9.2. Dress the Part

The salesperson was giving a sales presentation to a small group of engineers who were all very casually dressed (no jackets, shirts with open collars and no ties). The salesperson was equally casually dressed. Everything was going well until the company president, whom the salesperson had never met, joined the meeting. He entered the room wearing a business suit and tie. The visual mismatch between the person giving the sales presentation and the person who would be making the buying decision was as obvious as it was striking. The salesperson found himself at a situational disadvantage. What do you think the president’s first impression was of the salesperson? Was it, Oh here’s a casual-looking, laid-back guy that I’d like to spend several thousand dollars with? Or was it, how serious is this guy? You be the judge.”  (Christie, 2012).

When you meet a customer face-to-face, appearance is an important part of the first impression, so make sure to put careful thought into what you wear to your sales call. A good rule of thumb is to dress a little better than you think your customer will dress (Kahle, 2010). It’s hard to go wrong dressing more professionally than you need to, but you can go wrong by dressing too casually. What you wear is as much of a communication as what you say or how you use body language; so make sure to dress appropriately and professionally. At the same time, make sure you know something about your customer and his company culture.  If you sell agricultural supplies to farmers, or you sell products to maintenance supervisors or people who wear uniforms, for example, dressing too formally will separate you from your customer. However, these cases are the exceptions rather than the rule. When you are selling to managers within a company, dress will be more formal. Find out about the company culture to learn whether dress is business casual or “coat and tie” and dress up a notch.


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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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