How to lose a prospect and annoy others

Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Dale Carnegie wrote this beautiful quote in his bestselling book How to Win Friends and Influence People.  And it’s true. As he pointed out, when you remember and use a person’s name it makes him feel special and important. It shows you are attentive and caring. However, there is a limit to how often you should use someone’s name in a conversation, especially when you haven’t met the person.

I received a voicemail message from a salesman with a radio station. In the minute and half message he used my name seven times. Yes, seven times! And while he had done his homework by looking at my website and sharing some complimentary facts about me and my business I was bothered by the fact that he used my name so often. I felt sold to.

There must have been a particular sales training that taught salespeople that it’s important to use a prospect’s name in a conversation as many times as possible. This man was not the first sales person I’ve encountered who has overused my name. But it’s a really unfortunate technique. When someone I haven’t met states my name over and over it feels creepy and too intimate. It’s a bit like when you meet someone for the first time and they shake your hand by grasping it with their right and left hand. It feels forced and insincere.

4649994 - business handshake

Mr. Carnegie was right, it is important to use people’s names. But stick to stating the person’s name no more than three times in a conversation, especially in a phone call with a prospect.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. RBrooks on April 12, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Arden, I most often shake hands with both because I feel like it’s a warm greeting, not an insincere one. I’m disappointed to find out that it’s not appropriate. Do you think it depends on what you say at the time as well? I can sort of see the insincerity of it if you don’t communicate warmly at the same time.

  2. Arden on April 19, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Hello RBrooks,
    I’m sure you’re not trying to appear insincere. Some people find it a warm greeting, many others are uncomfortable with it. Just as many people are uncomfortable with being hugged by someone they don’t know well. Because of that, it’s best to just keep that other hand down and express your warmth through your smile, tone and interest in the other person.

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