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Sales Attire Advice for Men

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The saying "clothes make the man" is never more true than in the business world. Outside the workplace, attire can be personalized to match activity, sense of humor, fashion trends and individual preferences. On the job, however, even if there is no stated dress code, the smart man dresses for success. One career path seems to hold an especially broad range of clothing options -- the salesman. What holds true across the board is that a clean, professional appearance instills confidence, both in clients and in colleagues, regardless of specific dress codes.

Instilling Confidence

Regardless of sales environment or specific corporate culture, the salesman should make sure his appearance instills confidence. Whether selling real estate, automobiles or water purification systems, the sales process necessitates confidently relaying information designed to convince the buyer to feel comfortable choosing one product or service over another.

In many sales settings, the rule of thumb is to dress slightly better than those being sold to. If customers wear jeans and T-shirts, for example, the salesman should wear khakis and a polo shirt. If clients wear khakis and polo shirts, the salesman should wear dress slacks and a dress shirt. If customers are usually in suit and tie, the salesman should always wear a suit and tie in conservative colors and fabrics, typically wool or wool blends for suits and silk for ties.

First Impressions

Wrinkled, stained, ill-fitting clothing distracts from what a salesman is saying, but all clothes do their own talking when it comes to first impressions. A sloppy appearance says, "I don't care enough about my job or you to present myself well. If I am careless about my appearance, I'm likely careless in my job." Salesmen should make sure shoes are polished, or if dress codes allow for wearing casual shoes, make sure they are clean and scuff free and aren't a distraction. Belts should match the shoes and should not show cracked leather or tarnished buckles.

Flash Is for Cameras

Keep flash out of the sales process. Some salesmen purchase and wear to work flashy jewelry or accessories to demonstrate their prowess in sales, the thought being, "I'm good at what I do so I bought these doodads to prove it to you." However, most consumers want to know the salesman is concerned about matching their specific needs to what is being offered, not that their salesman is saving up for his next Cartier watch so he will try to sell the highest-priced item. In addition, flashy clothing and jewelry often distract from the salesman's message.

Know Your Audience

The man selling a $90,000 automobile will present himself differently than the man selling surfboards to surfers. Why? Because the customer needs to be able to relate to his salesman while still feeling that his purchase is being made from a reliable source.

If you are selling to an older market, be aware of generational differences. Wearing a suit and tie is traditionally a sign of respect for many senior customers. If your next sales visit involves presenting to a more casual group, like IT workers, you may want to shed the jacket and roll up your sleeves. Understand the image your clients expect and tailor your attire to fit that audience.

Dressing for Movement

Sales presenters need to be able to move around in their clothes without restriction, rips or any limitation of gestures. Purchase suits with movement in mind, or have clothing tailored to account for the particular demands of the sales job.


Writing professionally since 1990, Jessica Shear is a marketing consultant and freelance writer, specializing in sales and marketing communications and personal essays. She has been published in corporate publications, including “Common Ground” and “Hype in Type” and in the literary magazine, “Underwired.” Shear holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from George Mason University.