Your palms begin to sweat, and you avoid eye contact with someone you know is a client, but you just can not remember his name.

Your heart sinks as you hang up the phone after a phone call with a furious prospect; you forgot you’d made an appointment with her.

You pound your forehead in frustration as you realize, too late, what you should have told a customer that would have made the sale.

Have you ever thought, “If only I had been born with a better memory, I would be better at sales!” The good news is that you do not have to be born with a great memory! Like almost anything related to sales, memory improvement is a learned skill that anyone can cultivate.

You can become a highly effective and well-respected salesperson. Begin by learning how to prevent these sticky memory-related situations that you may already have experienced.

Instantly forgetting a prospects name

You meet a prospect and shake his hand. He tells you his name, and no sooner does the handshake break than you have forgotten it. Socially, people find very few things more annoying than having their names forgotten or mispronounced, and in sales, what is annoying can become deeply offensive, enough so that you can lose sales.

When you immediately forget a prospects name, two challenges arise. First, because you know that you have forgotten the name, you become totally preoccupied with trying to remember it, so it’s difficult to pay attention to what the person is saying. Second, if the prospect perceives that you have forgotten his or her name, it sends a very negative message about you, as if you do not care about the person or as if you are not very smart. Typically, neither of these perceptions is true, but if you cannot pay attention long enough to remember a name, you give that impression.

With a little practice, you will find that this particular memory slip is the easiest to avoid. First, slow down and listen. Focus on the customer for five seconds at the beginning of the introduction and concentrate on his or her name. Next, repeat the persons’ name back to him or her in a conversational manner. When someone says, My name is Bob, respond with, Bob. Nice to meet you, Bob.

Forgetting the name of an established client. If you are a travel agent, for example, you may run into someone at a meeting that you sold a house to or for, or if you are a car dealer, you may go blank as you see a previous customer showing up unexpectedly on the lot.

Most often, this slip occurs when you meet the client outside the context of your profession: You know that you know the person, but you do not know how. You may even remember the details of their last vacation, but you cannot for the life of you remember the person’s name.

This phenomenon is not only frustrating and embarrassing; it can also cost you a lot of money. Learning to avoid such a situation takes a commitment to work on improving your memory. You can improve your chances of remembering a forgotten clients name by learning to manage your stress. When you know that you know something, but you cannot pull it up in your mind, its usually because you are stressing yourself out about it. The stress blocks your brains ability to retrieve the information. So try taking a deep breath and doing a little positive self-talk. Tell yourself, You know that you know this. Just hang in there and be a little patient. Oftentimes, the name or other necessary information will then come to you.

Forgetting an appointment or showing up late. Any salesperson knows that showing up late is terrible, but forgetting an appointment altogether is even worse. The solution is simple but requires a commitment on your part to be better organized and to take the time you need to plan. Many common memory challenges arise when people have too much going on and try to rush to get everything done. The key here is to be systematic. Take an hour once a week to review what you have coming up and to plan what you need to do and when.

Author Roger Seip