“Waiter, can I have a napkin please?”

“Waiter, can I have a napkin please?”

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at gitomer.me.

“Waiter,can I have a napkin please?”

Ever write anything ona napkin? An idea, a phone number, a to-do, a note, even a salespitch? Sure you have.

I picked up a book inthe airport titled, The Back of a Napkin, by Dan Roam. Greatconcept. A book about napkin scribbling. I do it all the time andwanted to see what someone had to say in 275 pages that I hadn’tthought of or understood.

The cover is a napkinlike print with stick-people drawn on it. Cool.

Then it dawned on me –the BACK of a napkin? I always write on the front. On furtherthought, I never knew napkins had a backside. To me it’s alwaysjust been two sided — both front.

Anyway, I began toread. Or should I say, tried to read. For the record, I am not anacademic. I’m a salesman. Oh, I’m a student, just not astructured one. My brain has no patience. I want answers that I canunderstand in two seconds, not 275 pages.

I skipped around,trying to find the place that suited me, but it was like a classroomshowing students how to draw pictures on a napkin to solve problems.WAIT! I don’t have any problems. Rats.

I don’t use napkinsto solve problems. I use them to write thoughts of the moment. So Istarted writing in the margins of the book to expand or clarifyRoam’s thoughts.

So, I began to use hisbook as a napkin. To put down my own thoughts about how (as asalesperson and an entrepreneur) I have used napkins. The first thingI did was add to the subtitle. His was: “Solving problems andselling ideas with pictures.” I expanded it to read: Capturingthoughts, creating ideas, clarifying ideas, solving problems, andselling ideas with pictures and words.

NOTE WELL: This is nota criticism of the book; rather it’s my take as a napkin user for40 plus years. Not “how to” — rather “how I do.” The bookwas not written in my style, but it was inspirational. Got methinking, and writing. I wrote 20 thoughts and ideas as I read.Example: I think inside, on paper, and out loud.

I looked at thestructure of the book, and realized that Dan, the author, was more ofa logical thinker. I’m a combination of emotional and logical. Ispeak and write the idea with rapid thought and high emotion, then Ilogically justify it with supporting thoughts, clarifying thoughts,and expansion thoughts.

Not just the idea, butdetail of what the idea entails. AND — I don’t do this forothers. I do it for myself. To hear myself think out loud, and hearhow it sounds as I write it.

Here’s what I mean: Imet my friend Ray Bard of Bard Press for lunch at a Mexicanrestaurant in Austin. Ray published my book, Customer Satisfactionis Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless with some success. Heeagerly leaned forward and said, “I have an idea for a book, and Ithink you’re the perfect person to write it. Are you familiar withHarvey Penick’s Little Red Book of Golf? I nodded yes, notwanting to interrupt his words with mine. “The Little Red Bookof Golf has sold more than two million copies.” “WOW!” Iinterrupted.

“Jeffrey, I think youshould write The Little Red Book of Selling. It’s a naturalfor you. Write it in your edgy style, and you could outsell HarveyPenick. What do you think?”

“Waiter! Can I have alarge paper napkin please?” I bellowed.

I wrote the title atthe top of the napkin. The ideas for a table of contents came fastand furious. “‘Kick your own ass’ is chapter one!” I saidwith enthusiasm. “Salespeople are always looking for someone elseto motivate them, and I believe they need to take responsibility formotivating themselves.” Ray smiled. I continued, “The lastchapter is definitely, ‘Resign your position as general manager ofthe universe.’ Just focus on yourself and your own situation, andstay out of other people’s drama.”

Ideas began flowing. Ibegan filling in the blanks with my red Sharpie. Chapter one was atthe top of the napkin. And the last chapter was at the bottom of thenapkin. I wrote more thoughts and content about preparation, askingquestions, networking, delivering value, relationships, and otherelements that would create a buying mood rather than a selling tone.I decided that the book would be about why people buy, not howto sell. And that the opening quote of the book would be mytrademarked phrase, People don’t like to be sold, but they loveto buy.

The napkin was filledto the edges with content, clarification, and other thoughts. Ilooked up at Ray and said, “I’ll do it!” That was in the Springof 2002. Two years later, the book idea that began on a napkin wascomplete, edited, and ready to print. I still have the napkin.

Because of thatcollaborated idea, because the two people at the table had mutualrespect and mutual trust, because the waiter brought me a napkin, andbecause of readers like you, The Little Red Book of Sellingjust passed the 750,000 copies sold marker, and that’s just thenumbers for the English version.

Napkins and their bigbrother, flipcharts, have played a major role in my ability togenerate ideas, clarify them, and turn them into reality, and money.

Got idea? Get napkin!

Last month I was inAustin and passed by the Mexican restaurant where Ray and I met forlunch. I smiled.

Wanna know what I wrotein the margins? Go to www.gitomer.com, register if you’re afirst-time visitor, and enter the words MARGINS in the GitBit box.