Article by Wendy McCance
I am planning out my next week of meetings and part of that planning is deciding what to wear. You see, I have four different meetings with potential clients and what I wear is an important part of how the client will perceive me.
I learned long ago that what I wear can make or break a sale. I used to be in the wine and spirits industry as an account manager. I would go to restaurants, bars and country clubs to sell house wines, high-end wines and everything in between.
Because I had a territory and an established route, I had a combination of high-end restaurants and hole-in-the-wall bars all in the same area. I soon learned that if I went to a small mom and pop bar in a suit to sell wine into the establishment, I would be turned away. The suit would make me look like I didn’t fit in. The owners wouldn’t feel comfortable buying from someone who didn’t look more like the type of people they were used to seeing all day. If I went into the same bar wearing a pair of dress pants or skirt and a more casual shirt, I could nail a sale almost every time.
The same scenario played out at my high-end establishments. I needed to dress as well if not better than the people who frequented the country clubs and elegant restaurants. If I dressed below the standards of the people who dined there, the catering manager wouldn’t think I knew a good wine from a house wine and I’d be turned away.
So, I came up with a system to make the most sense out of the dilemma of having to wear outfits that were polar opposite in the same territory. I scheduled the high-end establishments on a different day than the bar and grills. That way, I could go from place to place without worrying about what I was wearing and if it would cost me a sale.
Now that I am freelancing, I use the same method to establish what to wear when meeting potential clients. This week I will be visiting a marketing agency, a magazine, meeting with a school district about online work and taking a meeting with a financial consultant. I use tricks to figure out what to wear when I am faced with such a variety of clients.
If I am unsure of a company culture, I will look up the company on their website and see what they have their employees wearing for their pictures. The way the employees look is a prime example of the way the company wants to present themself. I match the way they are dressed so that I seamlessly fit in. The person I have a meeting with can then feel more comfortable that I get the personality of the company and they can visualize me fitting in nicely.
If I am scheduled to meet with a small company that does messy work like plumbing or cleaning homes, I will wear nice jeans and a silk top. Just about every time I have gone into a blue-collar business such as the ones just described, the people are wearing jeans or something close to it. I’ll look nicely dressed, but will definitely fit in.
I also pay attention to where the meeting is scheduled to take place. A nice restaurant calls for a more polished outfit where as a coffee shop is a place where I will dress fashionably but will not wear excessive business attire. It might seem like a little thing, but first impressions are really that important. I know from personal experience that your outfit can be a deciding factor on if a potential client will feel like they can connect with you right out of the gate.
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