Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The sweetest words...

Great salespeople learn that it is important to call a prospective customer by name. Not only do people like to be called by their right names, but organizations do too. Unfortunately, we do things that inhibit people from getting names correct.
  • We don't call people by name in meetings. This can make it difficult on the new person, who doesn't yet know everyone.
  • When talking about organizations or projects, we often use acronyms. Worse, sometimes we will create a word from the acronym that will confuse a person who is "not in the know." Imagine the acronym CICS suddenly being pronounced "kicks".
  • We refer to organizations by previous (former) names even though we know it is not correct. Sometimes this says something about who is in the conversation and their relationship to what's being talked about. (Like old-timers calling a building by is old-old name.) However, this habit only helps those who have the same memories and causing confusing in those who don't.

Why should you care? What if people are talking about your digitization project, but they aren't sure of the right name or can't get the name right? Could that ruin a good referral? Yup.

How can you help others get your project name, organization name or personal name correct?

  • Make sure that your organization name and project name are on everything. If the project is called by a nickname, have that information included.
  • Have business cards with your organization and project name on them. Business cards are very inexpensive. If you don't want personalized business cards for people on the project, then create a business card that anyone on the project can use. And once you have the business cards, use them.
  • Place your organization, project and personal names in your e-mail signature file. Many people don't use this file to its full extent. It is a great way of ensuring that the people you communicate with have the same basic (contact) information.
  • When you talk about your project, remember to use the right name and use it often. It has been said that people need to hear something three times before it begins to stick. (This is why preachers will repeat the location of the reading or hymn several times.) If the name is difficult to pronounce, this will allow the listener to hear it several times and have a chance to learn how to pronounce it correctly.
  • Create a document for your organization that contains the proper names and titles for every employee as well as the proper names for projects, products, departments, etc. PR firms do this to ensure that they refer to clients (in press releases, etc.) by the correct names.
  • If the name is hard for people to grasp, find a way to get people to learn it. The best one I heard was from a librarian whose nickname was "Lib like in library." (Okay, not pronounced quite the same, but you quickly understood the spelling.)

Our names -- personal, project, or organizational -- are indeed the sweetest words we hear. Let's help those around us use say and use them correctly.

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