Your Appearance DOES Make a Difference

Your Appearance DOES Make a Difference


Casual dress surrounds us in today’s work environment. The customers we call on, the staff in our office and even the sales force at our papers is dressing more casual than we saw 10 years ago. The dot com environment in our society has influenced the way we dress. We have seen great success in the on-line society and they have generated billions of dollars of advertising revenues wearing their blue jeans and a hockey jersey.


The difference between selling advertising in our papers and selling advertising on-line is that most of our contacts are made face-to-face. Our appearance makes a difference in the way we are perceived by the customer. How we dress reinforces (or diminishes) the believability of what we say. If we are telling the customer we are professional people who have vast knowledge of how to create effective advertising and we will work hard for them, but we dress in golf clothes, we send conflicting messages.


I spoke at a conference recently to Salespeople and Sales Managers. The theme to the program was “Keys to Selling Print Advertising.”  A portion of that program provided details about appearance. Following are some highlights about appearance.


When does appearance make a difference for salespeople?


WITH ESTABLISHED ACCOUNTS - Once you have established credibility with your regular advertising customer, your appearance has a diminished impact on your perception. They have an opinion of you based on your performance and the performance of your paper. Your regular customers will not change their opinion of you until you mess up. When they have a mistake on their ad, they may begin to reevaluate their opinion of you and your paper. Now, you need all the help you can get.


WITH NEW ADVERTISERS - Appearance is critical. You are making a first impression that will last forever (which may only be one hour if you make a bad first impression). When you make your initial contact or sales presentation to an account they are judging everything about you. Often, they are skeptical of everything you say. New prospects occasionally meet with sales reps just to rule them out. Their purpose in meeting with you may be to rule you out from consideration of placing an order. They may look for any reason to not advertise in your paper.


You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. First impressions stay with you. A bad first impression becomes a barrier that is difficult to overcome, even over time. A good first impression helps open the door for further conversation. You have done the same thing. When you meet someone for the first time, you form an opinion that quickly judges the person. “They are smart...they don’t know what they are talking about...they seem nice...what a ding-dong.” We have all judged people after meeting them for the first time. Forming an opinion about them based on first meeting them. We form that opinion based on our conversation with them and their appearance. We do it everyday, and so do our prospective customers.


When does appearance make a difference for managers?


WITH YOUR STAFF – Everyday you are judged by your staff. They carefully watch everything you say and do. Your appearance sets a standard for the office. How you dress is just as important as what you say or how you act in the office.


Your appearance reinforces what you say. As a manager, I always think of my staff members as my customers. They are the people I need to influence. When I dress in a white shirt and suit I have a stronger presence with my staff than if I wear khakis and a polo shirt. Look like the leader of your team.


IN YOUR COMMUNITY – Everywhere you go in your community you are recognized as the leader of your paper’s staff. What type of impression are you leaving with members of the community? Think of the president of your local bank. How does he/she dress? Business leaders and local residents consider your paper similar to a bank. Your paper is a local institution. Dress like you expect the bank president to dress.


Whether you are attending a chamber of commerce board meeting or going to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk, my suggestion is that you always “overdress” a little.


Quick Tips on Your Appearance


Men’s hair should be medium to short length. Neatly combed. Women’s Hair – Best - short to shoulder length. Women’s hair that is long and flyaway gets in the way and distracts the customer. Don’t have a style or color that is too weird. Hair spray is appropriate if you are outside. Beards and mustaches are objectionable. (On both men and women)

Shoes should always be polished.

Don’t apply cologne or perfume before going into meet with the customer. Too strong of a scent can be offensive.

If you are in and out of the car all day, stop and look in a mirror occasionally to make sure what you are wearing not wrinkling by the end of the day.

Vehicle – Keep it clean inside & out. You never know when you may be asked to give your customer a ride to his car at the repair shop.

Smoking - Not in front of a customer. Keep the window open in your car if you smoke before you go in.

Dress for the weather – Be comfortable but conscience of your image. No snowmobile outfits, hunting gear, halter-tops, shorts. Wear boots in the winter not heels.

Don’t park your car at your customer’s front door. Leave the best parking spots for his customers.


Here is a quote to remember:

“Your first appearance, he said to me, is the gauge by which you will be measured; try to manage that you may go beyond yourself in after times, but beware of ever doing less. “

Jean-Jacques Rousseau




Men’s Apparel Tips for Success

Men in sales face a couple of obstacles when they walk through the door of a customer they are seeing for the first time.

1) Customers do not believe everything they say at face value. The perception is that he will say almost anything to close the sale.

2) Customers increase their defenses, expecting higher pressure to close the sale. This is an admirable trait from your manager’s point of view but it creates a barrier with new customers.

To combat these perceptions it is important on your first sales call to a prospect that you dress professionally, projecting a look of influence and a feeling of confidence.


How Should Men Dress?

Men’s Suit and Sport Coat

· Traditional colors – blue, gray, black are best. Dark olive and tan are OK. Solids or light patterns (pinstripe, tweed, light plaid, herringbone)

· Worst colors are brown or green. No bright colors.

· Best materials are wool or silk. Wool blends are good for year-round wear

· Shirt - White is best. Light, solid color shirts are best for work. Cotton blend (not 100% cotton), button down collar. Some customers react poorly to dark color shirts.

· Shoes - always polished

· Tie - Medium width, tight to collar, not too crazy. Tie tack at 4th button down.

Casual Dress for Men

· Occasionally, you will attend a casual dress affair for business or semi-pleasure.

· Always wear something that is “business casual.” Oxford shirt or nice polo shirt with sweater. Dress slacks. Dark colors are more powerful.

· NO sweatshirt, t-shirt or tight polo shirt.

· NO blue jeans, tennis shoes

· Even when you are away from work, if you are out in the community you need to be conscious of how you look. Carry the professional look everywhere you go.


Summary of Appearance

You look most professional wearing a suit – Always wear a shirt & tie when you are making calls.

Best colors are navy, charcoal - If you don’t have a suit; a good place to start is with a navy blue suit. You can wear the blazer as a sport coat with gray or tan slacks.

Nothing weird – No weird hair. No earrings. No tongue studs or pierced eyebrows or other parts that show.

Your appearance enhances what you say – If you want to give advice and be taken seriously you have to look like you know what you are talking about.




Women’s Apparel Tips for Success

Women in sales have a distinct advantage over men customers trust them. I don’t have an explanation for this except to say that customers who were interviewed feel less intimidated by women salespeople.

However, women in sales do face a couple of obstacles with new customers that men don’t have to worry about.

1) Every salesperson, man or woman, has to establish credibility with new customers but women have to work harder to establish credibility as an expert in advertising.

2) Sexual comments – This is a difficult situation that women are confronted with while selling. There is always one guy they call on that is a pig. The comments and more that they run into.

The appearance suggestions are intended to help promote credibility and respect at first impression.


How Should Women Dress?

Women’s Suits and Dresses

· Suits are best, either with skirt or slacks. They add a little more credibility. If the suit is cut low be sure to wear a blouse.

· Best colors are navy, charcoal, medium to dark blue, tan, red & white. Black is too intimidating for most situations. It is a good color to wear when you need to present a power presence. Worst color is pink. Soft patterns or solids.

· Best material for a suit is wool, wool blend, linen or synthetic that lays nicely. Buy traditional style suits. Stay away from trendy styles.

· Don’t buy your suits or dresses at the Dollar store.

· Blouses –White or white on white are best. If made with thin material, wear a sweater.

· Sweaters – not too casual. A V-neck or cardigan over a blouse look nice.

· Winter Coat – Long wool coat. Best colors are camel, navy, charcoal or black.

Casual Dress for Women

· Occasionally, you will attend a casual dress affair for business or semi-pleasure Always wear something that is “business casual.” Nice blouse or shirt with a sweater. Dress slacks. Dark colors are more powerful. Black is a good color here.

· NO sweatshirt, t-shirt or tight polo shirt.

· NO blue jeans, tennis shoes.

· NO short skirts or shorts.

· Even when you are away from work, if you are out in the community you need to be conscious of how you look. Carry the professional look everywhere you go.

Summary of Appearance

You look most professional wearing a suit – Any color suit for a woman is better than a sweater or dress.

Best colors are navy, charcoal – Don’t dress like a man. Find a good source for women’s suits

Nothing weird – No weird hair. No tongue studs or pierced eyebrows or other parts that show.

Your appearance enhances what you say – If you want to give advice and be taken seriously you have to look like you know what you are talking about.

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