Dressed for the occasion

I have always been fascinated at the different things people wear. Our choices in what we adorn ourselves make for some interesting people watching –colourfully clad golfers, funkily-dressed festival goers, the various fashionistas and the choices they make each day.

And it got me thinking about the workplace…

I have chosen a career in sales for over 20 years. In the large companies that I have worked, it was an unwritten rule that you wore a suit into the office. The idea that I might visit a customer or prospect without the obligatory Aquascutum or Paul Smith attire would be seen as a non-starter.

Customers expected to see someone dressed ‘Professionally’ and by conforming to the stereotypical ‘Sales Guy In Smart Suit’ – we used to perpetuate that image.

This is illustrated in great sales films like Tin Men & Glengarry Glenross – the leading characters always wore sharp suits. The sharper the sales person, the sharper the suit. The more successful a sales person, the more expensive the suit.

But things have moved on…

A few years ago I noticed a change – fewer and fewer people were wearing ties to meetings. Sales guys began to have open shirts, mimicking the customers who they were trying to influence – a subliminal attempt to make customers think that the sales guy was just like them? Probably.

And this trend for dressing down couldn’t have struck me more starkly when I flew to San Fran for my induction with a new company. Naturally, I wanted to make a good impression and dressed to impress – so there I was – thinly striped dark suit, over a crisp white shirt, with starched collar & blood red tie, and there was the C.E.O – in flip flops and a T-shirt. Oh how things have changed!

So yes, at Improved Apps, I do attend some meetings in jeans & a shirt – but for two reasons and two reasons only – One, I feel comfortable, which is important. The other, more importantly, is that customers just do not care.

Nowadays, customers are more sophisticated than ever. They understand more about you and your value proposition than any elevator pitch or ‘Death By Powerpoint’ slide show could tell them. The web has enabled that capability.

So wear a sharp suit if you wish, but in my opinion you may as well turn up wearing a Chicken Suit – at least it would be an ice breaker….


By Peter McManus – Sales Director