Dress for Success?!

Lately, it seems to me that many people have been “debating” what is the right way to dress to see a client – especially a new client. I have always defaulted to what I have termed “full battle dress”…or simply a suit, not a sport coat and slacks, etc. I think that people make a judgment call as soon as they meet us, and obviously a good impression is all important. I have stories from my “dot com” days of never wearing suits (and this was normal) and having clients tell me not to come to see them underdressed.

I still wonder some days when seeing a new client if I could get away with dressing casually, but I never really wanted to push the envelope and risk having a client think that I don’t take him or her seriously. In the summer when it is humid and the suit will just feel as if you are wearing a blanket, the more casual approach is very tantalizing! At the end of the day, however, I like wearing my suit, so I go that way and have not ever regretted it. For that matter, I make sure my shoes are shined and my shirt is always pressed….

What is your experience? Tell me what you think!

Good Selling (and dressing)!


8 thoughts on “Dress for Success?!”

  1. Todd, I agree with you that the best thing is to go dressed and wait for a client cue if it is OK to dress more casually..good topic!

  2. Excactly….many times a client will say that its fine to dress more casually, but does thah mean you should do it? I once worked with a Health system who insisted that everyone dress casually. I was actually told to go and take off my tie and suit coat when I showed up a 2nd time!

  3. I’m often “accused” of overdressing, especially when I meet with partners or colleagues. However, I feel that each sales opportnity is like a performance – not a ruse, but chance for you to be at your best and present a polished side of your organization.

    One question: how do you compensate for being on the “younger” side (I’m in my late 20’s) when your job is to be the expert…especially with a prospect that is your senior? Aside from dressing up all the time, how do you create a more mature package? There must be more than just dress involved…?

  4. I think its hard to be “overdressed” to where it is a detriment. It is not a bad to thing to default to being dressed up and then let the client tell you differently. I have had clients tell me for years they remember me because of a suit I had on.

    As for your age issues, I think that in the sales community, clients look for someone who KNOWS their stuff and how you present that is what matters. You compensate ( although I hate to think of it that way) by presenting yourself and your products in a way that demonstrates your complete competency-that in itself will negate any age bias. Wow them with brilliance and the rest will follow.

  5. I grew up in another country where there was less priority placed on appearance. It was only on arriving here that I felt underdressed and tried for a while to adapt but it felt fake. I have chosen to rely more on what I know rather than what I look like but often it depends on where I’m going and who I’m seeing that will dictate my couture d’jour.

  6. Paul, this is always interesting to me-learning about other cultures and how people were “business raised”…I have done a huge amount of overseas sales work and was always really careful to ask and educate myself about how to dress, act and what is considered right and wrong..etc…

    I agree with your comments about “I have chosen to rely more on what I know”…dazzle them with your brilliance and the rest takes care of itself.

  7. I once worked in an environment where we wore suits regardless of client dress. My advice, based on plenty of grief is to dress one step (but not two) above your key audience. So if they wear sports coats, you wear a suit. They wear shorts and flip-flops, you wear khakis and a tennis shirt. Just remember…you might be in a call center, and get called into a surprise meeting in the board room, so I always had a sports coat around that I could at least throw over an open-collared dress shirt, or even a tennis shirt.

  8. The overseas comment is equally relevant to selling in different regions within North America. When calling on clients in the Northeast, particularly New York, I wouldn’t think of wearing anything but a suit, but out in Nebraska you run the risk of looking like a mobster if you show up in a dark suit with French cuffs.

    I also think it depends on your client’s profile. Some roles, IT comes to mind, are immediately distrustful of a “room full of suits”. At times it makes sense to dress your sales team to match the demographics of the audience.

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