Travel Sales Technique: The Ben Franklin Close

travel sales technique

The Ben Franklin close is a sales technique that helps a client make a decision. (Library of Congress)

Using the Ben Franklin Close as a travel sales technique

by Kelly Monaghan

Travel sales techniques abound. Those of us in sales who are old enough to remember when cars had fins are probably old enough to remember the venerable Ben Franklin Close. It’s something of a technical term used by salespeople.

But tastes change, and along about the time the family car stopped looking like the family rocket ship, the Ben Franklin Close was being phased out of most salespeople’s repertoires. “Cornball” and “old-fashioned” were among the kinder epithets used to describe it.

Too bad. The Ben Franklin Close is a travel sales technique that helped a lot of salespeople — and not a few travel agents — write a lot of business.

How the travel sales technique works

For those who don’t remember the Ben Franklin Close, here’s how this travel sales technique might have worked:

When a prospect was hemming and hawing over making a decision, say whether or not to put down a deposit on a cruise, the travel agent would say

Y’know, Benjamin Franklin had a reputation for being a pretty wise man. And when he was faced with a tough decision like this, here’s what he’d do. He’d take a blank piece of paper, like this, and draw a line down the middle, like this.

Then, on the left side he’d list all the reasons for the decision. And on the right he’d list all the reasons against it. When he was finished, he’d be able to look at the two lists and know whether the pros outweighed the cons.

Why don’t we try it?

The agent would then patiently lead the prospect through a mutual recounting of the many reasons to take the cruise.

Along the way, they would turn up a few minor objections that couldn’t be eliminated – for example, the customer is afraid he might eat too much.

At this point, the agent would be able to say something like, “When you look at all these good reasons to enjoy this cruise, compared to these two reasons not to, the decision is pretty obvious, isn’t it?”

There were probably a number of reasons the Ben Franklin Close fell out of favor.

  • It’s time-consuming to write down all those reasons to buy.
  • This travel sales technique requires a delicate touch on the part of the salesperson.
  • It came to be seen as increasingly old-fashioned as more sophisticated methods were introduced.
  • It became well known enough that more and more customers knew about it and salespeople felt self-conscious using it.
  • And, yes, it is just a bit hokey.

Too bad.

Yes, it’s a sales technique still being used

The fact remains that the Ben Franklin close does two things very well.

  1. It uncovers the hidden objection, if there is one because, rather then go along with the program and reiterate all the buying points, some customers will finally say, “Look, what really bothers me is . . .”
  2. That sheet of paper with its long list of “pros” and short list of “cons” sends a powerful visual message to the prospect who is having problems making a decision.

In an informal survey of sales professionals in a number of fields, I discovered something interesting. The Ben Franklin close hasn’t really disappeared. In some form or another, salespeople are still using this travel sales technique. They’re just adapting it to their own style. And they’re not giving Ben the credit.

If the “new” Ben Franklin close is attributed to anyone, it’s to someone comfortably anonymous. “Someone once told me,” they’ll say. Or, “My manager showed me a good way to resolve problems like this.” Or they’ll attribute it to themselves — “When my wife and I were deciding whether or not to buy our house, we took a piece of paper . . ” More likely a salesperson will simply say, “Look, let’s do this . . .” and reach for a piece of paper and a pen.

Other salespeople have used their sense of creativity with this travel sales technique.

One sales rep recounted how she spilled out a cup of paper clips on a prospect’s desk and sorted them into two piles — one for “yes,” one for “no.”

Another, puts his palms out like the dishes of an old-fashioned scale. As each reason to buy is ticked off, the “yes” hand drops lower and lower.

But the best example of blending time-honored travel sales technique with modern technology comes from the sales representative who uses an outlining program on his laptop computer to brainstorm with the prospect about the decision. When they’ve generated a long list of items, he then uses the computer to rearrange them on the screen into pros and cons, with predictable results. Ben would be proud.

Next time you find a prospect struggling with a high-ticket decision like a cruise or a tour, why not try the Ben Franklin Close?

Just don’t call it that.

There are plenty of other sales techniques to be found in The Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course.

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Travel Sales Technique: The Ben Franklin Close was last modified: October 20th, 2015 by Kelly Monaghan