The napkin kiss

As salespeople, there is a plethora of marketing concepts and gadgetry at our disposal. We have access to powerpoints, laptops and glossy handouts. So when I mention a napkin as a sales tool, it sounds quite peculiar. Given our latest technology , the plain napkin seems to have bashfully crumpled to the corner of oblivion.

I'm a staunch supporter of the napkin and still consider it one of the more effective strategies. Whether a novice or a pro it's something you may want to consider keeping in, well... your back pocket. It offers a simple yet powerful alternative in a competitive field that smothers clients with complexity and superfluous jargon.

A great way to compliment the bashful napkin is with a KISS. If you've been in sales, it's likely you've heard the adage "keep it simple, stupid".

KISS has unfortunately been brushed aside for  to impress the client. Sometimes it's even clever enough to intimidate or tire the confounded prospect into signing the dotted line. But even if the temporary sale goes through, it's at the cost of a long term relationship.

There are several benefits of the napkin-kiss. One is that it differentiates itself from the everyone else, and in sales, that goes a long way. While competitors are busy dazzling their clients (and in some cases themselves) with buzz words and complexity, you're keeping it simple and targeted. While they inundate their clients with glossy material and multimedia, you're just trying to get a few brief points across and focusing on the relationship. While they're rummaging through slick packaging, you're providing the live and animated YOU, which if done properly, outranks even the niftiest software presentation.

To the untrained eye this concept may appear bland or "mickey-mouseish", but as a napkin-kissing enthusiast, I encourage professional salespeople not to undervalue its potency. It's certainly not a quick or lazy way out. In fact, it requires creative insight that you won't find in a standard training manual.

There have been far too many sales teams attempting to impress their clients by thickening the smoke and adding more mirrors. Transparency is obscured, and so is the human element essential for a quality relationship.

The napkin-kiss allows for professional input, while still allowing for a casual mix. Clients feel more at ease. Its simplicity relieves you of the stress rehearsal required to plug in laptops, drop screens, or ensuring presentation glossies are all in perfect formation. When you're confident about the service you offer, it will shine through, and without all the added stress and wasted energy.

But doesn't all this simplicity make one come across as an amateur? Nope. There is a very distinct difference between simplicity and a Simpleton. Simplicity may look easy, but shrinking the essentials onto a napkin requires fair amount of creative thinking. The most brilliant from Aristotle to Einstein encouraged us filter down to the lowest common denominator. Providing streams of calculus on several blackboards may be impressive, but it all boils down to E=mc2. That's all most of us really need to know. It's simple and impactful.

In most cases, a client would be more appreciative of your authentic, simple and creative approach than a salesperson who solely relies on the sleekness of their marketing department. While the latter may temporarily impress, yours will have longer-lasting impact.

This is just the beginning of several other great reasons for applying the napkin-kiss. Keep in mind, the concept is very adaptable, transferable, and disposable- even ecofriendly. And, when you take your client to the restaurant, the kind hostess has kindly provided your sales kit- conveniently tucked under the utensils.

Whenever possible, opt for the napkin-kiss. It's not to suggest we should avoid using marketing paraphernalia altogether, for it certainly has its place in say, a more formalized function. But for the napkin-kiss, keep in mind you may want to drill your message to a few key points.

For the "kiss" part, on one side of the napkin, provide 3-5 points with minimal words and allow for your creativity to flow. If more is required, then use this as a hook and consider it a great lead for future meetings. It's another way to solidify the relationship, plus, it allows for clients to further digest your initial key messages. On the other side of the napkin, either a rough graph or additional short-hand points should complete the process.

One last suggestion- just be careful it isn't the same napkin you used for dinner, unless you intended your client to analyze leftover Alfredo sauce for Rorschach testing.

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