Style is a language: The clothing you wear speaks volumes about you long before you open your mouth, and talks to everyone around you, whether you actually exchange words or not. Research has conclusively shown that how you dress not only changes how you feel about yourself, but how others interact with you as well. What you want your clothes to “say” depends on the situation and the impression you want to make. Sometimes you simply want your clothes to convey your personality and your general sense of ease.
Other times, you choose your clothes strategically, in order to create a certain effect — in order to give yourself a certain advantage. For example, you want to dress a certain way in order to convey power, or to be more effective in a negotiation. When you’re selling, you’re never just pitching a product or an idea, but yourself as well; how you present yourself can make your pitch more or less convincing and compelling. Here’s how to dress to be more effective in sales.
Dress a couple notches up from the people you’re selling to. While a salesman should look friendly, he should also have a little authority, in the sense of having something that potential customers currently lack but want/need. So dress a little better than the people you’re selling to; if you’re selling to people in suits, you should also be in a suit. If you’re selling to the very casual/hip set, wear a sharp sports jacket and jeans. You’re not going to get very far if you underdress, especially if you’re dealing with corporate clients. Err on the side of overdressing.
A good salesman never looks boring. Again, if you’re just like everyone else, you won’t come off as having something to offer that’s uniquely valuable. You want to evince just a bit of compelling panache. If you’re at a high-formality level where dark suits and conservative ties are a must, add a colored pocket square instead of a white one, or wear black brogued bluchers instead of plain oxfords, just to break the rules a tiny bit and get people’s eyes on you.
That said, never break the rules too much. Black brogues or dress boots instead of oxford shoes is fine; canvas sneakers or light brown leather saddle shoes with a suit is not.
Have something eye-catching in your outfit. A metallic lapel pin works wonders, and is also a potential way to slip in another message. For females, a brooch on your top or blazer is a great addition to your dressing. Also, avoid excessive jewelries like chains, huge earrings and more.
The key is to look classy and simple. Don’t look pushy. Very sharply-silhouetted suits, power ties, ostentatious cufflinks and watches, and other aggressive styles will make people think you’re rude before you’ve had a chance to open your mouth.
That judgment will then color everything you say. It can be a delicate balancing act to be eye-catching and enticing without seeming gauche. When in doubt, stick to classic styles and let one or two small accents do the talking for you.