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What’s Your Name, Again?

You never forget a face, but the name that goes with it may be another story. Here are six steps to better name recall.

By Roger Seip

If you live in fear of forgetting prospects’ names, sometimes within mere seconds of being introduced to them, you’re not alone. Surveys show that 83 percent of the population worries about their inability to recall people’s names. Ironically, while most of us hate having our names forgotten or mispronounced, the majority of us claim we just aren’t good at remembering names or putting faces together with names when we meet people again.

Forgetting names becomes more than just an embarrassing social faux pas in sales. If you forget the name of a client with whom you’ve worked in the past, he may view your memory lapse as a betrayal of trust, which can cost you a great deal of money if that client severs the relationship as a result.

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The six steps
While common, this frustrating phenomenon can be relatively easy to solve when you commit to taking steps to improve your memory. There are three learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic (physically interactive). The more you can apply all three of these styles to a task, the more quickly and solidly you will learn anything—including people’s names.

Practice each of the following steps to improve your name recollection in every sales and social situation.

1. When you’re first introduced to someone, look closely at his face and try to find something unique about it. Whether you find a distinctive quality or not is irrelevant; by searching for a memorable characteristic in a new face, you’re incorporating the visual learning style.

2. The next step uses both auditory and kinesthetic learning styles. When you meet someone, slow down for five seconds and concentrate on listening to her. Focus on the prospect and repeat her name back in a conversational manner, such as “Nice to meet you, Susan.” Also make sure to give a good firm handshake, which establishes a physical connection with the prospect.

The main reason people can’t remember names is that they’re just not paying attention.

3. Creating a mental picture of someone’s name incorporates the visual sense again. Many people have names that already are pictures: consider Robin, Jay, Matt or Dawn. You’ll have to play with some names a bit to create a picture. Ken, for example, may not bring an immediate image to your mind, but a “can” is very close. Or you might envision a Ken doll. If an image doesn’t come to you right away, skip it and do it later.

4. The next step is to “glue” that mental image to the person’s face or upper body. This bridges that gap between recalling faces and the names that go with them. If you met a new prospect named Rosalind, for example, you might have created the memorable image of “rose on land.” Now, create a mental picture that will pop into your head every time you meet her; this should be something fun, even a little odd, that will bring “rose on land” to mind when you see her face. You might imagine her buried up to her neck in earth, with roses scattered around her, for example. Because you created the image, it will come up next time you see her and enable you to recall her name.

5. At the end of the conversation, integrate auditory learning by repeating the prospect’s name one more time, but don’t overuse someone’s name in an effort to place it more firmly in your mind. Use the prospect’s name only right at the beginning of the conversation, and then again at the end. If you feel like you can do so naturally, you might insert someone’s name once or twice in a natural fashion during the course of the conversation, too. But if you’ve ever had a stereotypically pushy salesperson use your name a dozen times in a five minute conversation, you know how annoying—even weird—this can be, so don’t overdo it.

6. Writing is a form of kinesthetic learning. If you’re really serious about wanting to remember people’s names for the long term, keep a name journal or a log of important people you meet and review it periodically.

Make the effort and see results
The main reason people can’t remember names is that they’re not paying attention. This process forces you to think. If, for example, you struggle with the step of creating a mental picture, the other steps—looking at the prospect closely, shaking his hand confidently and repeating his name a few times—are easy to follow, will solidify the name in your memory and convey a positive image of you to clients and prospects.

Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Roger Seip is the president of Freedom Speakers and Trainers, a company that specializes in memory training. To learn more, visit, call 888-233-0407, or email


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