If you have been following this column you will have picked up valuable information on your quest to be a professional world-class salesperson. It is your caring and skill in practicing all that you have learned that will put you in the top 20 percent.
But it is your appearance that will make the first impression and set the tone on how you are perceived by your prospects. How you dress plays an important part on how your prospects perceive you as a professional.
Because most prospects have had negative experiences with ineffective salespeople, they will have negative expectations of you even before they see you. Your physical appearance can help dispel their preconceptions and help you convey a positive visual message: "Here, finally, is a competent, successful, professional salesperson."
The old adage is that there is no second chance to make a first impression. It is the first assessment that lasts.
When you dress like a professional, people treat you like one. Clothing is a matter of personal taste, current style, your budget, the weather and even the area in which you live in. If you enter the prospects office wearing the proverbial baggy blue suit what do you think is going on in your prospects mind? Would you look as though you are successful in your sales career? Do you look like the kind of person that could help your prospect achieve success?
People like to associate with winners, and your attention to the way you dress is one way you show yourself to be in the winners circle. My advice is to dress as well as the most successful person in your profession dresses.
The basics for a professional image is quite simple: good grooming. Keep yourself clean and organized. Keep your clothing clean and well-pressed. Make sure your shoes are well-polished and replace the heels when they begin to show wear.
If you are a man, keep a spare tie handy. If you are a woman, carry an extra pair of stockings. This attention to little details can make a big difference.
Purchase the best quality clothing that you can afford. Work within your budget but buy clothing that fits with your sales environment. This may restrict you in your selection of clothes but everything you wear will reflect you dedication to quality and success. As a rule of thumb, dress one notch better than your prospect. This is not a matter of "one-upsmanship." You are simply creating a visual image of professionalism and success.
What do I mean by "dressing one notch better?" Suppose both you and your prospect are men. Your prospect usually wears slacks, a dress shirt and a tie. You should wear slacks, a dress shirt, a tie ... plus a jacket.
If you and your prospect are of opposite sexes, the same guidelines apply. Wear what would appropriately be considered one notch above what your prospect wears.
If you frequently drive up to your prospects place of business you may want to think about the impression your automobile makes. Your automobile can help you create an image of professionalism that has nothing to do with the year, make or model of what you drive.
Which car do you think will make a good impression? One that is clean and tidy or one that is dirty, bulging with stacks of paper everywhere and samples piled in disarray? You never know when your prospect might be glancing out the window just as you pull up. How do you think it would look if you spent five minutes digging through stacks of rubble to find the materials you are looking for? I can assure you that this can destroy the professional image you are trying so hard to create.
If you smoke, don't smoke on a sales call. Ever. If your prospect doesn't smoke, your smoking might be offensive. Even if he or she does smoke your own smoking is simply not business-like. It creates a distraction, taking your mind off business at hand.
Can you imagine the effect it would have on your sale if you carelessly dropped ashes on the prospects rug or accidentally burned a hole in the prospects desk? So put away your cigarettes when you are making sales calls. It isn't worth the risk.
I also suggest you don't drink coffee or accept other refreshments while on a sales call. Again, this can distract you from your goals. Suppose you are chatting with our prospect, establishing a good rapport, you are sipping on a good cup of coffee that your prospect was kind enough to offer you, you reach for a pen and knock over the coffee on the important papers the prospect has laid out. What effect do you think this would have on the warm rapport you were working so hard to establish?
Your attention to detail on your dress, on your manner, on your professionalism makes a big difference. By paying attention to detail, you give yourself every possible opportunity to succeed by avoiding conduct that presents any potential for destroying your own success.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.