I was reading an article today on a prominent Australian business website that was saying that if you’ve got a weird name and you’re, say, a real estate agent – you should change your name because people won’t buy from you because they’re afraid of your name.
Talk about a WHAT THE FUCK moment.
I’ve done a lot of looking around and as far as I can tell I’m the ONLY Leela Cosgrove in the whole world (there is at least one Leila Cosgrove – but no L-E-E-L-A’s).
I work in a competitive industry wherein people buy stuff from me (this was the reason given for changing your name). And there are a LOT of other people in my space who have easier to pronounce names.
So should I change my name to “Lee Cee” because that would be easier to pronounce?
Surely, the embarrassment of pronouncing my name as LAYLA and being corrected will put off a multitude of clients.
After all – we all know that clients buy from you NOT because of the value you provide, but because of how easy or difficult your name is to pronounce.
Putting aside my total disbelief that THIS is what passes for business advice (crazy) – coming from a point of not only having a distinctive name but also being married to a man who has an equally distinctive name (and with, unsurprisingly, a bunch of friends with distinctive names) – this is total hokum based on the typical Australian fear of standing out (from the same people who brought you “Don’t self-promote, rely completely on what your clients say about you”) and of sales.
See, if you understood the sales process you would REVEL in your difference.
Some of the smaller reasons having a weird name is cool:
- I never have to say “It’s Leela Cosgrove” on the phone – I just say “It’s Leela” – I can pretty much get away with being all one-named like a model … because most people don’t know a Leela other than The Leela.
- It’s a great conversational starting point … “Oh, that’s an unusual name – what nationality is it?”, “The nationality of Sci Fi geek! I was named after a Dr Who character” and so on. Very different to “Hi I’m Lee”.
- I can always get the username leelacosgrove – no matter how long a service has been around for … my username is always available.
In terms of sales, again, having a unique name can be a real conversation starter. More importantly, if you were to survey both my current clients and all prospects who didn’t buy from me – I 100% guarantee you that the reason they would give you would NOT be “Her name was too hard to pronounce”.
Sales comes down to one thing – value. If people see it, they buy. If they don’t, they don’t.
This “change your name in a competitive environment” screams three major things to me:
- Sales fear – when you’re caught up in sales fear, you’ll look for every reason that there’s no way you can make a sale. I’ve seen sales people go through lists and decide not to call people – because people with the name “John” NEVER buy on Wednesday … seriously, these are the kinds of excuses people make up to avoid doing what needs to be done … this own-name focus is just as silly.
- A focus on commoditisation rather than on value. Like the small “mom and pop” store next to the big chain store, complaining on Today Tonight about how it’s not fair. That the chain store will definitely put them out of business because the chain store can afford to undercut them on price. Great – so STOP competing on price (you shouldn’t be doing that in the first place). When you focus on VALUE all of these silly things fall away …
- A fear of standing out – I will pretty much guarantee you that anyone who gives this advice wears a suit every day, considers themselves “professional” and would be horrified by anyone swearing online or onstage or by any form of exposed body art. Because GOD FORBID you would want to succeed by standing out and being yourself.
At the end of the day – whether it’s a weird name, relaxed clothing, body art, swearing, a kind of out there business or any other thing that isn’t easily boxed into an idea of “professional” which conforms to a societal norm – REVEL in your difference. Make it the CENTREPIECE of everything you do … because here’s a little secret that everyone seems to forget when they’re trying so desperately to appear “normal” …
Most of your clients don’t see themselves as “normal”. They may see themselves as above average or below average – but they definitely see themselves as unique and different. There are so many things they never say for fear of being laughed at and so never realise that everyone feels the same way …
When you take the stance of revelling in your difference – of shunning normality and simply being real – you give others permission to do the same. And the majority of them will love you for it.