Last Friday I went to a meeting put on by a local sales training company. Because I am in a business development role with Stewart Title, I like to occasionally attend such meetings both to: 1) network with commercial real estate brokers, who also tend to frequent these events; and 2) pick up some pointers I can use when I meet with prospective clients.
Like all of the men in attendance, I wore a suit. When I checked in I was given a pre-printed name tag with a little alligator clip. So, I attached the clip to my suit's left breast pocket (Like almost all suits, none of mine has a "right" pocket). No sooner had I walked into the meeting room than one of the sales trainers admonished me for not having my name tag on the right side. He told me that because people greet by shaking right hands, their line-of-sight is also drawn to the right, meaning that my left-sided name tag wouldn't get the best exposure.
I thanked him for the tip and sat down. I didn't adjust my tag, though, because of the aforementioned lack of a right pocket. I didn't want to clip it to my lapel because it would have been crooked, hard-to-read and flopping into my tie. Unfortunately, I was chastised again before the meeting started. The trainer seemed taken aback that I had not adjusted my tag. The implication was that no one would know my name!
During the meeting, he brought the subject up again to the entire group. Most of the men, apparently giving in to peer pressure, moved their tags. Their tags were now in the correct line-of-sight for a handshake. Yet, they were sideways, diagonal and even upside-down because no one else had a right pocket either. I was bemused!
What I took from the incident was that good advice, if not able to be practically applied, becomes bad advice. It is important for prospects to remember your name in order to set yourself apart from the competition. But all that prospects will remember if they have to tilt their heads to read your name is that you refuse to take advantage of the pocket on the left side of your suit. Any future sales tactics I learn may not have such obvious drawbacks. But, I am still going to make sure they pass the "common sense" test before I adopt them.
Incidentally, today I decided to conduct an informal experiment. I attended a combination marketing seminar/networking event at lunchtime. There were about 40 people in attendance. We were given stick-on name tags (the kind you write on with a Sharpie and peel from a sheet ). During the meeting, I did my best to count how many people wore their name tags on either the right or left side. It ended up being 50/50 (including me- Since I wore a sweater today, I put my tag on the right side). There was actually a representative from the sales training company there today, too, so I mentioned what the trainer from last week had told me about name-tags. The rep chuckled, thought for a moment, and said, "Right, left... Oh, it doesn't matter!" :)