The Sweet Sound of Your Prospect’s Name

By Selling Power Editors

When a prospect hears his name, it’s like music to his ears. In fact, speaking a client’s name out loud is an easy technique which can have a remarkable effect on increasing your sales right away. Once you know how to remember names and when to use them, the friendly tone in the voices of clients and their subordinates will be its own reward. But the benefits go beyond mere pleasantries. Using a prospect’s name can actually increase your closing ratio.

Clues to Remembering Names

According to Dale Carnegie, “One of the best ways to win friends and influence people is to remember their names.” Because it’s good sales psychology, you will stand out as a true professional when you call your prospects and their associates by name.

You have to work to remember names; it takes concentration and a sincere desire to please others. Here are some simple guidelines that can help.

1. Be sure to hear the name. Frequently, names are given casually – and indistinctly. Don’t be afraid to ask for that name to be repeated. This won’t offend your client. In fact, it’s a compliment when you show that his or her name is important to you. If possible, write down the name. If actual writing isn’t convenient, imagine yourself writing down the name. If the name is difficult, spell it phonetically.

2. Repeat the name. Repeat it slowly and distinctly so that the other person is sure that you have it right, or can correct it if you have it wrong.

3. Observe the other person’s prominent features. Every person has certain features that can be associated with the name – shape of the chin, the eyes, shape of the face, ears, and neck. This takes concentration, one of the keys to good name recall.

4. Engage the person in conversation.

During a brief chat, use the name several times. Determine some facts about the person – his job, hobby, favorite sport, and any other information that you can obtain tactfully. Repeat the name to yourself, and make a link between the name and the facts.

5. Record the information about the person. For long term retention of the name, write the facts about a person on a memo form. This is especially important for your customer records. Suppose, for example, your customer is a purchasing agent who has a staff of four people. Accumulate and record the names, distinguishing features, interest, and assignments of all four people. Call them by name when you visit the purchasing agent. If possible, engage them in brief chats. Mention special subjects you know are of particular interest to them.

Which Names to Remember

Make a note of the name of every person you come in contact with, both on the way in and on the way out of a prospect’s office. Even when you’re on the phone, get the names of the people you speak to. For instance, when calling a prospect for an appointment and the secretary answers the phone, say, “Is this Mr. Wilson’s secretary?” And then when she answers “Yes,” respectfully ask, “What is your name, please?”

Write down, in parentheses, the secretary’s name next to Mr. Wilson’s on your phone index. In subsequent calls, use her name. She’ll be pleased with your recall and will likely help you get additional appointments.

When to Go on a First-Name Basis

Be careful about using first names too soon. Let the prospect and his staff members set the pace. As a general rule, continue to address the prospect by his last name for several visits after he has started to call you by your first name (or nickname). The same applies to his staff assistants, with the possible exception of his secretary.

You will be able to determine how to address the prospect’s secretary in your initial contact with her. When you ask “What is your name, please?” the reply will be either “My name is Agnes,” or “My name is Agnes Barton.” If you get the first reply, proceed immediately to address her by her first name. If you get the second reply, call her Ms. Barton until she suggests that you call her by her first name.

Use the Name to Signal a Change of Pace

As you proceed through your sales call, use the prospect’s name to indicate the advancement from one stage to the start of another. When you address him by name, you will alert him to the change.

Two times when this method of “cueing” works well are before moving from small talk to the beginning of the actual sales call, and when going from handling an objection into a close.

After chatting, continue in the same friendly voice, “Mr. Russell, my company has made many successful installations for other companies in your industry. May I ask you some questions about your operations?” The use of the prospect’s name signals that you are ready to get down to business.

After handling an objection, say “Mr. Russell, let me sum up my proposition…”, then give your summary and head into the close.

When you use people’s names, you make them feel special. They’re not just any old client. They’re “Mr. Thomas Black” and “Ms. Nancy White” – they have a face and a focus. It’s easy to show your clients that you value them as individuals. Use their names and your message of “I care” will ring out loud and clear.

This tip is based on material in the book Back To Basic Selling by Robert F. Taylor. Published by Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632