How to know who the real players are
Name dropping is a social cue to express to others, in a very quick way, who you are and what your value is. If I say that I'm working with Starbucks on XYZ, all of the sudden, I seem a little more important to you. You are more willing and excited to talk to me. If I say I'm dating Charlie Sheen, you have quite a different story playing in your head. It works both ways...
In business, we use name dropping in a similar fashion. With decision makers like your boss or prospective clients becoming increasingly overwhelmed with options, false claims (e.g. bad sales people) and the fear of failure (fired, dumped, etc.), the natural tendency for them is to do what's safe...
Safe means doing nothing.
Safe means not trying your new product.
Safe means handing out pencils at a job fair to get more sign ups even though it's the dumbest idea ever. There is next to no ROI on that effort. No one applies for a job because the name of the company was on a pencil (!!).
Safe means not trying out a new restaurant with your girlfriend for fear that she may not like it.
Safe means status-quo raised to the 10th power...
But you can get others (i.e. decision makers) to break through 'safe' if there's reason to. Urgency (if you don't act now, someone else will and you'll lose this opportunity and look dumb) and scarcity (only 3 people get it and it's BIG) can nudge people out of the safe zone. And name dropping is a way to do this.
But there's a funny irony to name dropping. It's can also be used as a way to test out who you're talking to, to find out if they're a serious player or just a bystander.
When you name drop with people who feel inferior on some level, they do the opposite of what you would expect. They back away from the opportunity, regardless of how awesome it is, because they don't view themselves as capable or worthy. Your internal dialogue regarding this person may look something like this:
"This is such an awesome opportunity. They have the chance to work with Steve Jobs. Why are they saying no? Why aren't they excited about this? And why do they seem annoyed?"
"We (Starbucks) are genuinely interested in working with this company. But they seem perturbed that we would bother to call thinking they might buy something. Apparently they don't see the value in brainstorming how we might work together or how they would benefit from having their name next to Starbucks. I don't get it. Why are they acting short with me?"
This happens all the time when you present really great opportunities to these types of people. They aren't confident enough to vote yes, to try it out or to be different, even if the difference is slight and the value great.
Let's use the example of Samantha trying to get Jose to step up his game and ask her out to hammer home the point. Both she and Jose would love to date one another. She likes him and he's enamored with her. So she decides to take a bit of initiative one day and express her worth to him indirectly (p.s. women do this all the time), thinking that if he sees how valuable she is, he'll bite quicker and ask her out. She wants him to act in a very specific way and that's why she's doing this.
So she casually drops the names of some other men who are interested in her,
"Yea, Martin stopped by the other day to see if I wanted to go to the movies..."
FYI: Martin is a very intelligent and well respected gentleman who is physically fit and loves animals. He's a catch.
Now, if she executed this tactic properly, confident men (and businesses) will see this as a challenge/opportunity and step up to the plate. They recognize Martin's value, which is now an indication of her value as well . I mean, he already liked her, but if Martin likes her, then she must really be great. So when presented with the options of to act or not to act, they act. Otherwise they miss out on their chance to 'play' and it makes them look bad to lose to Martin. Doesn't it?
But, men with lower self esteem will back away. They may even get mad or offended, with an attitude of,
'Well, why did she waste my time if she's already talking to him?'
Big names scare insecure people away.
But the right kinds of people (and companies) will step up to the plate when big names are mentioned either because they can (e.g. financially) or because they see the value in at least trying.
These are the people worth talking to. These are the people worth engaging.