Do you think sales people should dress up or dress down: Suits or Khakis?

How much is the way you dress connected to your professional identity? Perhaps more than you think. According to a Center for Professional Excellence national poll, “appearance ranked second only to communication skills when respondents named qualities most often associated with professionalism.”

Representing pre-IPO companies, I am frequently asked about modern sales culture in regard to attire. These theoretical discussions often lead to debates with candidates about who is the more effective sales exec: the one in the tailored suit (or jacket and dress pants for that matter) or the one in a button-down shirt and khakis (a.k,a. business casual).

The only answer I have is that your business style manifesto should promote client engagement from head to toe and is something to think carefully about. Wear a jacket and some of your clients could feel you’re not progressive, and on the flip side if your prospects aren’t feeling the golf polo, you might be selling yourself out before you even utter a word.

Although recent research seems to indicate that the modern trend for comfort over polish in workplace attire is internally beneficial by increasing employee productivity and creative capacity, it’s worth pausing a moment to consider that your next high-value prospect could be expecting her next sales rep to be a bit more buttoned-up rather than buttoned-down.

This indeed is a tricky line to straddle… Do customers feel you care more about their business as represented by professional attire, or is wearing a suit (this includes button-down and jacket) unnecessary and potentially placing unnecessary barriers to meaningful engagement?

Certainly, I have an opinion, but yours is more interesting.  What do you think:  Suits or Khakis?

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