The moment you set your eyes on someone, your mind makes evaluations and judgments with lightning speed. The same is true for buyers. They assess the sales person long before he opens his month to address them. Like it or not, your out¬ward appearance influences the buyer as well as your own attitude, confidence, self-image and sales performance.

The American public is very appearance oriented. Research has shown that 55% of what people believe about each other is based on their observation and interpretation of non-verbal signals. The University of Pennsylvania has done an enormous amount of research on the topic of appearance. Their results show conclusively that caring about your appearance has a profound impact on your professional, social, mental, and physical well being. People who were well dressed and well groomed were found to be better liked, thought to be more intelligent, successful and competent and made more money than their counterparts who were not concerned about appearance.

As a young boy of fourteen, I spent the summer working as a dishwasher in the coffee shop at Little America, Wyoming. One afternoon while I was working behind the dish washing counter with dishes piled over my head, a middle aged man dressed in cowboy clothes and looking like he had just slid out of the saddle, came into the kitchen and assumed a position in front of the mountain of dishes and started to help me with my work. With no other communication, I assumed from his appearance that he was unable to pay for his lunch, and had been directed to the kitchen sink to work for his meal. After an hour or so, we had the mountain of dishes reduced to a few plates and a handful of silverware. With his job done, he quickly left the kitchen through the back door. Within just a few moments of this cowboy’s departure I was swarmed by the kitchen staff asking if I was nervous working next to Earl Holding, the billionaire owner of Little American and Sinclair Oil.

Just like my experience with Earl Holding, the respect you receive when making a sales presentation is in direct proportion to your visual impression. If you are wearing clothes that are generally associated with leisure activities, you may be telling those who see you that you do not take your career seriously, and therefore are not committed to your work. By the same token, if you present yourself at a sales presentation wearing clothes that undercut your perceived effectiveness, personal skills, and professionalism, it will be hard for you to be taken seriously no matter how prepared and skilled you may be. Employers rarely make overt statements about acceptable dress codes to their employees. More often there is an unspoken rule that those who wish to climb the ladder of success will dress appropriately and those who don’t, won’t.

Several years ago when I first went to work as a junior sales executive for a Fortune 100 company, I took great interest in what the senior sales people in the company and the industry were wearing. I noticed within our office and customer base, the successful people all dressed alike. At first I wondered what happened to individuality, and if they were all lemmings, blindly following those in front of them. I soon realized that part of the success formula was based on perception and part of that perception was image. If we looked the part, it was believed we could act the part. If we could act the part, then we could be the part. My success was influenced by my willingness to dress the part.

Our appearance tells people how we feel about ourselves as well as how we feel about them. By dressing to convey the appropriate image you will gain a real edge over your competition. In fact, your overall appearance and presentation may even leave a more tangible impression than the words you say, since memory is rooted most strongly in pictures and impressions. At the very least, you should expect your words to be strongly influenced by your appearance.

The act of taking time to present an appropriate image before your presentation will add to your own sense of self-esteem and confidence. The safest look for both men and women in sales is traditional and conservative. The key for both is to dress for your audience. Looking confident in your dress and appearance will inspire others with the confidence necessary to include you in their buying decision. Remember, people buy from people they believe, like, and trust. Your overall appearance will help to instill these feelings in your prospects.

The correct appearance alone probably won’t get you the sale, but it will go a long way toward winning the attention of your prospects. When you know you look right, you can stop worrying about the impression your clothes make and concentrate on communicating your message. Much of what people believe about others is based on the perception of their appearance. When you dress and look appropriate you will be amazed at your sales success.

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Copyright: The Business Performance Group, Inc.
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