Sales Moves

What would Ben Franklin think of the ‘Ben Franklin close’?

April 28, 2017
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The Benjamin Franklin close (also known as “the balance sheet close”) is one of the classic old-time sales tactics used to “close a sale.”

Never heard of it? Shame on you — not enough sales training.

The scenario is this: You’ve made your presentation, but the prospect is on the fence and won’t make up his or her mind. You’ve tried everything, but you can’t get them to budge.

Then you say, “Benjamin Franklin was one of our wisest citizens, wouldn’t you agree, Mr. Johnson?” (Get prospect’s agreement.)

“Whenever he was faced with a decision — and he had some pretty big ones back then — he would take a plain piece of paper, draw a line down the middle and put a plus sign  on one half and a minus sign on the other.

“In his genius, he discovered that by listing all the positive elements on the plus side of the paper and the negative things on the minus side, the decision would become obvious. Pretty sound concept, agreed?” (Get prospect’s agreement.)

“Let me show you how it works. Since you’re having a tough time deciding, let’s list the benefits: some of the reasons you may want to purchase. Then we’ll list the negatives. Fair enough?” (Get prospect’s agreement.)

Now you list every good thing about your product or service. Get the prospect to say most of them. What the prospect says will be the main points of interest to him or her. Take your time to develop a complete list.

Then you say “OK, let’s list the negatives,” and hand the pen to the prospect and push the list toward him or her. Don’t say a word. Usually the prospect can only think of responses having to do with price or affordability.

In theory, this sounds like a good way to close a sale.

The big problem with the Benjamin Franklin close: It’s Old World selling that not only doesn’t work, it also annoys the prospective buyer. Try that close on someone who has ever taken a sales course, and it’s an insult.

The reality of the sale is, the prospect has already made up one’s mind; he or she just isn’t telling you.

So, should you just forget it and never use the Ben Franklin close? Heck no — just use the Ben Franklin principle in a different way. Do what Ben would have done: Figure out a new way and a better way, and use it.

Here’s a powerful new way to re-use the classic Ben Franklin close:

• Use it on yourself before you make the sales call.

• Use it as a preparation tool.

• Use it as a strategizing device.

• Use it to get ready to make a big sale.

Get a plain piece of paper (or your laptop) and draw a line down the middle of the page.

On the plus side, list:

• The prospect’s main needs.

• The questions you want to ask.

• The benefits and main points you want to be sure to cover.

• The one or two ideas you’re bringing to discuss.

• The one or two personal things in common to discuss.

• The decision-makers.

• The reasons you believe the prospect will buy.

On the minus side, list:

• The reasons the prospect may not buy and your responses.

• The obstacles you may have to overcome.

Now you’re ready to make the sale, and Ben helped you.

If you use the Ben Franklin close on yourself before you go in to make the sale, then you can ask the buyer intelligent closing questions. For example, questions that might lead with: “What are the major obstacles …?” “What would prevent you from …?” “Is there any reason not to proceed with …?”

That’s a Ben Franklin close that Ben would be proud of — the one you prepare for yourself. You close yourself before you make the sale. Wow!

Try this new version of an old classic. Ben would be proud of you. So will your boss.

I think it was Franklin who said, “A close in time saves nine … objections,” but history has distorted it for the people who knit. Pity.

Editor’s note: Jeffrey Gitomer is on sabbatical. This column originally appeared in the May 16, 2016, Business Journal.

If you would like a few famous Ben Franklin quotes that will inspire, motivate and help you see the obvious in a new way, go to gitomer.com and enter BEN FRANKLIN SELLS in the GitBit box. Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of 13 books. His real-world ideas are also available as online courses at gitomerlearningacademy.com. For information about training and seminars, visit gitomer.com or email Jeffrey at salesman@gitomer.com.

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