Guest Blog

What's in a Name?

May 26, 2011

My name is Mike O’Grady and I like my name. I think it’s easy and kind of cool. I’m pretty lucky to have an easy name. I met a man this summer with a pretty challenging name to pronounce. His first name was Robert; I’ll spare you the last name. Even if I spelled it you would have no clue how to pronounce it. Robert told me stories about growing up and going to school. He would sit there and cringe every time a teacher would yell out a roll call. “I’d sit there and wait in silence as they’d just stare at the sheet trying to figure out how to pronounce it” he told me.

In Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, there is a story about legendary President Teddy Roosevelt. One of the characteristics of Teddy Roosevelt was his ability to get along with people. Teddy’s ability to remember and pronounce a person’s name was tremendous. If he met someone with an unusual name he would ask them to spell it and pronounce it. As soon as possible he would write it down and visualize a distinguishing feature of the person while reciting their name over and over.

I personally have listened to the audio version of How to Win Friends and Influence People about 20 times. Being in sales for a living, I’m a student of understanding people. Although I have countless examples of how this particular book has helped me, I recently had a chance to use President Roosevelt’s lesson.

I was out at a home to give someone an estimate on changing their steam boiler. On my customer sheet the name read “Alex Nino.” After some introductions I realized Alex was Spanish with a heavy Spanish accent. “Alex, what is your full name?” I asked. “Alejandro Nino,” he answered. “How do you spell Alejandro?” I made sure I had the correct spelling and pronunciation.

I thought about how frustrating it must be for him to come to this country and have to change his name to Alex. After spending an hour or so with Alejandro, I scheduled for his steam boiler job to be installed. As part of my usual follow up after I make a sale, I asked what one of the main reasons he decided to go with my company was. “You’re the only person that came in my house to give an estimate that took the time to ask me my real name,” Alejandro told me. That felt great! It felt great because I know it made Alejandro feel great.

What is in a name? Everything. Saying it and spelling it, even the challenging one’s can differentiate you from your peers and your competitors.

About Michael O'Grady: Michael owns and publishes the sales training resources, and is author of the new book, “Selling at the Kitchen Table: A Contractor’s Guide to Closing the Deal”.
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