What’s In a Name?

I like my name. I do. It took many years for me to say that because I grew up in a time when a character on Saturday Night Live had the same name – Todd the copier boy. Remember “making copies”? Given the fact that I worked for Xerox at the time, I took a lot of teasing because of my name and my job! A double whammy, for sure. In fact, for a long time I thought about using my middle name but dropped that idea. (My middle name is in the middle for a good reason that only my parents know. I can live with that.)

So why am I sharing this bit of lore now? While being pitched something in a meeting this morning, I noticed how the sales professional used my name a few times – at the right times – and it had a very interesting effect on me. Specifically, I felt closer to the conversation and much more connected to what he wanted me to buy. I began to listen closer. In fact, I felt good about being there. I noticed that I was smiling more and giving fuller answers. My natural (at times) cynicism was at a new low. And all it took was hearing my name a few times. I think we can make more sales, get that cool assignment, new job, or promotion, and achieve more in general when we acknowledge the person we are talking to by using his or her name.

Does this seem as if it should be obvious? Perhaps…and it should be if it’s not. I do believe that it’s not as common as it should be – especially when it comes to sales, which are about building relationships. This starts with using a person’s name and eliminating a divide that can easily happen when we talk, forgetting that we are talking WITH someone (not TO him or her).

So here are three rules for achieving more by using someone’s name:

  1. Use his or her name often and appropriately. Use your prospect’s name at the right time and interval. For example, when meeting someone, say “Nice to meet you, Ann” instead of just “Nice to meet you.” Or when you’re conversing, seek understanding by saying “Mike, does what I’m suggesting work for you?” instead of “Do you understand?”
  2. Use the right name. Ask someone what he or she prefers if there are versions of a name. For example, Richard may prefer Rick, Rich, or Richard. Don’t automatically use the formal version of a name – just ask! You will show respect by doing so and thus narrow the divide. Another thing to remember is to not assume that someone uses a common nickname for his or her given name. Richard may not like Rick, or Ricky, or Dick.
  3. (Try and) Remember names. This should be obvious that we need be diligent at remembering a name. If you are great at remembering names, you are ahead of the crowd. The reality is that many of us are challenged here, so during or after you leave a meeting or wherever you have met someone, make a note to yourself that will help you remember the name and have the note in one place so you can refer to it. If you received a business card, keep it in a way that you can access it to refresh your memory. Review the notes before you go to see the person again and greet him or her by name.

This is a simple way to create some connection and warmth in a sales relationship – and since everyone is selling in some way all of the time, we all need to think about the value of name usage. It’s a great way to create a bond. Using someone’s name is respectful. Have you heard the expression “What’s in a name?” Now you know: Everything.

3 thoughts on “What’s In a Name?”

  1. Thanks Todd,
    Very timely subject as I am debating whether to put all of my offerings under one web site with my name. BarbaraSherf.com
    While I’ve been around for a while and people know me, I’m concerned that my last name is tough to spell/remember. I’ve also had CommunicationsPro.com for 16 years, so that factors in. I’d be curious if you or your readers had any thoughts.
    Barbara Sherf
    [email protected]

  2. I thought the copy room character was named “Richard.” Todd was the name of the Bill Murray nerd character from the 1970s. Nonetheless, I used to work as a DJ at nights. People would always ask me if my real name was “Fred Diamond” and I would also say, “no, it’s Tony Diamond.” I like the main idea of this post. I frequently say people’s names…if only to remember who they are!

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