

    Second – you describe this rule as though it must be applied to each new relationship. I don’t think this is necessarily the case. If I were to visualize this rule it would take the shape of a pyramid. Seven hours with key people at the base who then act as your champion and open doors for you with people they have spent seven hours with – ie I trust you, people who trust me will be more inclined to trust you, thus they sit higher up in the pyramid and you(brand, idea etc) need to spend less time winning them over. Therefore, what is key to this strategy is pinpointing who the right people are to be sitting in the base of the pyramid!

    It looks like I’m several months late reading this…but only natural given that we only at hour six together…

    Merry Christmas!

  9. Daniel Priestley

    Heidi, You just clocked over the 7 Hour mark as you read the final paragraph by my watch. :)

    Firstly, the 7 hour rule is more of a concept for understanding human behaviour than it is a hard and fast rule. If your sales team understand the rule, they don’t burn so many people while they are looking for the immediate sale.

    Our sales team are trained to ask a few questions to establish how new someone is to dealing with us (Eg: How much do you know about us, have you attended our events or watched our videos online?). If we establish that someone has only had a few interactions with our company we don’t push for a sale, we try to advance the relationship by inviting the person to another event or to read some of our material/watch some of our video online, etc.

    I agree that if someone comes to you through a trusted friend they are much more likely to shave a few hours off the seven however you might also be surprised that when you look at the time spend talking with a friend and then thinking it through, it might still get close.

    As I said, its best to use this “rule” as a conceptual guide rather than a scientific law that must apply to every person all the time. For anyone asking people to make a big decision, the big take away points should be:

    - Invest time into a relationship.
    - Don’t be offended or upset if someone doesn’t make a decision right away.
    - Create materials for people to read, watch or listen to in their own time.
    - Keep in touch with people.

  1. By 2010 in review « Daniel Priestley on January 3, 2011 at 4:25 am

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