Keep a Black Book

If you’re serious about a career in sales and you want to continue improve your selling skills and abilities (and subsequently) earn more, then keep a black book.

What’s a Black Book?

A black book is literally a bound book of some sort or another (see some popular choices below) that you use to record virtually anything.  It is a single and central repository of everything that is or could be important or significant to you.

7 Good Reasons to Keep a Black Book

1. Black books keep you more organized.  Instead of having sheets here and there, notebooks here and there, smart phone notes here and there, your black book is the one place for everything.  This means you can find everything you need. Use it for client notes, telephone numbers, prospecting notes, memos to yourself.  Everything.  It will save you time, frustration and hassle.

2. Black books keep you focused.  You can record important things like your goals and objectives.  You can use your book to create a daily “To Do” list. Note your priorities.  Your book will keep you on task.

3. Black books keep you motivated. Use your black book to record your ‘victories’ or to list your dreams.  Use them to record your results.  Jot down inspirational quotes.  Cut out pictures of what you’d like to buy or places you’d like to visit or scenes that inspire you. Tape them inside.  Refer to them. Remind yourself of what you’ve achieved and what still lies ahead.

4. Black books keep you wise.  Note your ‘losses ‘and ‘defeats.’  Jot down why you might have lost a sale.  What did you learn from the experience? Were you prepared enough?  Do you need to brush up on a skill? Should you be working on your product knowledge?  You’ll find it quite rewarding when you take personal responsibility.

5. Black books make you more creative.  When a good idea pops into your head, capture it in your black book. Immediately.  Craft some notes while the idea is still sizzling away. Go back to the idea later and expand on it.  In this manner, you’ll never lose the thread.  (You can use your black book to “mind map” your ideas.  Mind mapping is a way to more effectively tap into the creative, right side of your brain.  Check the internet for Joyce Wycoff’s book called “Mindmapping.”  It will literally change your life.)

6. Black books make you look…well…smart.  This may not be a big deal for you but when you go into a meeting with your black book under your arm you immediately set yourself apart from the crowd.  Look around. Half the people won’t even be equipped with a pen or a pencil.  People who count (bosses, executives, owners and the like) take note of someone who comes prepared. It elevates your status.

7. Black books create a legacy.  I have black books dating from the late 1980’s.  Every now and then I haul out one or two.  I see how I have progressed and matured.  I sometimes see where I have regressed.  But it gives me a sense of personal development and growth. I suspect it will do the same for you.

Use your black book to:

Here is a summary list of things you record in your black book.  But don’t feel constrained.  Use it however you see fit.

  • List your sales victories
  • Stimulate thoughts and ideas
  • Record your yearly sales goals and objectives
  • Record your daily goals and objectives
  • Make notes about your clients
  • Take meeting notes
  • Take notes while on the telephone
  • Impress your boss with your thoroughness
  • Tape in articles of interests on sales …or whatever
  • Paste in pictures that inspire
  • Write compelling quotes
  • List “lessons learned” from your mistakes
  • Jot down “Top 10 Lists” ( e.g., Top 10 fiction best books, best movies, best restaurants,best business books, best web sites etc.)
  • Create daily to do lists
  • Doodle and draw
  • Jot down dreams and ideas
  • Note your achievements
  • Draft proposals
  • Write down quotes (“Never, ever quit,” “L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace!” etc.)
  • List strategies to develop new customers
  • List ways to develop your relationship with existing clients
  • Jot phone numbers and messages
  • Note questions or issues
  • Rate restaurants that you visited
  • Insights and observations on anything
  • Recipes (All Purpose BBQ rub)
  • … you get the picture, right?
Choosing Black Books

First off, black books don’t have to be black.  Color doesn’t matter. It’s what’s contained inside.

Next, go to any bookstore and you’ll see ever-growing displays of “Moleskin” books that are leather or cloth bound.  More expensive, they tend to have a ‘neat’ look.  People like Ernest Hemmingway used them, so you’d be in good company. They come in different sizes and themes.  Piccadilly make a less expensive version and it’s just as effective.  Check them out on line.

I have gone to art stores and purchased blank sketch books.  These books are sturdy rugged things, and they give you lots of space to write, sketch, and map out your ideas.

But you don’t have to get fancy.  Your black book can be an inexpensive wire bound notebook that you can get almost anywhere for a few bucks.  Doesn’t matter.  Whatever you like; an expression of yourself.

Black books or ‘journals’ are nothing new by any stretch of the imagination.  Caesar had one (it was in a scroll format, of course). Napoleon had one too. Most professional golfers keep a version of a black book.  Most great figures had a black book of one sort or another.  I’ll bet a lot of sales gurus have them as well.

Invest in yourself today and you’ll find yourself in good company.


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5 Responses to Keep a Black Book

  1. Thanks so much for this post. I’ve tried this method before, but it wasn’t as effective as I’d hoped because I wasn’t able to keep the notebook organized. If you’re using it for all of the above, please share how do you organize your notes so that you can find them again without having to flip through half the book?

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  2. Unfortunately, I have not found a way to effectively organize the book. But I have not let this stop me from using it. I have done simple things. For example, I use a purple highlighter for prospect conversations and contact information. This makes them easier to find but admittedly I still have to leaf through the book.

    But here’s the benefit of leafing through the book: I revisit ideas, articles, strategies, concepts … you name it … that I toyed with at some earlier date. Seeing them again gives helps me complete some of the initiatives I had from the past. I like that because good ideas are fleeting and this captures them and retains them.

    Now … If I have a client with whom I am working over a long period of time, I will have my own separate notebook for that client. For instance, I have clients that I have worked with … on and off … for years. I have a black book for them. Of course, this doesn’t always make sense. You can’t have a black book for forty or fifty clients and haul them around with you.

    The black book has it’s limitations but for me the benefits outweigh the restrictions. I don’t know if that helps but it adds a little more perspective.

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  3. Thank you, Jim. Does help, and I know what you mean re client books. I’ve been using digital file folders for clients in a cloud directory backed up on Mac and a good ol’ external hard drive, and I keep detailed electronic notes (in TextEdit/WordPad format) on client projects in those files. That system is working great since those are easily searchable and well organized, but I’d really like to try the notebook idea again because all these little stacks of Post-It notes on everything else are driving me bonkers. :-\

    While I was writing my earlier comment about how to organize the notebook, those little adhesive tabs came to mind that they sell at office supply stores (like these but color coded: I’m thinking I’ll try using those to compartmentalize the notebook a bit, and then maybe a cross-reference/index system in the back of the books and see if that works.

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  4. Another idea submitted by another reader (I did a similar article for Horsesmouth Newsletter – a newsletter for investment advisers) recommended Arc Notebooks from Staples. These are smaller 7-Ring binders that allow for tabs and inserts, color coding and the like. In this manner, notes can be take and then placed in the proper tabbed section. It’s not unlike a regular binder expect smaller, nifty looking. Go on line and see what you think. They might be adaptable to your situation. Jim

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