It probably isn’t fair but you seldom get a second chance to make a great first impression. What we wear and how we present ourselves not only colours our attitude towards ourselves but also influences others perception of us. John T Molloy, author of Dress for Success says in almost all situations, one’s appearance makes a statement, either “I am important, please show me some respect, or I am not your equal and do not expect to be treated as such”.
There was once a school of thought that suggested salespeople needed to dress down to the level of their client or prospect, whether this is gumboots and a swandri on the farm or shirt and jeans at a creative firm. However studies have shown that we should be dressing to the level of our prospect’s advisors. The psychology behind this is that it is easier to take advice and act on recommendations from someone who looks professional and dresses like an executive than someone who doesn’t.
When you are meeting with a prospect, consider that they are buying you first, then your product/service and finally your company. In this sense you should dress in a way that takes nothing away from the message or value your company brings. If you are selling a $5000 product or service, dress like you deserve to.
Of course it is important to consider different industries dress codes i.e. a banker would have a different standard of dress than a graphic designer, but in general those in professional services should try to adhere to the unwritten rules of business attire. The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that our clothes are associated with meaning, and in turn put us in different mindsets. In this sense we associate a suit and tie or formal business wear with professionalism and hard work.

For salespeople, a tie says a lot. In my previous life in customer service, it always occurred to me when I met someone in a suit and tie that they must be important. This was my impression as someone from outside the business world, and it illustrates just how subtly the way you dress conveys a message. As salespeople we never know who we will meet on a day to day basis making sales calls, so it is vital that we always look our best.
Along with a suit and tie, good grooming is integral. It shows attention to detail and conveys professionalism, we take pride in all aspects of our appearance and it shows. A series of studies published in the Evolution and Human Behavior Journal in 2013 found that people change their behavior to match their dress. When you are well groomed and well-dressed you have subconsciously stepped into your professional persona and are ready to make that sale.
Dress in a way that says to the prospect that you respect them and have made an added effort in your personal presentation for them. Their business matters.
Action Steps
– Dress to a level one above your prospect/client – dress like their advisor
– Always be well groomed – the small details matter
– When appropriate wear a tie, it says a lot

Hayden Burgess

Hayden Burgess  is a Programme Developer and Facilitator for Sales Impact Group.