How To Dress For Success – A Quick Peek Into The Sales Professional’s Wardrobe

It’s not enough to be the best at what you do, you must also be perceived as the best. It’s what we call personal branding. One of the easiest ways to convey an image of professionalism and success is through clothing.

While we don’t always like to admit it, we all judge people by their appearance. Clothes tell us a lot about their personality, taste and lifestyle. As a salesperson it’s easier to judge a customer by what they’re wearing than it is to dress in a way that is acceptable to everyone.

Clothing can also help to establish an equal relationship with a prospect or customer. As salespeople we often meet with C-level executives and other powerful, influential people. These decision makers expect you to act and communicate on their level.

Unfortunately their expectations are not always met. This has less to do with a lack of intelligence on the part of the salesperson than with his or her attitude. How can you expect to be treated as an equal if you don’t act (or dress) like one?

Here are some simple, but often overlooked style tips that will help you to position yourself:

  • My best piece of advice is to avoid extremes in terms of style and color. Respect the unwritten rules of the business dress code. Executives wear blue, grey or black. While a red suit will certainly make you stand out, it won’t help you to be taken seriously.
  • Executives wear jeans at home or when on vacation in Saint-Tropez, not at work. Never be tempted to wear jeans to an appointment, even when you’re sure the customer doesn’t mind or dresses casually himself.
  • Business people wear ties, so you should too. While some people prefer loud, colorful ties, it’s safer to stick to muted and more conservative colors.
  • Something a lot of business people have in common is that they like to display their success through valuable objects. Therefore don’t take notes with a cheap Bic Cristal. Get yourself a quality, expensive pen for your next birthday instead.
  • Mind the details. It’s no use to respect only half the code. Using a Montblanc pen to write down notes in an old, ugly notebook is like wearing a tailored suit with Uggs.
  • Always act refined and polite. Avoid dubious jokes, even when your customer or prospect is making them.
  • Don’t overdo your accessories. No large hoop earrings, experimental nail art or rings on every finger. Tattoos and piercings are a no-go and should never be visible.
  • Keep your hairstyle and make-up low key. While you might like to dress up for a glamorous night out, your appointment with the customer is hardly a red carpet event. Make sure to check your hair and make-up before each appointment.
  • Avoid open shoes and make sure they are clean, polished and well-maintained. The same holds true for clothes. Make sure they fit well and keep them clean and wrinkle-free.
  • Watch out with perfume. While you may like a particular scent, the prospect or customer might not be too fond of the fragrance or even develop an allergic reaction to it. Also remember that there’s a strong link between scent and memory. Some fragrances might bring up bad memories for  certain people.
  • If you are looking for a way to stand out, get yourself a beautiful watch, belt or bag. They are great ways to make an impact in a discrete way.

As a general rule of thumb it’s always better to dress more formal than your average customer. Don’t dress as the person you are, dress as the person you want to be. The image you  want to convey is that of a solid, dependable business partner.

If you dress and act like a C-level executive, this will automatically increase your credibility, authority and the value of your offering. Who knows, your boss might see it this way too and consider you for that vacant position of key account manager.

Of course different industries have different dress codes. While you can get away with a purple suit in a creative environment like advertising, fashion or design, it’s probably not a good idea if you’re a realtor or insurance agent.

Don’t forget that as a salesperson you’re the ambassador of your company. Your image will inevitably be linked to that of your company. If you don’t come across as a professional, dependable business partner, your company won’t either.

Wim

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  3. The Perfect Cold Call And Why It works
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16 Responses to “How To Dress For Success – A Quick Peek Into The Sales Professional’s Wardrobe”

  • Dan The Man on June 7, 2011

    Oh so you’re becoming a fashion stylist now? :)

    On a more serious note, I still meet terribly dressed people in business on a daily basis. I mean, don’t they have wives and stuff? haha

    I guess now they don’t have to, they’ve got you!

    Keep the good stuff coming

    • Wim on June 9, 2011

      Hi Dan,

      I don’t think I’m qualified to replace a woman in their lives, but still thanks for the compliment :)

      Wim

  • Lori Gosselin on June 7, 2011

    Wim,
    I always collect sterling advice here! Every word provides valuable information – every time! I love that about your blog!

    I like this: “Don’t dress as the person you are, dress as the person you want to be.” That sets the bar by itself, but the details you provide are valuable additions to it.

    I’m getting ready to do a presentation Thursday via GotoMeeting. Before I knew how that worked, I thought I’d be on video so I was memorizing my script, practicing my facial expressions (I don’t LIKE myself on video LOL) and wondering how I would come across. Then I learned the people won’t even SEE me – but only my screen with the Power Point. Haha! All that memorizing for naught! Still, I’ll be dressing for the event, even though they can’t see me. I’ll be dressing like the person who’ll be hearing the “YES!”

    Have a good one Wim!
    Lori

    • Wim on June 9, 2011

      Hi Lori,

      That’s so kind of you to say! I get the same feeling with every comment you post over here. They are insightful and always add something to the conversation!

      Very curious about the webinar btw, what topic will you be covering? I agree with your point that it’s important to dress well, even when you’re not visible (like on the phone or in a webinar). Just gives you that extra tad of confidence, don’t you think?

      Now popping over to your place, let’s see what value I can take away this time :)

      See you soon,
      Wim

      • Lori Gosselin on June 9, 2011

        Hey Wim,
        I’m presenting custom diffuser pendants to a company who sells essential oils. We made two special designs for them. We’ve dealt with them in the past and our pendants (www.terra-cotta-pendants.com ) have sold very well at their events. They apparently don’t believe they will sell on a day to day basis. We want them in their regular product catalogue, not just the Christmas one (though that’s a start!) My aim it to show them why these pendants are an essential accessory to essential oils which will have a very positive impact on their bottom line.
        The presentation is today – wish me luck!
        Lori

        • Wim on June 9, 2011

          Sounds exciting Lori!

          You seem like a great match for their business, so I see no reason why this wouldn’t work out. Especially since you have results from past events to show for it.

          Make sure not to talk too much about yourself and focus on what’s in it for them. They probably took a look at your website already and know what you’re doing. Now show what this could mean to their business specifically.

          If I can be of any help, just let me know!

          I’m sure you’ll do a great job,
          Wim

  • Bob Ca. on June 7, 2011

    People who dress impeccably are instanly in my favor. I don’t know why, it’s just the way I respond to it. Call me superficial, but I know i’m not alone. Always dress for success, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

    Bob C.

    • Wim on June 9, 2011

      So true Bob,

      Nobody wants to be seen as ‘superficial’, but it’s just the way nature programmed us to be. It’s in our genes to form an opinion at first sight. Helps us recognize risks, avoid danger etc.

      Thanks for your input and honesty!
      Wim

  • Bill Dorman on June 7, 2011

    Ok, caught your latest vid; you do a much, much better job than I did. I think I will leave it up to you.

    As you can see from my Avatar, that pretty much is my business attire sans the coat unless the meeting warrants it.

    Avoid the extremes, be clean and pressed, and don’t be afraid to dress a little bit better than your audience; it might be your only point of differentiation.

    This was a really good post and I think I will print it and put it on our bulletin board; thanks for sharing.

    • Wim on June 9, 2011

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for the compliment but I just don’t see it man! I guess we all prefer to watch other people on screen than ourselves, which is probably a healthy trait :)

      I do realize this ‘style’ post is a bit outside my usual scope, but I genuinely believe many people in sales or business could use some help in this department. Judging from your picture, you’re not one of them though…

      It was good having you over again, looking forward to your next post!

      Wim

  • Tisha | tMedia on June 8, 2011

    Hi Wim!

    This was great advice and probably something I should take a little more seriously than I usually do. As a work at home mom, I don’t have to dress up often, as no one sees me while I’m at my desk writing, but because of that freedom, I’ve also gotten a little lazy in the dressing up dept. when I’m recording promotional or marketing videos for my blog.

    I like that you say “You are the ambassador or your company” – it’s a good reminder that, maybe I don’t have to get all fancy to do the vids, but a little sprucing up sure can’t hurt.

    Thanks for the tips Wim!

    • Wim on June 9, 2011

      Hi Tisha,

      I hear what you’re saying, I’m working from home for at least a couple of days a week (doing over-the-phone consulting or prospecting) and I know how tempting it can be to walk around in your comfy outfit all day :)

      When I’m doing videos I’m usually dressed more casually (shirt, no tie) than when I’m meeting with clients. I think to some extent it also makes us internet people more ‘real’ and accessible, don’t you think?

      From my experience though, dressing up a bit can really help you to feel more confident and professional in what you do, whether it’s at work our at home. Of course this is different for everybody. Some people just don’t feel comfortable in a suit, makes them feel locked in..

      Thanks for sharing Tisha, truly appreciated!

      Wim

      • Tisha | tMedia on June 9, 2011

        Good point about how dressing casually on video makes “internet people” seem more accessible!

        I remember when I first started blogging, I used to subscribe to, well, pretty much everything in sight – until I got tired of all the rhetoric and sales pitches from the all the IM “gurus”. I cancelled all the subs, except one – Carrie Wilkerson’s – because I loved the videos where her hair looked like she just pinned it up before she started filming and like at any minute she was going to get dinner started! LOL.
        I felt that although she was a highly successful businesswoman, she seemed like she could definitely relate to my work-from-home lifestyle.

  • ASneed on June 9, 2011

    Great post Wim!

    It’s always good advice to look your best at work, and is something we all need to be reminded of. This list isn’t too complicated or too long, so it serves as a base for all business wardrobes. Very well written.

    -Amanda

    • Wim on June 10, 2011

      Thanks for the compliment Amanda.

      I like easy tips that can be implemented right away, so that’s what I try to provide every day :)

      Hope to see you again soon,
      Wim

  • Wesley Wolf on September 13, 2014

    Dressing for sales success is important, but nobody ever thinks about the guy on the end of a telephone. Visit http://callcenterwolf.com/dress-for-inbound-phone-sales-success/ on tips for dressing even when the client can’t “see” you. Thank you.

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