Business advice, free of charge.

9 Feb

I recently got into a discussion with a friend about titles. Not house titles or book titles, but professional titles. As in, what does your business card say?

My friend was bemoaning the fact that her company uses titles that make sense internally, but don’t in any way correlate to the outside world. Namely, to their customers.

“I’m pretty high up in my organization,” she told me, “but my title says manager so whenever I’m negotiating with a client, their response is generally, ‘let me talk to your boss.'”

I can relate. I work for a company that doesn’t place a lot of importance in a person’s title, so we all roll with what we’re handed. For the most part it works, except that I generally am negotiating with Vice Presidents. Little do they know that in my world, everyone is empowered to help them, and “manager” means it’s generally within my jurisdiction to stop the buck.

Anyway. Back to my friend. She asked if I thought she was making a mountain out of a molehill, or if it was a legitimate beef.

My response?

First, I think it’s fine to have TWO titles. To internally have a title that conveys your function and speaks to the progressiveness of the organization, if you work for a flat organization. But when it comes to the outside world? Hell no. You need to speak the same language and translate your competency into terms your clients can understand.

You ask for respect in how you present yourself, and a title is part of that. Poor titles mean you spend a decent part of every first conversation trying to establish your credibility and defend your position. It’s a waste of time.

As I told my friend: “You wouldn’t expect to be treated with respect if you went to the doctor, pointed to your crotch and say ‘my hoohoo is broken,’ would you?”

No? Exactly.

Use words fit within your clients’ vocabulary. Otherwise, brace to have many lame hoohoo conversations.

You’ve been warned.

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2 Responses to “Business advice, free of charge.”

  1. Steven February 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    Tell your friend to count their blessings… its even worse when a company tries to get creative with titles… I was once the “A/R Czar”…. yup… try explaining that to a customer when you are calling on an overdue account…

  2. Alicia February 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    I thought you’d have a picture of Tobias Funke’s “Analrapist” business card.

    And I agree. We have internal titles that are for HR and then “working titles” that we use with the outside world.

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