The 90 Second Rule

Have you ever sat through a presentation where someone was trying to sell something to you and it droned on and on for such an extended period of time that you nearly fell asleep? Unfortunately, I’ve sat through my fair share of these types of presentations, and as a result of being the recipient of this type of talk, I’ve developed the 90-second rule to help prevent the awful results that are received when somebody rambles on.

My experience is that people who “over-talk” tend to do so because they’re nervous and they feel a need to fill up the air with noise. Incredibly, filling up the air with noise causes all kinds of problems for the prospect. First, when you drone on, you never quite know if you’re taking the conversation in the direction that the prospective buyer or investor is interested in going. I’m always concerned about responding to the needs of the person on the other side of the table. It’s always my goal to move the conversation toward the direction that the audience feels necessary in order to explore the aspects of the business that I’m promoting.

Just yesterday I was on a telephone call with some guys who were pitching a deal. Their pitch must have lasted nearly 20 minutes with very few breaks in between. It was not well-scripted, not well-coordinated, and we never got any substantial feedback from the party on the other end of the phone as to how we were doing. We didn’t know if we were talking about issues that were relevant to them. We didn’t know if we were hitting the salient points. We didn’t know if they were even in the room or if they had left to go get coffee and donuts.

Feedback is critical, and you can’t get critical feedback if you’re the one doing all the talking. This is true in face-to-face business meetings and it is especially true if you are trying to sell by phone. That’s why I created the 90-second rule.

The 90-second rule says that you must never speak for longer than 90 seconds at a stretch without asking the person on the other side to intervene. Ask if “they are following you.” Ask if “they agree with the premise.” Ask if “they can imagine the magnitude of the issues.”

By involving the party on the other side of the table or the other end of the phone in the discussion, you dramatically improve the outcome that you’re searching for, because that party becomes part of the discussion and it helps you to narrow your focus. You may want to give the same pitch to every party, but the truth is that not every party is listening from the same perspective. You have to be “light on your feet” and be able to give 90% of the information your way but allow for some flexibility in the way that you deliver the material so that the prospect gets it “his way.” If you’re able to do that, then you’ll be successful in closing substantially more prospects.

So, as you are working hard every day to build your company, or as you’re building your career, be mindful of the person on the other side of the table. Make sure that you never speak for longer than 90 seconds at a stretch without asking for some form of validation or information to make sure that you’re on the right track with your audience.

Often dubbed a Growth Architect by his clients, Joel Block advises companies on explosive growth strategies by driving revenue and sales. Well known in the capital markets, Joel is a successful entrepreneur, speaker, advisor and faculty member of the iLearningGlobal community.