It doesn’t matter what line of sales you are in, or if you already have a dress code at your current company.
Most companies (uniformed companies included) allow some sort of flexibility of accessories, pants, shoes, socks, and perhaps shirts too.
Don’t assume that what you’re already wearing is getting the best results, or that by switching what you wear won’t enhance your sales either.
You need a stylish sales uniform. And, yeah, I know that when you hear the word uniform, you probably thought of delivery guys, McDonald’s employees, or perhaps Disneyland staff. There’s a reason that these mega corporations all have such a strict dress code (sometimes for psychological reasons), and why you should ultimately create one for yourself: the way you dress subconsciously influences your consumer.
If you’ve read the book Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini, you’ll find that numerous studies of people have shown that they are heavily influenced by seemingly meaningless nuances in language and look.
In the past, I ran a face-to-face sales company of 30 people, and we ran multiple sales events, and I was rigorous on tracking.
My sales team didn’t just track every single person they spoke to for their entire shift, they tracked how far they got in each conversation, and I had a system for moving my sales team through conversations and ultimately to the sell and upsell.
Not only that, but my sales team accounted for anything different that might’ve happened for each and every hour’s worth of conversations so that they could have their managers and myself review them.
Once somebody got comfortable having conversations and following my system for that, their notes quickly started to include notes like weather, or if the salesperson were holding items in their hands, or if they said their introduction in higher or lower tones of voice.
We were trying to craft them into the ultimate sales people and the ultimate managers, and we needed to be as precise as possible with our systems.
Of course, each sales team members and customers is unique and different, so you wonder how you could possibly determine a perfect sales style.
When you have up to 30 sales people each speaking to 250+ people per day, and have teams running 7 days per week, you start to accumulate enough data to notice some serious trends, one of them being:
How we dressed seriously influenced customers.
And, I don’t mean that the sales people just had to dress nicely.
I mean that shirt color made a difference in customer perception and sales output.
I also mean that long sleeved shirts versus short sleeved shirts versus long sleeved shirts where the sleeves were rolled up made a difference in customer perception and sales output.
I mean the type of watch and color of your shoe made a difference.
And, to top it off, it wasn’t consistent for all sales people- they each had to find their own perfect sales style, and although we had lots of commonalities, some styles just worked for some people and not others.
For me when I was training or doing sales in the field my uniform was like this: I couldn’t wear a suit jacket or tie. I’m 6’5″ and other big or tall people had similar issues- my hypothesis is that taller people are subconsciously more intimidating, so coming at someone like that is more likely to not fully engage. I also had to wear a black or white dress shirt with long sleeves rolled up, with the shirt tucked in, with black pants, black belt, and no watch if it was a product that needed a demo that was hand heavy.
However, when I interviewed people in the field (I interviewed approximately 100 people per week), a jacket and watch on top of my “sales uniform” would suffice.
But, if I was in an office setting running interviews then I did best with a 3 piece suit, tie, watch, fancy shoes, crazy socks, and a bracelet.
So, what does this tell us? That I was anal about analyzing statistics to an unhealthy degree? Yeah, probably. But I knew what worked.
So, what do you need to have to develop your own perfect sales look?
First, you need to track.
Plain and simple. You may think you understand your customer or your pitch and can pick up on nuances, but I can definitively tell you that a) your numbers will surprise you, and b) numbers don’t lie.
Could there be some other underlying factor influencing things? I promise you that there will be. When you first start tracking this, things like your energy level, monotony of pitching causing you to go into robot mode, customer engagement, deviation from the script, day of the week, and time of the year are all going to play large roles in your sales numbers.
Second, you need a consistent script or progression through the sale.
Many sales people are outgoing conversationalists. If that is you, then you are going to have a tough time here. I will also tell you this- if you can’t develop a consistent script or progression, you will never be the sales person or the manager that you could be.
All of my outgoing sales people actually had their numbers take a dive when they first converted over to my sales system.
They would complain that they could just have a conversation and do things their way and get more sales. And, in the immediate future, this was true.
They relied on their enthusiasm and people skills, which are admittedly important, but to be perfect you need much more than that.
To train other sales people, you need a consistent system, otherwise you’ll only connect with a small subsection of your potential employees because they cannot connect with where you’re coming from. This is because people have different personalities, styles, and any other number of things.
Then what happens for managers without a solid system is that all of their tips and trainings only fit some of their sales team. It’s too subjective.
Then, when your sales tips don’t work your sales team members start to lose faith in your ability to lead and teach them. If you have an objective pitch that works like clockwork for a variety of people and personalities, you just need them to work that system.
All of the sales people that lasted more than a couple weeks that started out complaining about their sales taking a dive all eventually achieved levels higher than what they had before.
The reasoning was simple: they didn’t know what worked or didn’t work before, and now they did. They could still be enthusiastic and have a love for people, but they knew if they were talking for too long and the customer was getting turned off (a common thing among talkative sales staff), or if they were tired even though they didn’t feel it (common for all of my staff, and why I mandated frequent breaks).
Third, start toying with your look.
I recommend starting off measuring your style’s impact on your sales output with these starting points:
-if you look young, go extra professional. Suit, tie, with confidence and knowledge will get you there.
-Selling low to medium end products? Try clothing more in line with your largest customer segment. They need to relate to you.
-Selling high end products? Dress the part and go high end in your look. People buy these products because they want to step up and into a new lifestyle, and people who present luxury or high end products and services tend to break that illusion if they aren’t dressed to the nines.
-Going to customer’s homes? Dress like them. Going to their offices? Wear clothing that matches the average dressiness level of your customers.
-Don’t dress worse than your typical customer- match or 1 notch better.
-If you use your hands to demonstrate, be extra mindful of watches, bracelets, rings, your sleeves, and anything else on your hands, fingers, or forearms.
Follow these steps, and you might not just enhance your sales, you may enhance your career and position yourself for a brighter future.
If you’re looking for ideas about how to dress for other dress codes, we were featured in the ArtInstitutes.edu blog about dress codes, and recommend you read there as well.