Stop Being Terrible with Names

It’s hard to remember names, but committing them to memory is a power move in the world of sales.

As the great Dale Carnegie aptly observed 80 years ago, “…a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

But sometimes we talk to 40 people in a single day. That’s 200 names a week. Here are the four steps that will turn your head into a Rolodex.

  • Prioritize – Not every name belongs to a person you’ll talk to again. Pick out the prospects with promise and let the rest go.
  • List – Throughout the day, on a notebook or on a phone, write down the name of every person you meet and detail how you met them.
  • Associate – I knew a doctor that kept a tall stack of flashcards for every employee at his hospital. He would find out a hobby or interest and catalogue with the employee’s name. Pick out something unique about the person, the smallest, most seemingly weird or irrelevant thing will do. Often the stranger the factoid, the more likely you’ll be to remember the name.
  • Care – The main reason we forget a name is because we don’t care enough about the potential of a new relationship. From now on, when a new acquaintance registers as a priority as mentioned in step one, regard the interaction as valuable. This will make all the difference.

Then a time will come where your system fails and you forget. Instead of dancing around your memory lapse (sometimes we go months conversing with people whose names we don’t remember, dodging the elephant in the room) simply say, “I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember your name.” This is the best course of action, and if you’re sincere, the mystery man or woman in question will understand. We’ve all been there.

And thereafter make sure you remember. That humble line only works once.

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