Years ago someone said something to me that has stuck with me to this day: The way you dress indicates the respect you have for other people.
I firmly believe that you need to dress appropriately, and project a positive image.
One B2B business I used to know had a full-length mirror in the foyer of their office, with sign above it directed at their outbound sales reps. It said “Are you presentable to see your clients today?”
That doesn’t mean you should be dressed like an investment banker all the time, unless, of course, you actually are an investment banker.
Rather, you should present an image of professionalism that’s neat, tidy, and relevant to how people in your line of work are expected to be dressed.
That means that you can’t come to work with your clothes covered in cat hair.
That means you can’t dress as if you’ve been shopping at the thrift shop.
That means your shoes are clean and not grubby.
And of course, you should be neatly groomed. Which brings me to my story.
I worked at a furniture store with a salesman, I’ll call him David.
David was a little strange. He was one of those guys who reads Anthony Robbins-type self-help and success books, spouts all the aphorisms, plasters on a big fake smile, and yet, somehow, is still kind of a loser. David was one of those guys who, no matter how hard he faked it, still never seemed to make it.
One Monday morning David came in to work with two black eyes, a couple of missing teeth, medical tape across a nose that had obviously been broken and reset, and a livid purple bruise that covered, with no exaggeration, his entire forehead.
“David!” we all exclaimed, “What happened?”
David told us an implausible tale about trying to remove a tree stump in his backyard over the weekend that, while sounding comical, took a horrible toll on his face.
Privately, my co-workers and I agreed that it was far more likely that he got into a barroom brawl and lost.
All of us, including our manager, agreed that David should take the day off, and take a couple of sick days, at least until he no longer looked like a train wreck.
David would hear none of that, though. He was adamant that he would work the floor, and through the power of positive thinking “would outsell all of you mooks!”
He sold nothing that day, nor the day after. It turns out that nobody wants to buy a sofa from someone who looks like they need an ambulance.
While that’s the most extreme anecdote I could come up with it drives home my message: Are you presentable to see your clients today?