DEAR WOUNDED: This sounds really stupid. But I'm in sales and no matter what I do I just can't remember people's names. I think it's starting to hurt me. Help, whatever your name is …
ANSWER: Your e-mail reminded me of the plight of a recent valedictorian at Alcee Fortier Senior High School in New Orleans. Ironically the student with the highest grade point average in the school just can't graduate. It turns out that she failed, for the fifth time, the state's mandatory exit exam and college is in limbo until she passes the test.
And just like that valedictorian, our relationship with a client can receive top grades and we can still lose the sale because of one failed test. And it can be over something as small as forgetting someone's name. I've included strategies to keep the most important names right on the tip of your tongue. For more, check out Diane Darling's book, "Networking Survival Guide" (McGraw Hill, 2003).
Do you care about remembering their name? You've passed this test by writing to me to ask for strategies for remembering someone's name. But I fear that you are the exception and not the rule. I've met many people who just don't care if they get a person's name correct. If you don't think someone's name is important, remember the last time someone who you did a lot of business with forgot yours.
Do you repeat it? This is an easy to overlook, but important step. Say their name right after they tell you what it is. Be sure to give them a chance to correct your pronunciation. I know that many people believe that they can just repeat it in their heads for the same result, but there is something to actually saying a name out loud.
Can you use it in conversation? Have you ever had a conversation with someone you just met who repeats your name in every sentence? I hate it. Then again, repetition can really help so it's a good idea to repeat their name judiciously throughout your conversation.
Can you connect the name to something? You might see a guy named Dan and think of a big fan. Or Sue and think about her blue eyes. OK, these both seem simple and that is the point. You want to find a little trick, association or reference that will be both simple and memorable. Don't expect this to leap immediately to mind, you might have to talk to them for a bit to come up with something that you can link to their name.
Do you write it down? Some people don't really remember something until they write it down. I always try to ask someone for a business card and then jot down something about them to help me remember our conversation.
With so many things on all of our to-do lists it's a wonder that we even remember our own name. Use these tips and you'll get top grades from your clients.
We'd like to hear your strategy for remembering someone's name. I'll give an autographed copy of "Working Wounded: Advice that adds insight to injury" (Warner, 2000) to the best submission. Send your entry, name & address via: http://workingwounded.com or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries must be received by Wednesday (Aug. 3).
Here are the results from a recent workingwounded.com/ABCnews.com online ballot:
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