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Expand Your Comfort Zone Like Benjamin Franklin

As someone who is fascinated by history, I’m always looking for wisdom that will improve my journey through life. Out of all the most notable figures in history, Benjamin Franklin has probably taught me the most.

Recently I was taking questions following a keynote on The Art of Selling to the Affluent and it became apparent that one of the biggest challenges for these financial advisors was getting out of their comfort zone. Most notably, there was a reluctance to prospect within their social circles—it was outside of their comfort zone. This got me thinking about Ben Franklin. How would he handle this situation?

I asked everyone to take out a pen and go to one of the blank pages in their handout. I then asked them to share with me what makes them uncomfortable in proactively marketing themselves in affluent circles within their community. The responses ranged from coming across salesy, fear of rejection, ruining social relationships and virtual prospecting to setting big affluent acquisition goals.

I then explained that I was going to take them through Benjamin Franklin’s process for making serious decisions—many sales trainers have taken the liberty of using it as a closing technique, referring to it as the Ben Franklin Close—but it was actually his technique for prudent decision making. So, get a pen and paper ready.

At the top of the page, I instructed the advisors to write out what makes them uncomfortable regarding prospecting in affluent circles. Next, I asked them to draw a line down the middle of the page, and on the top right side of the page write Positive and the top left Negative. I then instructed them to list all the positives that could occur from doing what was uncomfortable on the right side, followed by all the negatives that could occur on the left.

What occurred was exactly as Franklin predicted; the positives far exceeded the negatives. In other words, the benefits far outweighed the risks. Through this simple act of listing them side-by-side, it reinforced an attitude of “what the heck—let’s go for it.” 

Which prospecting activities make you anxious or pull you outside your comfort zone? We all have a comfort zone, but the secret in Franklin’s process is to be brutally honest with yourself. You can’t rationalize why you’re not taking action, there can be no excuses. Admit it, write whatever it is at the top of a blank piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, label the right column positive, the left negative, and then start with the positives. List all the good things that could result from you taking proactive action. Then list all the negatives that could result. 

When you’ve completed your positive and negative lists, take your time to review them. Which list dominates? My money’s on Franklin’s premise, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Now you’re ready to make a decision whether or not to expand your comfort zone. I’d wager that you’re raring to get started.

Keep this paper with you. Refer to it anytime you feel the slightest bit of hesitation and you’ll find yourself enjoying life outside your comfort zone. If you’re looking for a fascinating book to read, pick up a copy of Franklin’s Autobiography, which I continue to rate as one of the best self-help books on the market. 

Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent

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