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The Power of the Rule of Three: Transforming Your Communication and Influence

“You’re once, twice, three times a lady.” – Lionel Ritchie

The reason that song is memorable goes beyond the vocals and melody.

According to Linonel Ritchie, his father described his wife (Lionel’s mother) as a great wife, a great mother, and a great friend throughout his life. Being all three meant she was “3 times a lady.”

What does that song have to do with your sales presentation?

It’s called the Rule of Three.

When you’re giving your final summation to a customer there should be three reasons, benefits and expectations (see what I just did there?).

The Rule of Three is more than a rhetorical device. It serves as an organizing device for our thoughts – a beginning, a middle, and an end (second time I slipped that in).

Think of it as an introduction, body and conclusion (I just did it again, third time).

Cognitive psychologist Nelson Cowan of the University of Missouri says multiple studies of our working memory converge on the notion that, reliably, people can remember up to three basic units or chunks or ideas at once (Win Every Argument).

“People gravitate toward groups of three because our brains are always looking for patterns. And three, say the experts, happens to be the smallest number that allows us to see a pattern” (Win Every Argument).

You know the feeling. If something happens once, it’s a one off. If it happens twice, it’s a coincidence. But the third time? Something predictable is happening.

When you’re talking to customers, don’t be afraid to say, “I’ve got three reasons why this is the product for you.”

Here are three summary statements why you should consider the Rule of Three in your next sales presentation.

  • 1. Rule of Three provides simplicity and clarity: Three points are easy for both the presenter and the customer to remember and digest. It’s a manageable number that allows for clear and concise communication. When you overload a presentation with too much information, it can overwhelm your customer and dilute your message. Three points provide structure and focus. The concise nature of your preparation and adherence to the Rule of Three is also most efficient, something most customers appreciate. Ever talk to a rambling salesperson who didn’t know what they were talking about, much less what they wanted you to remember? Then you know.
  • 2. The Rule of Three is memorable: The Rule of Three is a common cognitive principle that suggests people are more likely to remember information presented in threes. This is due to the way our brains process information. By limiting your presentation to three key points, you increase the chances of your audience retaining and recalling the most important details. You want to be the salesperson they remember, while the competition left a vague, hazy, foggy memory behind (yep, did it one more time).
  • 3. The Rule of Three promotes decision-making: In many decision-making processes, people naturally gravitate toward three options or considerations. By presenting three points, you align with this psychological tendency and make it easier for your audience to evaluate your proposal. It will help you close the deal.

That’s it. I have three things to get done.

And don’t forget, the third time’s a charm.

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