Archive for May, 2011

dress for success

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Some of the most common questions we get
at our dealer training workshops around the
country relate to our insistence that every
salesperson needs to “dress for success” in
the classic power suit—a tailored, dark-colored
suit that includes a matching skirt or
pants for women and a silk tie for men.
We’ve been asked, “Why should I wear a
suit when the majority of my customers and
prospects wear polo shirts and khakis?” and
“Shouldn’t I dress to fit in with them?”
The answer is a simple one. Despite the popularity
of “business casual” and casual Fridays,
it hasn’t changed since John T. Molloy
first published Dress For Success in 1975.
“You never get a second chance to make a
first impression” is just as true today as it
was then. The instant a customer meets
you, he or she begins forming an impression
that becomes indelibly marked on his or her
mind. And the first element of that first impression
is your appearance.
Fortunately, your appearance is always
something you can control, and it is a way
you can immediately exceed your customer’s
expectations. He may be wearing a
polo shirt, and may indeed expect you to be
casually dressed, too. But a well-tailored
suit begins to tell him at first glance that
you’re ready and able to deliver more than
he anticipated.
In their recent Dress Smart books for both
men and women, Kim Johnson Gross and Jeff
Stone point out that “even if you don’t want to
dress to get ahead, the other guy will.”
In fact, the commercial divisions of the national
office supply chains are now mandating
that their salespeople wear business
suits on sales calls.
One such policy notes that “when we meet
the customer, we should be impressive and
‘different’ from the rep that just left.”
If you’re not dressed for success, you’re imposing
an unnecessary handicap on yourself
relative to your competition.
Success doesn’t have to
break your budget.
A frequent concern, especially among
younger salespeople, is the presumed cost of
following our “dress for success” guidelines.
But success doesn’t have to mean paying
designer prices. In How to Be a Budget
Fashionista, Kathryn Finney suggests
women start economically with a suit that includes
a skirt, a pair of pants, and two shirts.
They can mix and match five or six different
outfits with these basics.
One of our workshop facilitators was recently
able to put together such a versatile
outfit, including quality shoes and accessories,
for less than $200.
For men, it’s easy to change the look of a
basic suit with just a few different ties or
shirts. Discount retailers in most areas, as
well as online stores, feature high-quality
suits and accessories at bargain prices.
With all the advantages of dressing for success
in mind, here are a few of the basic tips
we provide for both men and women in our
n Dark colors are always more
n Nobody sees the label.
n Quality is more important than
n A good fit is essential; avoid too tight,
too loose, too long and too short.
n Add appropriate accessories—shoes,
belt, watch, briefcase/ computer
bag/purse, socks/hose, tie/scarf,
etc.—to complete the look of success.
n Remember, you’re dressing for work,
not for a fashion show.
Should you be judged by what you wear?
Perhaps not. But the reality is that you are.
You owe it to your business, your employer
and your career to give yourself the best
possible chance to be judged positively.
To learn more about United Stationers’
United Dealer Training programs, or register
for an upcoming event, contact Kevin Lah
at United Stationers (
Phil Barnette is manager of United Stationers’
United Dealer Training program.
dress for success
In today’s competitive environment, the
‘power suit’ is more important than ever
By Phil Barnette

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »