What’s In A Name? Why Titles Still Matter (sort of)

So you’re a customer. You make a phone call, connect via website, walk into a store (hey, we still do that) and you’re met by a:

  • Sales Representative
  • Account Executive
  • Associate
  • Business Development Specialist
  • Client Growth Consultant

…or any of dozens of other titles

made up business card

To some, the title means nothing. To some, they have a better feeling of who they’re dealing with at the company…and to the “seller”, it may mean EVERYTHING. There’s someone else who may care:  The seller’s HR department. Seriously…

Why almost a thousand words on this topic now? It’s kinda-sorta that time of year; that despite 2020 being, well 2020, there are still plenty of reviews, promotions and a cornucopia of posts on LinkedIn about people getting new titles. (my perception anyway) Also now because this was a major part of my professional life for decades.

  • What was I?
  • What do my peers think?
  • How do I size up to them?
  • Or the competition, both internally and externally?

Things I still ponder, but in a whole new light. From behind the keyboard.

This article won’t provide answers or solutions; but my wandering mind wants to make YOU think and question the entire company title conundrum. Okay, maybe a suggestion or two. Mostly a focus in the sales arena.

Actually connecting via the web has me thinking about titles. Why even have them? I had an issue, connected with the company via chat bot and I connected with Jessica. No title, no last name; just Jessica. Hell, I can’t even attest it “was” a Jessica or even a real person…I think. But problem solved, I never even questioned it, actually spent money (AKA:  made a purchase). But I digress.

Hierarchal Dance

So, with who does the importance of a title really fall? Now, eliminate the “C” suite kids…I know there’s a hierarchal dance for CEO, COO, Chairman of the Board, etc. It keeps the scorecard clean on CNBC, but I’m focused on the “on the streets” sales types…along with their somewhat immediate leadership. And hey, I’ve rarely had any drama with CEO peeps. They “are” good people for the most part.

What’s the right of passage for an account executive to add “senior” in front of that?  It had been part of the negotiation process when I was hiring people in the past.  I MUST have senior on my card. Wow. Okay, no charge for the extra ink.

Then I think about the actual client. Does it bother them to be thought of as just an “account?”  Should my title be Senior Opportunity Representative? That sounds important, right?  Do customers feel more important if they “think” they’re thought of as customers and not accounts, opportunities or clients? Will they do more business with me, will they think more of me as a partner and not a “vendor?”

The “third leg” of this sales stool is the inner-working of the company itself. The new world order of HR wants to, no demands that everyone fit into a nice Org Chart. Hey, a sales executive gets 2 weeks vacation, but the senior sales exec gets 3.  It makes an HCM tool, well, work better. It also exists in the new higher plateau of “Vice President.” Yeah, I’m a VP. Yes, you and about 40% of the rest of the business world. Add Senior and you’re someone. Add Senior Executive…wow! A Senior Executive VP of Sales is someone I really want to deal with…or maybe just puts my name in a box higher in the PowerPoint slide for the executive meeting.

I lived through this. I’ve had the title of Account Executive, Sales Manager, Senior Sales Manager, VP, SVP, RVP, even President. Candidly, the title of President was really the only one that seemed to open doors a bit more. Then there was drama over Region President or just plain old President. But again, I digress.

Herding Cats

I understand the ego and pecking order internally, and the need to herd the cats accordingly from the Human Resources point-of-view. But THAT is the question in my mind. I can imagine there are many businesses who get really excited when there’s an email in the Inbox from someone in “Business Development”. Wow, I wonder what they want?

As I started this, I KNOW you are a customer…sometimes at least. Does the title of the person you work with/engage with matter? Or are you just happy working with Tammy or Richard to get you what you want and need? I know some customers demand to work with a manager or someone in some leadership role. I’ll get a better deal, less red tape, more access. Truth is, in most cases, it’s the opposite…and sales types HATE it.

Part of the origin of this rant was a title I came across for a salesperson. One company calls them: Customer Advocates. Ohhhh, now that sounds cool, may even describe the “desired” goal. I would love to see how a client would react if I called and said I was a customer advocate and want to help them.

Truth is, in the end, none of this BS really matters, and won’t get you more business or a happier customer. How you treat them and what kind of service you provide is what truly highlights the difference between you and the rest of the world. Adding “senior” to your business card and email signature, hmm not so much.

I think after typing all of this…I’m on the side of Chat Bots. My name is Rich and I represent this ENTIRE company. No title is a title on its own, right?

Make promises, Keep them. The customer will always reach out to you and keep you at the top of their list.  I think a much more desirable list placement than HR’s anyway.  No offense, HR people.

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