The Executive Persona: Names

May 18th, 2008 by Frank Damelio

Having cold called at the top as well as far from the top, I noticed something curious. Irrespective of whether the prospect was interested, those at that top of the organization did something with far more frequency than those many levels down:  They used my name.

Interesting.  As prospects, these executives were in no way attempting to make a positive impression.  In certain cases, they were trying to terminate the call; yet with great frequency they would capture my name right from my introduction, retain it and use it.

When talking with gate keepers and managers at “lower” levels of the organization, I noticed that use of my name was far more infrequent.  Counterintuitively, I found that in cases where there was no interest, the executives were equally short, but far more courteous than their subordinates.  In a certain way, calling at the top can not only be a more fruitful experience but also a more pleasant one.

To be honest, I’m not sure if the case is that many executives are groomed and trained in the fundamentals of business success or that they simply tend to have stronger interpersonal skills.  In any case, you’ve heard it before and here it is again: executives and leaders tend to remember and use names more frequently in their conversations.

Many of us get tripped up on names when we are networking or socializing.  It does require decision and effort.  Right before every introduction, we need to make a conscious decision that we will listen for the name and use it. It takes effort to fulfill this commitment because it’s clearly easier not to be concerned with the detail while we focus on what we are going to say next.  The long-term payoff is that eventually it will become second nature, just as it is for many of those executives we cold call at the top.

If you have methods for remembering names, please share for our readers’ benefit. Thank you.

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3 Responses to “The Executive Persona: Names”

  1. Chris Says:

    Such an excellent note. I’ve tried to implement this in my professional and personal life (I’m usually terrible with names) and in many cases I’ve gotten instant positive feedback.

    Thanks for the tip!

  2. Laura Briere Says:

    I’ve found that if you’re over the phone, simply jot that person’s name down on a post-it so it’s in front of you, so you WILL retain. If you’re in person, I like to repeat the person’s name back to them immediately, and find some mental link – name association, if you will – to help. It has AMAZING results.

    From the book “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” Dale Carnegie says (loose quote here) “there is no sound more magical to a person than the sound of their own name.” How true!! And there is also nothing more grating than one’s own name being mispronounced – so if you think you have it wrong, or they said it quickly, and it’s not something obvious like “John” – ask, telling the person that you respect their identity and don’t want to callously screw it up ignorantly. They’ll happily guide you, and have a LOT of respect for you for asking.

    Another great post, Frank!

  3. fdamelio Says:

    Laura, I love the post it idea to help remember a name when you are on the phone. Especially if it is a new prospect and a long conversation, by the end of the call it is possible to forget the name. I’ll use that tip.

    I also use association. When possible I use songs with peoples name. There is even a song for Laura!!

    I appreciate your feedback!

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