Boca Raton – “Do you think what I wear to the office is important?” asked Fred, a new advisor we met at a workshop. He went on to say, “I recently changed firms and the culture here is different. The advisors I’ve met here are more into polo shirts and loafers than suits and ties.”
As we explained to Fred, your physical appearance, good or bad, is a part of your branding in the minds of clients, prospects and centers-of-influence, especially for new advisors. Ideally, you’d like to be perceived as successful, professional, and trustworthy – all traits that are helped by dressing neatly, conservatively, and in the proper clothing. In the world of intangibles, you are the product.
If someone perceives you as a little too sloppy, a little too young, a little too anything – you’ve decreased the odds of them wanting to do business with you. Even if this accounts for only 10% of someone’s impression of you (we’d argue it’s much more), it’s worth the effort to make certain your wardrobe is in top shape. Fortunately for newer advisors, it’s one of the easiest and least expensive ways to improve your professional brand.
We’re going to use this issue of FastTrack for Growth to share a few “dress for success” principles that Matt Oechsli has instilled in all of us at The Oechsli Institute. We’re not wardrobe experts, we’re still learning too, but we’ve found a lot of value in Matt’s advice and other resources we found on the topic.
As you read through the following nuggets, be critical of yourself. It’s easy to read through with a “that’s not me” mentality, but we’re addressing some of the most common issues we see with new advisors, so most of you will have a couple areas to fine tune if you’re being critical.
New Advisors - Keys to “Looking the Part”
- Dress for Your Clients, Not Necessarily Your Friends (or Spouse) – It’s common that many of your clients and prospects, based on affluent demographics, are a bit older and dress conservatively. We can all think of some examples to the contrary, but the majority of affluent consumers dress the part. Study your target market as a means to avoiding things they avoid - excessive hair products, dressing too “trendy,” hair spiking, box toed shoes, facial jewelry in men, etc.
- Mirror Politicians – What they wear, not what they say. Most politicians wear high quality clothing and wear it well. If they’re at a business function, they’re in a business suit, looking as good or better than most people there. Later in the day, if they’re at a pig farm, they have probably dressed down a bit and put on their galoshes. It’s a matter of shifting gears, but always looking spit shined.
- Study the Art of Dressing Well – There is a plethora of information available on this topic. A great place to start is John T. Malloy’s Dress for Success or New Women’s Dress for Success. These were written 20+ years ago, but the information still holds true.
- Wear Your Clothing Well – There’s nothing worse than a person wearing great fitting, high quality clothing, but slouching, fidgeting with their pockets, or mis-tying their tie. People who seem “comfortable in their own skin”, appear more confident and successful.
- Remain Self-Aware – Dressing well is a fluid, ongoing process. Many people (especially men) make a one-time initiative of upgrading their wardrobe, then forget the subject entirely for months or even years. Setting a budget for clothing and monitoring your spending battles two major issues – spending too much or too little for clothing.
- Remember that Out of Office Wardrobe Counts Too – We all know that going grocery shopping in your flip flops and workout shorts, without taking a shower, is a surefire way to run into a big client or prospect. Not to mention, social prospecting is a critical aspect of client acquisition, so out of office attire is still “work wear” – smart business casual.
- Shop Smart – Dressing well doesn’t have to hurt. Buying clothing online or at outlet stores is a great way to look great without breaking the bank. For example, Ebay is more reliable than ever. It may be a gamble buying suits there, but you can safely hunt for ties, purses and other items for which fit isn’t as important. It also helps to ask around. If you know someone who has great business clothing, ask them for recommendations. They’ll probably save you a fair amount of time and money.
These are simple principles for dressing in a way that helps, not hurts, your chances of making the right impressions. Are there exceptions to these rules? Certainly, so be your own judge of what works in your market. As for Fred, we’re not sure if he’s gone back to suits or not, but our suspicion is that he’s renewed his commitment to dress for success.