Appearance Still Matters

During a recent meeting with a salesperson, I was reminded of one of the most powerful realities in business: appearance matters.

As the salesman and I began to talk, I couldn’t help but admire his well-kept, professional appearance. His attire was just right—professional, trendy, but not over-the-top. As I shut the door to my office, I noticed his shoes: not a single scuff or speck of dust to be found on them. They looked brand new! We then proceeded to discuss the matter at hand. He was a very animated speaker, frequently using his hands to illustrate or reinforce what he was saying. At one point, I noticed how perfectly manicured his nails were. In fact, I would go so far as to say that his nails were absolutely perfect!

After our meeting, I asked this gentleman about his attention to detail, specifically his shoes and nails. I wanted to know if it was a deliberate action, or if I just happened to catch him the day after he got a manicure and a new pair of shoes. First, he thanked me for noticing, then told me that his attention to appearance was indeed quite deliberate. He shared that early in his sales career, a mentor always reminded him to make sure that his shoes, hands, and mouth were kept flawless at all times. As his mentor put it, you use your feet to walk into a sales call, and your hands and mouth are the primary tools used to deliver your presentation. Scuffed up shoes, dirty fingernails, bad breath, or a mangled piece of lettuce stuck between your teeth could end up being the difference between a “yes” and a “no”—so why take the chance?

You’ve probably heard the saying that people do business with people they know, like, trust, and value. Appearance has a lot to do with that. People are inclined to trust salespeople who are reliable, organized, disciplined, and knowledgeable—the qualities that salespeople should strive to show in their overall appearance. To help demonstrate likeability and trustworthiness through your appearance, consider the following:

Dress One Step Above Your Customer

A good rule of thumb is to match your attire to that of your customer. If you’re meeting in a relaxed setting with a casually dressed customer, scale back your wardrobe just a touch. If you’re meeting a client in an upscale office building, reach for the more formal business attire in your closet. And if you’re not sure which direction to go, simply stick to standard business attire.

Conduct Regular Mirror Checks

Whatever your wear, your clothes should always be pressed or ironed and stain-free. Before you step into a meeting, conduct a quick mirror check in the car or—even better—in a restroom. Always travel with a pocket-sized lint roller and a backup wardrobe for those unexpected mishaps!

Beware of Odors

In sales, odor is one of the most-violated rules of appearance. Whether it’s pungent cologne or perfume, cigarette smoke, or good old fashioned bad breath and body odor, you’d be surprised how many people get this wrong. The most common violations are colognes and perfumes. While pleasant to some, they are best used in moderation—or skipped altogether. Many people may not share your love of a particular scent, or they may suffer from allergies triggered by certain colognes or perfumes. The second-biggest odor offender is cigarette smoke. The smell of smoke attaches itself to your hair, skin, and clothing. For the majority of customers you call on, the smell of smoke is a major turn off. Make it a rule to never smoke before or on a sales call, even if your customer is smoking. Lastly, always carry quick-dissolving breath strips to quickly correct any breath issues. Hard mints and chewing gum should be avoided.

Pay Attention to Appearance Beyond Your Body

If you meet customers at your office, make sure it conveys the same professional image as your attire. A well-dressed business professional’s office should be equally well-kept, clean, and organized. And your car, too, should present a professional appearance. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive car in the lot—a study done by researchers at Experian Automotive found that 61 percent of people making more than $250,000 per year (so wealthy people), actually drive Hondas, Toyotas, and Fords. But no matter the make, model, or year you drive, take pride in your ride. Your customer could get a glimpse of your vehicle when you arrive for an appointment; other times you may finish your appointment in the parking lot as you and your customer go your separate ways. So keep your car squeaky clean, inside and out.

So in closing, take a moment to think about the company you represent. Does your appearance consistently and accurately reflect that company? Does it represent the solutions you’re selling? Does it convey likeability and trustworthiness to your buyers and your customers? Like it or not, your appearance really matters.

Will Adams

About Will Adams

Will Adams is the Marketing Director for Tarkenton Companies, and serves the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs through educational, consulting, and coaching services. He learns about his customers’ problems and finds ways to solve them, listening to customers, bringing new products and services to market, developing and managing strategic partner relationships, establishing sales and distribution channels, and managing revenue-producing initiatives, among many other things. His expertise in business operations encompasses retail sales, direct sales, talent acquisition and development, and general management.