The Three-Minute Presentation

By Heather Baldwin

In 1994, a young Brazilian businessman was ushered into Donald Trump’s office. Trump said, “You have three minutes to sell me your idea.” Three minutes later, they had a deal. Imagine yourself in the same situation. Could you sell your product or service in a 180-second presentation? If not, it’s time you focused on those crucial first moments because those are what sell you – or not, says Ricardo Bellino, the Brazilian who parlayed that three-minute meeting into the largest and most exclusive golf resort in Latin America, the Villa Trump.

“It is my belief that this first impression is so powerful that it will determine the entire course of events that follow: whether there will be support or opposition, receptivity or rejection, openness or indifference, connection or disconnection,” says Bellino in his new book, You Have 3 Minutes! (McGraw-Hill, 2007). So how do you make someone want to do business with you in three minutes? There’s more to it than you’d think. Here are three things you need to know to sell an idea within a three-minute timeframe:

1. Know how to listen to intuition. Intuition plays a more important role in business than you’d think. Jack Welch once said that if there is one thing he truly regrets, it is not having made some of his decisions faster. Welch understands that intuition, or “gut feel” can guide you to the right path in a split second while hours or more of pondering may result in a wrong decision or missed opportunity. Bellino points out that intuition is crucial when you’re going after big opportunities. When you intuitively know your ideas are right, that inner conviction will shine through and prospects will be drawn to it. To improve your intuition, be clear and honest about your objectives so that both your conscious and unconscious mind is working toward the same goal; learn to relax and pursue hobbies so your mind can be receptive to flashes of inspiration; feed your intuition by reading everything you can possibly find time for; and cultivate relationships to make you more experienced and sensitive in dealing with other people.

2. Know how to prepare. Preparing yourself means “being conscious of a series of elements that are important when someone is forming a first impression about you, and knowing how to combine them with your spontaneity and your intuition at that moment,” says Bellino. All sales reps know they need to research the prospect, his business, his market, and his industry. That’s basic sales. But in focusing on those areas, most reps neglect to focus on the physical elements that will enable the prospect to form a good impression in the first place. Business magnate John H. Johnson used to get his foot in the door as an insurance salesman by asking clients for only five minutes of their time. Those five minutes were effective, Johnson says, not only because of what the customer was able to see, but also because of the “weeks and months of preparation that he couldn’t see.”

3. Know how to create a good impression. The minute you walk in the door, your prospect is making a subconscious decision about whether he wants to do business with you. How? He or she is judging your outward appearance, your body language, your tone of voice, the words you use. Bellino delves into these areas in his book, but acknowledges that trying to manipulate all the variables that influence a message’s degree of effectiveness can seem overwhelming. While you do need to understand and work on the basics of your communication, Bellino says the big secret to making it all work is to have “a deep and genuine conviction that your idea is really good, that it has every reason to succeed.” Robert Woodruff, the head of Coca-Cola for more than 60 years, once said that an essential quality he looked for in the sales reps he bought from was a genuine belief that their product would help his company.