TALKING SALES 171: "Dress sense for great first impressions"

John Smibert

tailor-made-suits-business-attire             "Your clothes are the first thing your customer sees" - Interview by John Smibert

How does what you wear influence your clients? How do your clothes project your brand? And is it important?

A salesperson need to project themselves as professional, as a person who looks likely to be a domain expert and trustworthy.

We all know that first impressions are critical. When you walk through the door what is the first impression you clothing typically gives your prospective customer?


The way we dress is a very important subject for salespeople so I asked an expert to share his thoughts.  Jatin Vengurlekar is my tailor. He's the CEO and creative director of custom tailor menswear outlet Montagio. He advises some of the leading business leaders and sales professionals in what they should wear.

Jatin suggests that we must first think about how we want the client to perceive us. Do we want to come across as authoritative, or trustworthy, or knowledgeable. Each image can be projected by using different colours, materials and cuts of the items you wear.

And we need to think about what our target audience is traditionally wearing and ensure they can relate to what we wear even if we dress up compared to them.

View my discussion with Jatin below to learn more about how to dress to improve your chances to sell more'


Jatin is the creative director and CEO of Montaggio. He is a leading adviser on fashion for business people.


John:   Welcome back Strategic Selling Group and all my other followers, delighted to have you with me again! I've got a special treat today, somebody different - Jatin, welcome!

Jatin:   Thank you, John!

John: Jatin is the CEO and Creative Director of Montagio, and I got to know Jatin because I went and bought a suit there, and it was a very interesting approach that Jatin took. It wasn't "Let's measure you up and let's look at the materials you want, etc., it was "What are you looking for? What are you trying to achieve? Who do you work with? What impression do you want to make to your audience," and I thought that was wonderful.

Jatin: That's what we do there, John. I think that definitely builds a better customer relationship, but at the same time it also helps you achieve your goals in how you want to present yourself, which is quite an important aspect of selling in general.

Sales leader 6 700 x 400John:   It certainly is. We talk about a lot of aspects to that, the way in which we communicate with customers, the type of conversation we have, the fact that we need to be the domain expert and bring value to the conversation, bring insight, take the customer through the thought process and all the stuff we need to do to do that, rather than sell a product.

Jatin:   Yes.

John:   However, I don't think I've ever talked to the audience about what our appearance needs to be and how do we project that and how do we think about that. That's why I wanted to spend some time with you today, because I think it might be an important subject for the audience to hear about. So let's talk about appearances and how you plan your appearance.

3-piece-business-suits-202x434Jatin: Okay. I would say how do you want to be perceived by your prospect or client or your target market and target audience, that's the first consideration, what kind of first impression do you want to make on who you are going to be meeting, and that is how you should decide how you want to dress.

John: I totally agree with that - the first impression for me is absolutely vital. There's friends of mine that I talk to on video, Ian Lowe for example, he talks about the three brains - the head brain, heart brain and gut brain - and the fact that even before we meet somebody, as they're walking through the door we have these perceptions that build, and we do have a gut feel, there's more neurons in our gut than there are in the brain. To me appearance is not the only thing, but it's the way we project ourselves, our intent, and our intent needs to be purely for the other person and creating value for the other person and all of that, but the appearance is really, really important, isn't it?

Jatin:    It's critical, John. Let's picture a scenario how you want to project yourself. For example, if you want to be seen to be more authoritative, more successful, if that's the initial first impression you want to give someone to set the tone for the rest of the conversation, you should dress in darker colours, more tailored obviously and more fitted sort of clothes. Let's say a dark navy suit contrasted with a sky blue bold shirt with a gold tie for example; that to me projects a more successful, authoritative image straight off the bat.

John:   But maybe that's not the right impression for a lot of salespeople.

Jatin:    Sure, exactly.

John:   Because the last thing you want to do is walk into a room and have the customer think, "This is an arrogant, overbearing... Maybe successful, but I'm really not sure I'll have empathy with this person," so that's a bad first impression sometimes.

Jatin: It is, it is - exactly. So you can also then adjust how you're dressing to your target market. For example, if you're going to meet some tech start-up IT guy, you may not necessarily want to be dressed up all in a suit, if you want to be aligned to how they may perceive you. If they look at you and you're dressed in a dark suit and looking like that, they may think, "This guy is a suit, I don't really want to deal with him," a suit. [laughs]

business-suits-434x434John: Maybe, yes. But is it real to say, "I don't mind being overdressed a little bit for that audience."

Jatin:   A little bit is okay.

John: Maybe I take a tie off but still have a suit on.

Jatin: Exactly, yes. You can do that, you could have a sports coat on with a pair of jeans, if you still want to keep it a little bit formal but dress it down a little to cater to how your audience dresses. Because to take the IT start-up example, they're probably just dressed in T-shirt and jeans and sneakers, they're not going to be dressed in a suit, so if you want to identify with them a little bit more... Know who your market is, of course you've got to know that before you actually go and talk to them anyway, and if you understand their psyche, the way they like to dress and those sort of things, then try and cater a little bit to that.

John:   Would it be fair to say that it's always better to overdress a bit than underdress?

Jatin:   Absolutely, absolutely. I've been to a seminar where the guy who delivered the seminar came dressed very sharp, in a nice suit, and straight away he commanded that respect, that he's an expert in his domain and his field, knew what he was talking about, and that was the initial first impression. Even though everybody in the audience was just dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, because it was a weekday and they went for a seminar, but his impression that he gave off was not arrogance but that he knew what he was talking about.

hepburn-jacket-pants-400John: Right. And I guess with the other extreme, if you're walking into a set of bankers or lawyers or whatever and they're all dressed in suits and ties, if you walked in with jeans and T-shirt on... It's not going to work.

Jatin:    That's not going to work, no. So dress down a little bit for the audience that doesn't dress up so much, but still be that one level above I think.

John:    Yes, smart casual for the really casual guys.

Jatin:             Exactly, exactly.

John:     Okay. And this applies to men and women, it's equal. Jatin is a tailor for men, but I know he gives a lot of advice in fashion for women as well, so everything you've spoken about applies to both.

Jatin:     Absolutely, yes. It's not gender-specific; these rules are definitely applicable to both genders.

John:    Okay. Great advice, and something a little different for my audience, so thank you for that!

Jatin:   Thank you, John - it was my pleasure!

John:    Thanks, Jatin!



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