Are You Putting Names Before Numbers?

by Don Smith

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One of the themes of our high school youth group this year is “Names before numbers.”

What that means is we as leaders want to know each individual in the program by name rather than focusing primarily on getting more people into the program. It is nearly impossible for one person to remember every name when our group often has over 200 high schoolers in attendance on Wednesday nights, but when we break into smaller groups, it's doable to know the names of the dozen or so guys in the group I lead. Not only can I know names at that level, but I can learn what is going on in their lives.

Interestingly enough, focusing on names helps with the numbers game as well. When each person feels known, they will stay and invite others.

How This Relates to Business & Your Personal Life

Many of us have made the mistake of putting numbers before names at some point in our lives. I made that mistake early on in my blogging career. I've got nearly 10,000 people following me on Twitter, a reach of over 40 Million on Triberr, and tens of thousands more following along through various other means.

That's certainly an ego boost, but unfortunately, merely having that many people following me does not necessarily improve my business or my life. Many of those followers are very disconnected, and many probably only followed me in the hopes that I'd follow them back.

Names Before Numbers in Business

The reason my IT company does millions of dollars in business every year is not that we have millions of people following us. It's because we know Kim, Randy, Tiki, Sarah, and many more customers by name. For many, we not only know their names, but we know their kids' and pets' names. We know the issues they are facing and solve problems for them. We build relationships.

The reason I do well as a coach is I know my clients and prospects by name as well. Melody, David, April, Sheri, Nick…all of them are a name, not a number to me. While I have outlines in my head for each subject I coach on, I'm not teaching a course to a million people. The sessions are fluid & adapt to that specific individual's needs, so we can progress much quicker and be more productive.

Don't Completely Ignore The Numbers for Business

For business, you CANNOT ignore the numbers either. That's why I say names BEFORE numbers, not names INSTEAD OF numbers.

If I only had a handful of clients, and those people only bought a $5 workbook from me or clicked on a product I shared that brought in a few cents for a referral, I wouldn't have a very sustainable business. For a model like that to work, you'd need millions of people to see your stuff, and a significant percentage to buy.

When I have clients I know well who pay $5,000+ and even occasionally place multi-million dollar orders, it doesn't take a ton of them to make the numbers work. That's why I like the “names before numbers” concept. It might take a little longer to make a sale like that, but I'd rather deal with one client who I know well who places a $50,000 order than ten thousand strangers who place a $5 order.

Focus on Names in Your Personal Life

In my personal life, I have tons of acquaintances. People I met once and stuck in my address book. But you remain disconnected until you start spending time with each individual. If I hadn't spent every extra hour I had with my wife Pamela when we first met, she might not be my wife, and we certainly wouldn't have gotten married three months after meeting.

It takes time spent together for relationships to form, to grow. And you can't do that if you try to spend time with everyone.

Next time you're at a party where you don't know anyone, try finding a couple of people who seem interesting and spend the evening talking to them rather than trying to meet everyone. I almost guarantee you'll have a better chance of connecting with someone that way rather than connecting with no one (also known as everyone).

Put those who you connect with well into your calendar and make an effort to spend time with them. Maybe that's meeting over breakfast each week as I do with some friends. Perhaps that's getting together to play games, or to hang out. Regardless of what that looks like for you, make an effort to spend time with that person. That's how you build deep friendships.

Focus on Connecting With Someone Rather than Everyone (AKA No One)

It only takes a few people who know you really well for you to feel connected and loved. It only takes a few of the right customers to make a business work. Stop chasing numbers. Start chasing names.

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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