10.2. Dress for Success

Your appearance communicates volumes about you before you ever open your mouth. Do you want to be taken seriously? Yes, of course. Think about it this way, when you are buying a product off the shelf in a store, isn’t packaging the first thing that catches your attention? Marketers know that packaging can influence a consumer’s decision to buy before they buy and the way a salesperson presents themselves to build trust and credibility is equally important. “If you’re going to err to one end of the scale or the other, err on the part of overdressing, but obviously not to an extreme. You don’t wear a suit and tie or a dress and high heels if you are going into an industrial environment. On the other hand, don’t wear cargo pants and a polo shirt if you’re calling on senior management. You must dress appropriately. (Christie, 2020). Your appearance should convey professionalism, competence, and success.

Casual, Business Casual or Business?

When you are making a sales presentation at a company, remember the advice from Chapter 9 and dress one step above what you would wear if you worked at the organization. If you are ever unsure about a company’s standard dress code, always dress up. It’s easier to take off a jacket and tie than to put them on at the last minute (Chapin, 2008). However, if your prospect tells you the dress code beforehand, here are some general guidelines to follow. (Guide to business attire, 2020).

Casual: T-shirts, sweaters, jeans, shorts, pants, sneakers, sandals.

Smart Casual: A little more trendy that casual, heels, scarves, boots, sports jackets and ties.

Business Casual: Women-pencil skirts, blouses, sweaters, jewelry, heels, boots. Men-trousers, polos, sport coasts, optional ties, leather loafers.

Business: Far more traditional. Think accounting, banking, and government or law offices.  Tailored suits, professional shoes (no loafers) and neutral colours.

Business formal: For award ceremonies and formal settings.

Gender neutral: Gender neutral elements include pants, sweaters, button downs and plain shoes. Pantsuits in the more formal settings.

Details Matter

Getting the clothes right but missing the mark on the details will create a poor impression just as much as underdressing for the occasion can, so make sure everything from your nails to your hair and choice of accessories conveys professionalism.

  • All clothes should be cleaned and pressed. Wrinkled or stained clothing looks very unprofessional.
  • Look through the About Us page and social media profiles for clues about the prospects culture to help you determine the dress code for your presentation (Guide to business attire, 2020).
  • Avoid busy accessories (too high of heels) and busy language (profanity for instance) (Guide to business attire, 2020). Men should avoid sports watches, and women should wear conservative jewelry—nothing flashy.
  • Absolutely avoid wearing perfume or body spray (Ellery, 2016) and don’t forget good grooming. Body odor, bad breath, poorly manicured fingernails, and messy hair can be a deal breaker.


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The Power of Selling Copyright © 2021 by Dr. Michelle Clement is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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