Never-Fail Rules of Success

I rarely make guarantees, but I feel completely comfortable sticking my neck out on this one: I guarantee that if you religiously follow my “10 Never-Fail Rules of Success,” your results in every area of your life will dramatically improve.

The rules are about as straightforward as you can get:

Rule No. 1: Ask.

Rule No. 2: Ask again.

Rule No. 3: Ask again.

Rule No. 4: Ask again.

Rule No. 5: Ask again.

Rule No. 6: Ask again.

Rule No. 7: Ask again.

Rule No. 8: Ask again.

Rule No. 9: Ask again.

Rule No. 10: Ask again.

You’d be amazed at what I’ve managed to achieve simply by taking the trouble to ask . . . and keep right on asking . . . until I got the “yes” I was after.

I once closed what was perhaps the most unlikely deal of my life as a direct result of having the audacity to do nothing more than ask. I was trying to raise $5 million for a software project and, through my New York patent attorney, had made contact with a German investment banker who showed enough interest in it to begin the long, expensive undertaking of having a prospectus drawn up for some of his clients.

But it soon became obvious that it was going to be quite a while before he would be able to raise the $5 million through this process, and I was nearing the point where I wanted to do some test marketing. So I started to think about ways to get some quick marketing money in the till.

One day, my New York attorney happened to mention that the investment banker was coming in from Germany to meet with him on another matter. I immediately decided to go to New York.

My attorney thought it would be a terrible waste of both my time and money to make the cross-country trip. He assured me that the banker would not be open to any further proposals until he finished the prospectus and presented it to his clients. I thanked my lawyer for his advice, but told him that I would be making the trip to New York anyway . . . because it never hurts to ask.

I then called the banker, told him I had a counterproposal to discuss with him, and asked if we could meet in my attorney’s office while he was in town. He agreed to do so.

At our meeting, I told him that if he would be willing to bypass the prospectus for the time being and personally come up with some money for me, I would be willing to take just one-tenth of the $5 million ($500,000) so I could begin test marketing my product right away. Then, if things went well, he could take his time and raise the balance of the $5 million via the prospectus route. I emphasized that this would be a great deal for him, because it would allow him to find out if the product was marketable before putting almost $4.5 million of his clients’ money on the line.

The banker asked a handful of questions, and then told me he would like to talk the matter over in private with his associate. The two gentlemen excused themselves and went to a conference room down the hall. In about 15 minutes, they returned, expressionless, and sat down.

“OK,” the banker said. “We’ll go along with the proposal to put up the $500,000. Can you wait until Monday for a check?” You probably know what my answer was!

When I received the $500,000 check, I couldn’t stop thinking that this long-shot payoff was a direct result of my having taken the trouble to do one thing and one thing only: Ask.

Of course, not every payoff that you get from the mere act of asking is as big as raising $500,000 from an investment banker. Nonetheless, when the payoffs start coming nearly every day, they add up.

For example, I once sent my Palm Pilot back to the company for repair. When it came back, I put it in the cradle attached to my computer. But the first time I tried to “HotSync” my computer’s Palm Desktop address book into the handheld unit, I was stopped cold in my tracks by a software error. This had never happened in the more than three years I had owned the Palm, so it obviously had something to do with the repairs that were done. So I called the company and asked for help.

I spoke to a young lady who told me that if the problem was with the Palm Desktop address book, it couldn’t have anything to do with the repair of the Palm itself, because the company had never had access to my computer.

I tried to explain to her that common sense dictated they must have caused the problem, because I had never experienced it before. “In any event,” I said, “it must be a simple thing to correct, so I would really appreciate it if you would just quickly tell me how to do it.”

She again insisted that it could not be the company’s fault, and that she would have to charge me $25 to provide “technical support” of this nature.

I thanked her for her insight, wished her a nice life, hung up the phone, and immediately called the same telephone number again.

When I asked for help this time, I got a support person on the other end of the line who didn’t even bother to address the repair issue. He cut right to the chase. He told me that he was very familiar with the problem I was having, and that he could quickly talk me through the steps needed to correct it.

It was just a matter of three or four clicks of my mouse, which took a total of about 30 seconds. Very pleasant, no charge, and, to boot, before getting off the phone the fellow asked me if there was anything else he could do for me!

Twenty-five dollars may not sound like a lot of money, but when you employ this kind of ask-again strategy as your standard operating procedure, day in and day out, the rewards are hard to ignore. And it doesn’t always involve money; often, it’s a matter of convenience and/or saving time.

As an example of the latter, two business associates and I went to a Spanish restaurant one day for lunch at around 2:00 p.m. It was a rather large restaurant, and, because it was so late, it was about 90% empty. We told the hostess that we would like to sit at one of the corner tables by a window (all of which were unoccupied at the time). She informed us that it wouldn’t be possible, because the restaurant’s policy was to hold those tables for parties of five or more.

I sensed that it would be a waste of time to try to make her understand that it was 2:00 p.m., that the restaurant was almost empty, and that the chances of her running out of corner tables in the next hour were zero. Instead, I spotted a second hostess (who had a big smile on her face), approached her, and made the same request for a corner table. “Not a problem,” she pleasantly replied, and immediately sat us down at the table of our choice.

I could give you hundreds of other examples of how my 10 Never-Fail Rules of Success have paid off for me. I’ve employed the simple act of asking — and asking again and again and again — often and with great success.