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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dress For Success - This May Surprise You

Mastering the Membership Maze with Glen Gould

What you wear says a great deal about you. From our earliest experiences in childhood we’ve been trained to dress for success. We’ve heard advice like:

Look your best. It’s better to have one nice suit and wear it than to have several cheap suits. Choose your colors carefully.

Accessorize. Dress slightly better than the audience. You can add your suggestions here.

Often when attending Chamber of Commerce or other business events we are compelled to dress it up a bit and with good reason. We never know whom me might meet at a networking, business, or social event. When opportunity arises, we surely want to look our best.

Depending upon which statistics you choose to believe, upwards of 93% of the impression you make on people is non-verbal. That means that people judge you based upon your appearance. Since what you wear accounts for nearly 95% of the appearance of your body, your attire plays a huge role in what people think about you. And people are customers.

So it stands to reason that I would suggest that you find a good image consultant and haberdasher and dress your best each and every day. That would be sage advice and a very short article. But then why would the subtitle be “This May Surprise You”?

Not long ago I attended a cross-chamber networking meeting. The usual suspects were in the audience of 60; real estate professionals, financial planners, mortgage brokers, specialty ad representatives, copier sales people, IT professionals, staffing professionals, business coaches and various service professionals. All dressed professionally. It was by all accounts a typical networking event.

Each person was well polished. They gave their elevator speech with equal aplomb. And then it happened. Arriving late was a man who was wearing Dickies and a soiled t-shirt. Covering his unkempt hair was a crushable bucket hat that he kept on during his stay. He had a surgical patch over one eye.

As he took his seat people stared. Some leaned over and whispered to their neighbor. One can only imagine what they were saying. Clearly this fellow didn’t understand this was a business meeting with serious professionals in attendance.

As he stood to give his elevator pitch he explained that he was a handyman.

He apologized for the patch, explaining that he had surgery earlier that morning. He said little more about his work than to suggest that if it was broken, he could probably fix it. Then he took his seat. And people began whispering to their neighbors again.

What may surprise you is that our handyman got the most referrals that day. He looked the part. He was so clearly a handyman that one couldn’t help but believe he must be good at his craft. People also felt comfortable with him because they could “see” him doing work for them.

The message is clear. Your target customer has an expectation of what their vendor of choice looks like. We expect mechanics to have dirty clothes and grease under their nails. We expect stock brokers to dress in Brooks Brothers suits. What do your customers expect you to look like? Is your appearance attracting the wrong customer? Worse yet, is it driving away the right customer?

Now you may be thinking that the handyman might have done even better if he’d just cleaned himself up a bit. That may be true however we’ve had handymen at this meeting before who dressed and spoke well and left without a referral. My money is with looking the part.

When attending Chamber of Commerce and other business meetings, dress based on what your ideal customer expects to see when choosing you as a vendor.

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The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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