I was recently interviewed by a sales expert, and at the beginning of the conversation he was adamant that when he made cold calls he always dressed down. That is to say, he often wore a polo shirt with Bermuda shorts, because he lives in a beach city. His theory is that if you wear a tie and carry a clipboard or briefcase, you’ll look like a salesman and you won’t stand a chance of getting your foot in the door.
As we got into the interview, he confessed that in a non-sales environment, he always got deferential treatment when he wore a suit and tie, and that he liked it. It’s very likely that had he worn a tie and dropped the briefcase and clipboard, he would have been given deferential treatment at his cold calls. As for being treated special, it isn’t necessary to wear a formal-looking suit to look important and get extraordinary treatment. When a man wears dark trousers, a friendly blue dress shirt and a tie, he looks more credible than a man in Bermuda shorts – and without appearing over-dressed or out-of- place.
When you show up in Bermuda shorts, you’d better be very attractive, classy and charming, and the resort-city sales expert just happened to have all those qualities. Social psychologists confirm that we assume that people who look good are good at what they do. Nevertheless, two men with the same level of attractiveness and charm will discover that professional attire bestows far more credibility than casual attire can ever do.
As all sales people know, we like to buy but we don’t like to be sold. That’s why salesmen take the time to build a relationship with prospective clients. Sometimes it takes a while to build that trust and respect, but that time can be shortened by a positive first impression.
It is a mistaken belief that you need to mirror your customer’s attire in order to get them to like you. It’s acknowledged that we do buy from people we like, but part of liking a person is the element of trust. If your image and demeanor are polished and impeccable, chances are your prospective client will take notice and assume you’re a trustworthy person. It isn’t necessary to dress down to garner trust from a casually-attired person; however, you don’t want to be dressed like a bank president. Professional attire has many levels, but it doesn’t include Bermuda shorts, khakis or polos
Josh, an expert in social media, discovered the power of dressing professionally. He was a member of a networking group that met once a week, and he didn’t deem it necessary to wear a shirt and tie to the weekly breakfast meetings. His business was doing okay, but he had hoped for more referrals from the group. Then he showed up one week in a suit and tie. “Everyone treated me as if I were a VIP guest,” he exclaimed, “and suddenly, they wanted to introduce me to important executives in town. I soon realized it was because I looked like a CEO and not a guy working out of his spare bedroom.” Within a month, Josh had more referrals that he’d had in a year, and he also got signed to a book contract.
When you change your image, you will change the attitude of others toward you. Does your image remind them of a golf game or closing the deal? Attitude isn’t the only thing that changes. When you change your image, the outcome also changes. Image is serious business, and if you want to do serious business, you need to look serious.
Sandy Dumont is a speaker and image consultant who has presented on three continents. She is an acknowledged thought leader in the world of image and impression strategies. For a limited time only, get a free copy of her “7 Day Makeover” eBook on her website: www.theimagearchitect.com