Is the 3-foot Rule Dead?: Prospecting for Network Marketing & Direct Sales

August 18, 2008

Or, more importantly, should it be?

So what is the 3-foot rule? It’s an ancient sales adage that means if you get within three feet of me, I’m going to consider you a prospect for whatever I’m promoting or selling. So, is the 3-foot rule dead? I submit to you that the correct answer is: it depends. Allow me to elaborate…

A friend of mine, John David Mann, once published an article titled “First, Do No Harm”. In it, he urges readers to be careful how they approach prospects. It’s incredibly easy to approach someone poorly. One common mistake, as pointed out so eloquently by John, is that of not taking a genuine interest in the prospect. If you operate purely in your own self-interest, you do more harm than good—not just in a specific situation but, to the industry in general.

When you approach someone you don’t know (aka, situational prospecting), you probably won’t have time to learn his life story. Thankfully, you don’t have to. People know if your interest is sincere. Your unspoken signals will broadcast the truth loud and clear. Keep in mind, you’re talking to a person, not a bonus check. Not everyone should be sponsored into your business and there are some people that you don’t want in your business (trust me, I’ve met some of them). If your prospecting conversation isn’t properly focused, you could make a serious tactical error.

The flip side is also true: some people are praying for some sort of an opportunity to come along. Literally. They may not call it “opportunity”. They may call it “relief” or “more money” or even “more time”. No matter what they call it, you may be the very person destined to bring it into their lives. If you don’t offer your opportunity, it can’t help them (which in turn could mean fewer bonus checks for you to earn). Funny how those two go together.

No matter how ready the prospect is, a poor approach can still blow the deal. Take time to become a better messenger, model an expert that you can relate to, develop an appetite for information on prospecting skills (e.g., good books and this blog). By practicing the proper principles over time, you will begin to attract the right prospects.

Now, back to the question regarding the demise of the 3-foot rule: If you’re referring to accosting people you don’t know with an idea they have no interest in, merely because of their proximity, yeah it’s dead (and if it’s not it ought to be.) However, if you’re referring to the act of reaching out to the person next to you and striking up a pleasant, genuine conversation and if it makes sense, extend an offer, it’s very much alive. And it ought to be.

So is the 3-foot rule dead? It depends. It all depends on you.

Now, go knock ’em alive,

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Copyright ©2008 Russ McNeil