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I’m Sorry, What Was Your Name Again?

Seven tips for those of us who have a hard time remembering names.

Our research on advisor marketing consistently points to social prospecting as an effective strategy for client acquisition. But the truth is, it’s not easy for everyone. It takes a lot of work and relationship building. 

When you’re out expanding your network and meeting new people, you’ll quickly notice the importance of remembering names. It’s a sign of respect and sends a signal that you care. It’s difficult to make a great impression and accelerate relationships if you can’t even remember someone’s name!

We work with numerous financial advisors who have a phobia around forgetting names, and it can truly hinder their social prospecting efforts. In some cases, they are so embarrassed about their inability to recall names they avoid it altogether.

With a little effort, recalling names is a skill that can be learned. Below are a few of our favorite name-remembering methods you can try until you find one that works best for you.

  1. Make a conscious effort to truly listen.  If your mind is daydreaming about your next vacation or trying to wrangle your screaming child, you simply won’t remember. Oftentimes, we are so preoccupied that we don’t pause and take a mental note of their name. Take a moment (2-3 seconds) to actually focus.
  2. Associate their name with someone else you know. This is one of our favorite tips for remembering people’s names. Simply think of someone else you know with the same name. By the way, it doesn’t always have to be someone you know intimately well—maybe it’s a celebrity or a famous sports figure. For example, maybe the name Carol makes you think of your ex-mother-in-law (true story), or the name Michael might make you think of Michael Jordan.
  3. Associate their name with a unique personal feature. Another effective strategy is to associate the person’s name with a facial or bodily feature that stands out. This is really effective when you use alliteration. For example, ‘Carl with the combover’ or ‘Claire with the curly hair.’ Just make sure you keep these to yourself and never say them aloud.
  4. Ask them to spell it aloud. What if your new acquaintance has a really unique name? In this case, ask them to spell it for you. You’re much more likely to engrain it in your memory if you visualize the spelling.
  5. Connect on social media:  If appropriate, whip out your phone and send a quick LinkedIn or Facebook connection. You’ve essentially added them to your “database” and can pull it up later for easy access.
  6. Repeat their name back to them. While you’re shaking their hand, simply repeat their name back to them. You might say, ‘Great meeting you, Carol.’ This is extra insurance to allow you to hear their name audibly for a second time. Want even more insurance? Repeat it back to them when you say goodbye.
  7. Just write it down.  If you have difficulty remembering names after a few weeks have passed, consider writing it down. Use a notepad or pull up the Notes app in your phone and write it down. If you’re going this route, you may want to provide some context alongside your notation. This tip is foolproof, after all, “the faintest ink is better than the best memory.”

Dale Carnegie once said, “Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Hopefully, with a few of these tricks up your sleeve, you’ll soon be impressing your new contacts and approaching your social networking with supreme confidence.

Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nichols are partners with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry. @StephenBoswell @KevinANichols

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