Is the 3-foot Rule Dead? Or, more importantly, should it be?
What is the “3-foot rule” anyway?

It’s an old 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. Some folks believe that the 3-foot rule is passé, ineffective, or maybe even unacceptable in the hectic environment of the Internet Age.

So, is it? Is the 3-foot rule really dead? I submit to you that the 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 your 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 genuine. Your unspoken signals will broadcast the truth loud and clear. Keep in mind that you’re talking to a person, not a commission check. Not everyone should be involved in your business and there are some people that you don’t want involved your business (trust me; I’ve met a few of them). If your prospecting conversation isn’t properly focused, you could end up making a serious tactical error.

The flip side is also true: some people are praying for 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’re going to be a catalyst for positive change, you’re going to have to take the initiative, start a conversation, and yes, perhaps even make an offer. No offer—no help (and less income for you). Funny how those things 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 and develop an appetite for information on communication and rapport skills (e.g., good books, articles, and audio programs). By practicing the proper principles over time, you will begin to attract the right prospects. Notice I said, attract, not attack.

The same concepts apply to prospecting for any type of sales, not just team-building. Real estate, insurance, and carpet cleaning all involve products and services that get sold. Before a sale is made however, prospecting must occur. Whether you are prospecting for opportunity-seekers or potential clients for a more traditional type of business, all prospects have one thing in common: they’re human. Thus, they have wants, needs, emotions, and worldviews which they hold near and dear to their hearts. By learning how to orchestrate conversations that compliment these attributes, and by learning how to communicate on the prospect’s wavelength, you can prospect more effectively, thereby making more quality sales.

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, make 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,


Author's Bio: 

Russ McNeil trains and writes for the Network-Marketing and Direct-Sales industries. His content is focused on the art and science of situational prospecting (turning everyday encounters into productive, win-win prospecting conversations). For more information on his work, including his complimentary newsletter, visit or