Say My Name, Say My Name…


There were many poems that I was required to remember, recite and interpret during my private school days.  I had no belief that they would be relevant to me at any point in my life, very much like Geometry.  Fast forward and there is one poem that has never left my mind.  I can recite it word for word, perhaps because it is pertinent to life and how I interact with others personally and professionally.  The quote is from, “Othello”, and is often cited separately from the work itself:  Good Name (scroll to the bottom to see it).   Long story short, Iago is letting Othello know the value of his reputation, how highly he regards it and how personally he takes any association of his name with anything disreputable.  His name is of greater value than money because it is solely his; while money can belong to anyone and will exchange hands.

Take the word “name” and use it in its most literal translation and the meaning remains the same.  In one of the best sales training that I ever attended–for various reasons–there was ONE thing that I could say each individual in the room recalled without having to refer to a manual:  “A first name is the most beautiful word in the English language“.  Our trainer was attempting to convey how important it was to use someone’s name in conversation, remember it, and treat it like a personal endearment.  He stressed it as one of the most valuable tools in the game of rapport development.  I agree with him wholeheartedly!

My daughter has an interesting name, Da’Monet.  She was named after two of my favorite artists (ironically, she’s a talented young artist) and longs to be a celebrity (we’ll see).  Her name would allow her to forego a last name if she chose to, a la Beyonce, and she is very territorial about its pronunciation.  After only a few days of hearing it incorrectly, one school year, she told her teacher just to call her “Dee”.  She would rather you shorten it than say it wrong.  Shame on her mother for the Italian/French hybrid.   Day-Mo-Nay (the long “O” is pertinent to her as well).

In any case, we are all protective of our name, whether it is Stephanie, Stefanie or Stefany (shame on the mother who spells it with an “f” and a “y”).  When someone pronounces it wrong, we’re corrective.  When someone spells it wrong, we allow them to be apologetic.  What happens when they get it wrong all together?  We’re offended–quietly or otherwise.

On the first day of a new job, I realized that my phone display was programmed to say, “Stacy”, but I let it go.  What harm could it do?  Never mind that everyone had the proper name on their telephones, it just couldn’t be that important to me in the moment.  For the first few weeks, I realized that a person that was a part of the interview process and ultimate hiring decision was referring to me as “Stacy” as well, but I also let that go.  Then something drastic changed my perspective…Experience.

Slowly but surely the error became perceived as a slight because of experiences within the environment.  Being cut out of all conversation at the meeting that I prospected, closed for and arranged.  Being unacknowledged as having attended the meeting at all in the follow-up letter.  Being forced out of a trip that I cold prospected and managed through to the close phase so that someone else could go and get the contract signed.  All of these things made me realize why the incorrect name on the phone was relevant even when I thought it wasn’t.  It had nothing to do with the fact that I was accustomed to being the rock star in an environment where everyone knew my name and everything to do with my perceived value from the beginning of the process.

The longer that I worked there the more aware I became of the irrelevance of anyone on the “team” that wasn’t in an executive position.  Time wasn’t respected, appreciation wasn’t shown except on special occasions and yes, accomplishments were claimed with key players being relegated to a “cc” on the email as opposed to a congratulation or mention.  Not remembering my name was a foreshadowing of my “place” in the company.  It was and will be the only time that I allow my good name to be ignored without kind correction.

The same impact can be felt by your clients.  Remembering a name could be as simple as that or it could be as impactful as your lack of effort in doing so.  How do you ask someone to trust you to handle their business if they can’t expect you to recall their name?  The same could be said for a receptionist answering the phone every time that you call a company; wouldn’t it make sense to acknowledge her importance to the process (and she is) by simply recalling her name and using it when she picks up the phone?

It’s not important only to recall the name of your target, prospect, gatekeeper or acquaintance, it’s important to use it from the moment you hear it (role-play this out so you sound natural instead of gratuitous).  For instance:

Front Desk:  Good Morning, Thank you for calling Dr. D’s office, this is Rachel.  How can I help you?

Me:  Good Morning, Rachel.  How are you?

Rachel (pauses because she is somewhat stunned at the usage of her name and trying to figure out if I know her)…..I’m good, how are you?

Me:  (start natural conversation, a little rapport with her and my ultimate request).

It’s that simple.  Usage of the name says that EVERYONE is just as important to the process as the decision maker.  The Sales Coordinator’s time, name and ultimate feeling of how I view her is just as important to me as the Sales Manager’s.

If you ever think of forgetting the value of the good name and its usage, follow the tip of my 10th grade English teacher and recall the words of Iago:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.  -Shakespeare

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12 thoughts on “Say My Name, Say My Name…

  1. In grade school, I learned my name means “ruler with a spear.” I really liked that. Now that I have chosen to have a hyphenated last name, I really notice how some customer service workers react strangely to it.

    • “Ruler with a Spear”, I could imagine a young woman having a “girl power” moment with that information. As for hyphenating, I was for a long time and it’s interesting to watch people fumble over what to call you.

  2. Steph – Great post! I had a manager that reported to me one time that she worked so hard because years from then no one would remember the specific work that she did, but that she wanted people to remember her name and have positive thoughts about her. That was 15 years ago and I always smile when I think about her influence on me with those words.

    You are spot on with this post!

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks for the comment, love how you inserted “Steph” in there, it actually made me smile!
      That’s a great perspective. I have to say that from a sales perspective, I always focused on my name as associated with my accomplishments. As a mother, I have a totally different perspective of my name! Thanks for reading. I don’t recognize your wp name, please feel free to reply with a link to a post, blog, etc.

  3. I loved this post. Especially the part about the trainer conveying how important it was to use someone’s name in conversation, to treat it like a personal endearment. It truly is one of the most valuable tools in rapport building. BTW: I so love the title of your blog. I was (still am really) a mad saleswoman… LOL. 🙂

    • Thanks Susan (for reading here and mod’ing on LinkedIn!). This trainer really hit the nail on the head with the “name statement”. While it seems like it would be an easy concept, no one identified it as this important until he drove it home! Keep it simple & make it effective, the easiest way to sell!

      As for embracing my Mad Sales Personality I always say it was the best move that I ever made, it allowed me to identify what I was really good at and stop running from it! Glad to see that you’re still mad.

  4. “Usage of the name says that EVERYONE is just as important to the process as the decision maker.” <– So simply stated and true! Loved this post. I also sang the title as I read it…I am now Beyonce in my head, as I sit in my chair with my new earworm. LOL!

    • Thanks for reading Miss E! I see we have a lot in common, I checked out your blog and I am a fellow stiletto addict–expect a follow! As for the post, it’s exactly my point, keeping it simple leads to so much success. Whenever I use someone’s name, I feel as though I’m giving them the respect that they are due without qualifying their status or position in life.

      Now to continue the song…”say my name, say my name” love it!

  5. This post really struck a chord. I have a name that is long and hard to pronounce (even in my own country!) So you can only imagine how many people mispronounce it and roll their eyes when they have to fill a form with my full name (did I mention my last name is longer than my first name? ) I go by my initials now (DC) but it’s sad to see that even my kids ‘short’ names are mispronounced and people really don’t care about getting it right! So thank you for stressing the importance of remembering and pronouncing people’s names correctly.

    • An eye roll in response to a name? Unacceptable in my opinion! It’s amazing how lightly we take a “name” when it’s something that we all could relate to as an important thing!
      I’m sure that you will give your kids the power that I’ve given mine in regard to their names, encourage them to respectfully CORRECT and EXPECT others to say their name properly, even if it means a phoenetic layout. I think a nickname should be one of choice, not forced because people just give up!
      By the way, even with “regular old Stephanie”, I’m particular. I am only Steph to my friends and family and always Stephanie to people that I don’t particularly care for haha!-Thanks for reading!

  6. Thanks for pointing out how important a name is. I cringe whenever I hear someone mispronounce someone’s name; to me, it’s tantamount to saying there’s nothing about the person worth remembering.

    • Well said. When you don’t know someone the only thing you may have to go on is their name. We don’t remember the impact of a historical figure without recalling their names! I feel like we all have some impact on history (not to get deep), so why not pay respect by simply recalling the name of those you come in contact with?

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