A great salesperson can overcome a myriad of obstacles including my top ten:
- customer service
- history/track record
- self presentation/first impressions
An average/ineffective salesperson may not be able to overcome any of the ten with the possible exception of relationship. Some salespeople, while strategically and tactically challenged, are quite good at developing relationships. Unfortunately, while a relationship is important, people won't buy if that's the only thing a salesperson brings to the table.
So if it requires a great salesperson to overcome 9 of those 10 obstacles, and only 5% of the sales population is truly great, why do salespeople create obstacles for themselves? I'm talking about obstacle number 10 - self presentation/first impressions.
Yesterday, when I debriefed a great salesperson on his morning call, I learned that there was competition still to be considered. Given the need to differentiate and rise to the top, you would think he would have wanted to make a good impression. Why make it more difficult to be credible, demonstrate expertise, and outshine the competition by making a lousy first impression? I asked if this was a face to face meeting and when he said it was, I cringed when I saw how he was dressed. Poor fitting, wrinkled khakis with an open collar, button down shirt and messy hair does not translate to, "We should give this guy $50,000 this year so he can help us run our business".
The elite salesperson is good enough to overcome this disaster, but why should he have to and how many salespeople are guilty of this and aren't good enough to overcome the problem?
Nobody likes to dress down more than me. I'll come into the office in shorts and a Tommy Bahama shirt if I don't have to meet with clients. But to think that you can dress like a slob and get people to feel comfortable giving you a lot of their hard earned money just doesn't cut it for me. It's one thing if you're selling to construction or manufacturing workers, residential landscaping to homeowners, or consumers in a hobby shop. But if you are selling professional services to professionals, err on the side of being conservative.
Nobody will ever refuse to buy from you because you are dressed well.
[UPDATE - Frank Belzer posted and picked up where my article left off.]