205: Dressed for Success | Master Sales Series

George Leith

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Coloured hair? Piercings? A tie? Facial hair? $1,000 shoes?

Discussing the proper attire for conducting business in 2018 can be difficult, sensitive, but mostly just complicated. What’s most acceptable? What’s best practice? George provides his insights in this raw cut of the Master Sales Series.

Dressed for Success

George: It’s the latest edition in “Master Sales Series.” On the Conquer Local Podcast. And, you know, it’s a controversial subject. I get asked this question all the time, “How should I dress if I’m gonna be conquering local?” You know, we have a bit of a dress code at Vendasta. That was one of the things that I was adamant about when I started there leading sales, that you’re gonna dress as the business side of the organization. And, you know, we were in a software development company, and you will see people wearing shorts and sandals, and they’re in writing code and that’s fantastic. I want them to be comfortable and enjoy it. And we have a casual dress code, but on the business side, we have more and more customers that are coming to our location all the time, and they’re gonna be meeting the salespeople, and the salespeople are gonna be dressed for success. They get to wear less than a suit or less than dress pants or less than being a little bit dressed up on a Friday

But when it comes to calling on clients and being in the field, there are a few things that I wanna to touch on. And, you know, some people have come to me as recently has as VendastaCon and were like, you know, “How do I… you know, you always wear a suit.” And I’m like, ” I’ve been wearing a suit for a long time. I’ve been in the media business for a long time. And that’s just the way that it was done.” I work at a software company now, sometimes I will wear some dark denim, but usually a dress shirt. I think I wore a golf shirt a couple of weeks ago, which was maybe the first time in six years. But, you know, you also don’t wanna to be stuck up, being pretentious, I don’t know if that cuts it either, so it’s a fine line. And let’s let’s dig into that a little bit. So one of the rules that I like to always follow is that you wanna to be professional and you wanna to be conservative. So what I mean by that is you wanna to come up with a brand that you are going to put forth on an ongoing basis. So if you walk into the building, someone’s gonna say, “That person is a professional and they know what they’re talking about.”

Punch a Little Above Your Weight

I think that you wanna, you know, just punch a little bit above your weight. And what I mean by that is, you don’t wanna to come in, in a tuxedo. And if you’re dealing with a group of people that, you know, maybe you’re calling on a tire shop, and you walk in, and you’re wearing an Armani suit with a tie, they might think you’re a tax collector, so it’s a fine line. And I actually have been known to wear a tie, take it off, put it back on, depending upon the client that I was calling on. So you wanna to be flexible, but you wanna to have professionalism, and the other thing that you wanna to shoot for is having some sort of a brand.

Have a Brand

You know, I remember the day when somebody that I really respect in the space asked me where I bought my clothes and then told me a couple of weeks later, they stopped there and bought a couple of suits from the same place. So, you know, I must be hitting the mark because people are saying, “Yeah, that’s a professional look that I would like to emulate.” So I think that that’s your ultimate goal. And I can think of a number of professionals…we had a guest on the podcast, a couple of episodes back, Heather Monahan, and in the years that I dealt with her, Heather has always dressed to the nines. She has a brand and that brand is she looks like a professional at all times. So I think that is something that you can take to heart, there’s professionalism and there also is building a brand where people are like, “Oh, that’s the way that that person dresses.” I also will talk about our CEO, Brendan King. Now, Brendan has a brand. Its boots, it’s a pair of jeans, it’s a flashy shirt and a blazer, and sometimes the blazer is on and sometimes a blazer is off. And we were at an award show here a year ago and he wore the jeans and a flashy shirt, that is his brand. When he goes to a convention, that is his brand. So it really comes down to what you feel comfortable in. There are all sorts of CEOs, there are all sorts…let’s reset that. There are all sorts of billionaires that don’t wear suits, but I do think that Zuckerberg wore a suit when he was in front of Congress. That was his Tony Stark moment by the way.

Be Clean and Pressed

All right, the next item here’s something that is non-negotiable, be clean and pressed. So this is something that…and those of you listening to the podcast that I’ve ever said this to you I have a very famous line, was the iron on when you ironed that shirt? Meaning, it’s wrinkled to shit and why didn’t you iron it? So at least put a little bit of effort in, it’s $7 to $8 to have your shirt pressed. If you are gonna be a professional salesperson, go to a dry cleaner or buy a steamer. If you don’t wanna…ironing sucks, by the way, I hate it. The thing I dread is when I have to iron a shirt when I’m in a hotel. I will pick my hotel brand on whether they have steamers or not. In fact, I have one that I pack around with me in my suitcase. I hate ironing that much, but you need to be pressed. And then there’s this other thing about being clean. It’s a tough one. And I’ve had some uncomfortable discussions and there are some sales organizations that I walk into, and I’ll go on a four-legged call, and I’ll be like, “Wow, deodorant was not an option today for this sales rep.” And if I can smell it on the four-legged call, the sales, the clients that they’ve been calling on can smell it. So, you know, some of my colleagues will know that I’ll ask them, “It’s been a hot day today, can you smell me?” Because it’s just you wanna to be clean. Now, I’m not saying that there’s a bunch of dirty people running around, I’m just saying that it’s something that sometimes when we get caught in the whirlwind that we, and I told you, producer Josh, this might be a little bit controversial, but it is something that we need to be reminded of.

Josh: We got a question for you? Can I add this?

George: Yes.

Josh: Let’s say a salesperson doesn’t know that they smell, how do you bring up the conversation?

George: Tell them. You got to tell them, you got to sit them down in a private…I wouldn’t do it in front of a group of people. I think sales managers ask themselves this, “What do I do?” Take them in a room and tell them. They don’t know, they just don’t know, and they need to know because it is impacting your business, it’s impacting their life, and they just need to know. Now, I’ve I have a story from my past where I had somebody that had a bit of an odor problem. And I had the conversation and they just didn’t know, they didn’t even know deodorant was a thing. That was what they told me. So it’s crazy and it happens. And it wasn’t actually all that long ago. So, just a heads up. Next item.

Get a Decent Pair of Shoes and Keep Em Clean

This is a pet peeve of mine. It’s not that difficult to get a good pair of shoes, it’s not even that expensive, and to make sure that they are clean and polished is just something you need to do. If you are gonna wear a leather shoe, take the time to polish the bloody thing. And there are all sorts of people that are making a living shining shoes, so find them. You could be wearing a $3,000 suit, but if you’ve got a crappy pair of shoes, you do not look clean and polished, just a simple thing, it’s like my iron shirt item.

Dress For Your Audience

Dress 10% better than the audience in the room. So that’s where if you’re gonna be doing a speaking event and nobody in the room is wearing a tie, you happen to wear a tie, it would be okay to take the tie off. In fact, it might make them feel a little bit more comfortable, you don’t show up in a tux. Black tie event, tux might be a nice thing to wear, you wanna make sure that you’re dressing for your audience. I think that kind of goes without saying, but some people have asked me that question, 10% better dressed than the group that you’re speaking to, and then have that flexibility, maybe not a tie. I have a group that told me the story the other day. They were at a very expensive party and they walked around cutting ties off people. So with just a pair of scissors, if you were wearing a tie, they just cut it and said, “No ties here.” So that’s a bit of a pain when you spend $100 on a new tie, but you wanna make sure you’re flexible. I told you earlier, I would maybe put my tie on three times a day depending upon who I was calling on, and that came from calling on tire shops. I love tire shops. They’ve got tons of money to spend, they’ve got some of the best co-ops in the business, but they get a little bit irritated when you walk in in a suit with a tie. You wanna to make sure that you’re dressing for your audience.

Facial Hair? Coloured Hair? Piercings? Tattoos?

Producer Josh has jumped in. Here’s his question, facial hair? Here’s how I feel about this. I remember in the late ’80s, early ’90s sales managers telling me that you need to shave, nobody would trust you if you had facial hair, but I really do believe that things have changed. I also will say this around tattoos. I believe that both those items are culturally acceptable. I think that it shows that you’re authentic, and I’m sporting a beard. I’m happy about that, covers a lot of the pockmarks on my face from bad acne, so I’m excited, it’s way cheaper than laser. So, you know, I’m excited about being able to have some facial hair. It is culturally acceptable. By the way, I have a tattoo or three or four, it’s not a big deal. And piercings, you know, I don’t know if you wanna to go overboard, but it isn’t the reason that I wouldn’t do business with somebody. So I think that things have maybe changed a little bit. I have had sales people with color in their hair, but it’s got to be professional, it’s got to be clean, it’s got to be well kept. I think that that is the rule behind it. I’m interested to get feedback on this. So, as always, LinkedIn is the place to reach out. If you don’t agree, if you think that, “George, you’re full of it,” let me know because I’d love to get your feedback and will read out some of the comments if what I just said is a little bit controversial. Let’s move on. Next item,

You Perform Better if You Look Better

You feel better and perform better if you look better. And by looking better, if you look like a pro. If you walk out of the room in the morning and you look in the mirror and you go, “That looks good. That’s a good suit. You’re looking good,” or, “That’s a good blouse and suit,” you know, that a woman is wearing, you just feel better, you perform better. You’re more likely to hit those targets if you just feel better. Nobody looks in the mirror and says,” I’m a two out of five today, I’m gonna head into work.” No, you don’t. Nobody wants that, they wanna at least be, “Well, today it’s been a long day, I’m a hard four. Some days I’m a five, but that’s not today.”

Prepare for Battle

Here’s the next thing. You wanna to be prepared for battle, but you wanna to put your uniform on and go to work. Like, football players don’t show up in flip-flops in a pair of shorts, they put their armor on, they put their uniform on and they go to work. And my uniform most days, nine days out of 10, is a suit with a well-pressed dress shirt, the odd time I’ll wear a tie, sometimes I might wear some cufflinks, I might actually have a tie bar depending upon the day, and I make sure that I comb my hair and wash it on a regular basis. I’m prepared for battle. I put my uniform on and you’re ready to roll. Now on the weekends, if you come to my backyard when I’m cutting the grass or when I’m chasing the dogs around, I might not be wearing a suit. In fact, I never wear a suit in the backyard, I’m in casual mode, but I run into people that know me in business mode, and they’re like, “Ooh, you’re casual today?” Then I know that I have that uniform that I wear and that means I’m at work and I’m in work mode.

You’re building your brand. Steve Nudelberg talked about this on his podcast. He talks about this in his book and if you’ve ever listened to his podcast, he’s built a brand. His brand includes a very expensive custom-made blazer and very colorful, that’s his brand. Wherever he speaks, you’d see pictures of him on Facebook and LinkedIn, he’s wearing some crazy colorful blazer, that’s the brand that he’s built. So you wanna to be building your brand, and dressing for success is a big part of your brand.

So that is this week’s “Master Sales Series.” edition around dressing for success. I hope it’s been helpful, just a few things to remind you to make sure that you’re out there conquering on a daily basis. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.