I'm a big fan of Eintracht Frankfurt, our local soccer team here in Frankfurt, Germany. I love the atmosphere in the stadium, and I go there regularly with my son Chris and some of my buddies. What does that have to do with sales? We've made it a sport to take bets on the performance of the individual players based on what we see during their warm-up. You can tell - during warm-up - if a player is hot on playing today, if he'll go for it, if he's proud to be part of the team.
And the same is true for you, when you enter the customer's office. Your body language, your passion is something that your customer can see immediately. As you know, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Therefore it's important that your team jersey, your clothes look perfect.
My seminar participants often ask me if it's still necessary to wear a tie. Of course, you need to adapt the way you dress to the industry. But you should always be dressed one notch better than your client. Your appearance, your clothing, and your materials should look impeccable. Sometimes even little things can make a huge difference.
I've heard salespeople say, 'Let's get rid of the uniform'. But if you consider why you're wearing a uniform, then you don't identify with it. I also like to wear jeans or bold colours for other occasions. But for business, we need to look professional and trustworthy. So your clothing needs to go with your product or services. And a “uniform” also gives you a certain appearance of power. Just think of the impression a pilot makes with his uniform, or a police officer.
Dress for success
Therefore I recommend that you dress well for customer appointments. 'Dress for success', as they say – it works. Your customer needs to like you, and that refers to your appearance, too.
'You eat with your eyes first', as another saying goes. Before we even taste a dish, our opinion of it is influenced by the way it looks. But that's not just true for food. It also refers to sales and to our appearance. Your customers buy with their eyes first. Before they buy, their opinion of you is influenced by the way you look.
But don't go overboard
Once, I was to give a two-day seminar for a company that was selling bull semen to farmers. I was to meet their sales force in a hotel in the Bavarian countryside. So I prepared my attire for the occasion: a suit, a pristine shirt with matching cuff links, custom-made shoes, and a silk tie, rounded off with a handkerchief. The hotel was in a town of no more than a hundred souls. As I pulled into the parking lot in my Porsche 911, I saw my first seminar guests – all of them wearing trainers, jeans, flannel shirts, and jackets with their company logo. All of them dressed very casually, certainly not for business.
I knew that I had lost the second I got out of my car. I saw it written on their faces: This dandy in his wedding suit and with his fancy ride wants to teach us how to sell bull semen? He’s never done a hard day’s manual work in his life. He doesn’t even know the meaning of real life.
Although I knew what kind of clientele the salespeople would be dealing with, I had still made the clumsy mistake of dressing like one of their executives and had failed to ask what the dress code actually was. A complete oversight. As a consequence, the seminar didn’t go too well either. I had failed to earn their respect from the outset.
The exhibition of status has to be just right – neither shabby nor ostentatious. A good salesperson is always one notch better dressed than his or her client. Just one notch. Not two or three leagues.
By Martin Limbeck, an international sales authority and sought-after keynote speaker, dubbed 'The Porsche of Sales' as he helps sales professionals seal more deals. Martin has trained and inspired audiences in sixteen countries for more than twenty years. The Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) has been honoured as Top Speaker of the Year 2014, International Speaker of the Year 2012, and Trainer of the Year 2011 and 2008. He teaches at Reutlingen European School of Business, Steinbeis University Berlin, and St. Gallen University, and is the author of several bestsellers. His latest work is NO Is Short for Next Opportunity — How Top Sales Professionals Think.