Why your Dentist is named Dennis, not James

Why your dentist in named dennis and not bob

Why your dentist in named dennis and not bobAccording to the US Census Bureau, James is the most popular name for males in the United States accounting for 3.3% of the population and representing over 4.8 million individuals.  Dennis happens to be the 40th most popular men’s name, given to just over 600 thousand men which is 0.4% of the male population.

If that is the case, why is your dentist more likely to be named Dennis than James?

More importantly, how is that relevant to the profession of selling?

The answer to the first question, while not obvious to most people at first, has to do with the strong similarity between the two words.  Say them out loud:



One could very easily swap the two words in a sentence and still be understood:  I went to the dennis yesterday.

So why does the similarity between the sounds of the two words cause a disproportionate number of men named Dennis to choose a career in dentistry?  It has to do with the bond that we have with our name, and by extension to anything that sounds or looks like it.  This profound connection goes even further when you consider that Hardware store owners are 80% more likely to have a name that starts with the letter H than the general population, and Roofers are 70% more likely to have a name starting with R.  There is a strong tendency to be drawn to things that we associate with ourselves, even when that association is with something as seemingly insignificant as the first letter of a profession.

If you have a dentist named Dennis,  know a roofer named Randy, or a hardware store owner named Hank, and you asked them if their name had anything to do with their choice of career they will undoubtedly tell you that it didn’t.  Yet, even though they don’t know it, it most likely did.

There are more Washingtons that live on Washington streets and more Jeffersons on Jefferson streets, more Florences that move to Florida, more Louises that move to Louisiana, and more married couples with first names starting with the same letter than the averages would suggest.

So we have established that similarities between names and choices are significant influences on the decision people make.  How do we use this information as professional salespeople to motivate prospects to take action to buy our products and services?

The first, and possibly the most obvious, is to use the prospects name when talking to them.  Dale Carnegie put it this way, “Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in the English language.”  I’ve seen veteran salespeople give a two hours sales presentation and not once use a customer’s name and then wonder why the customer had such an easy time saying no to the purchase without even providing a reason.  The reality is that the use of a name is a sign of respect and trust, and builds a personal relationship between prospect and salesperson that makes is much more difficult to say no to an offer without at least giving a good reason.  The rapport of being on a first name basis eliminates the evasiveness, dishonesty, and anxiety that a prospect can exhibit during a sales call and allows salesman and prospect to communicate openly and work together toward the purchase.

Start the process by asking for a prospects name if you don’t know it, and use it often as you communicate with them.  Write it down if you think you’ll forget it.  The difference from the client’s perspective is between the perception of you as a salesperson to be skeptical of, and you as a real person, a friend, and someone they will trust with their money.

You can further strengthen this connection by enabling the prospect to use your name.  How do you do this?  You remind them of it and write it down for them in a place they stays in front of them during your visit.  Remember that while it is your job to remember and use their name it is also your job to help them remember and use yours.  I conduct every sales call with a pad of paper to take notes and clarify details of my product’s benefits.  I start by writing my name at the top of the paper, upside down to me, right side up to them so that they can look down at it when ever they need to use it.  After a few times looking down at my name and speaking it out loud they will remember it and in doing so strengthen the bond they feel toward me.  This bond allows me to assume the proper role of a sales representative; as a consultant, adviser, partner.

Moving to the end of your sales call, the time will come to present the prospect with an offer to buy your product or service.  I teach my students to always do this clearly and in writing.  But how can we use what we know about the connection of names to make them more likely to buy?  By labeling the offer presentation page, or price page, with the customers name.  For example, if I’m selling to Bob Smith I label the offer page “The Bob Smith Project.”  The attachment of their name to the offer creates a feeling of ownership that translates into a desire to own it in real terms by agreeing to the purchase.

Before we conclude, I want to offer a tip for sales managers who assign sales leads to their sales team.  Pay attention to the names of the prospects and any similarities to the names of your sales reps.  If I have a lead for a Bob Johnson and a sales rep named Ed Johnson, all things being equal, I’ll give him that lead.  The connection of the names will give the sales rep an initial advantage in the connection that they have with the prospect because a connection will be initiated by the similarity in names.

Fantastic Selling!

12 Responses to Why your Dentist is named Dennis, not James
  1. Jalb66
    January 29, 2013 | 5:04 pm

    sales Giants usually have a name with G init

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