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ben franklinAs the world changes, you will be faced with a series of challenges. As a marketer trying to decide what niches to approach, or as a sales person coaching a prospect through a purchase, the ability to make a decision is a critical skill for success. For some, decision-making is a case of following their gut. For others, decision-making is a glacial experience, fraught with indecision. Ben Franklin once said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” To ensure preparation and aid his decision-making,  Franklin had a simple tool that is both prudent and timely.

To use the “Ben Franklin” system,  take a lined pad and write the question to be decided at the top of the  page and below divide the remaining sheet into two vertical columns. The left is for the negative consequences of your action and the right is for the positive benefits. Consider the question at hand and start to fill in the columns, with a consequence or benefit in each row. When done, the side with the most reasons wins.

A variance of this process is  to “weight” each element that influences the answer. Again, each column(s) is  a candidate answer to your question. Add another column to “weight” each element.  Each element should have a value in all columns that represents its value for each answer.  Multiply the weight of the  element to value for each column and place the answer in another column. When complete sum the rows and the number with the largest total wins.

Should I stay home or go out to eat tonight?

Ben Franklin Example

Example of a Ben Franklin Matrix

You may take the advice of the matrix, you may not. But in going through the process you will become awake to the reality of the situation. It is always best to  be informed with eyes wide opened.

What decision are you struggling with right now?


I drift through life
Unsure of where I am
Where to go.

I think of each choice
Considering different paths
Choose with open eyes.

The total cost of ownership
Weighs both pros and cons
Considers trade offs
Potential futures.

No longer asleep
The automated machine
Is turned off
Replaced with wakeful decision-making.

I am dumb to the world 
Decisions of ignorance  are folly.

I am informed and observant 
Decisions are wise and thoughtful.

Better the sage than the fool 
With an ear to reality
A listening for knowledge.

Swiss Army KnifeAre you trying to be all things to all people?  Do you tell  yourself that the “whole world” could be your customer?  Don’t fool yourself!  A Swiss Army knife may have a can opener, corkscrew, scissors, screwdriver, nail file, bottle opener and lastly a knife all built into one multi-tool. But when push comes to shove it’s not a very good can opener, corkscrew, scissors, screwdriver …….etc.  Most people have a drawer filled with utensils designed to be only bottle openers or knives. And they prefer these single use tools because they provide a superior service for the task at hand.  Most likely you’re not selling Swiss Army knives but instead fine carbon steel cutlery for chefs. Do you know that?

Bu out in the woods, huddled over a fire, the Swiss Army knife, compactly stored in your coat pocket is EXACTLY the right solution.  This niche market, the market of campers shivering outdoors, is the target market.  What is your niche? Who are the people you uniquely serve?

The ocean is vast 
But the wise fisherman 
casts nets in narrow waters.

Serving every market 
Serves no one. 

Listen to the niche
Decipher its unique language 
Focusing on needs 
Deeply personal 
Providing solutions heartfelt.

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International Business Consultant

What is the Tao Te Ching of Sales?

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