Dress for Success: What to Wear in the Field

Fashion Do’s and Don’ts for Sales Reps

Field sales reps travel all over, and the job necessitates making a strong first impression. This means that wardrobe matters. What are the best practices for clothing, grooming, and presentation as a field sales rep? Let’s find out.

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What to Wear

As far as determining what to wear, your choices will likely be dictated by the industry you are in and the function of the meeting. Ideally, your attire should be neat, clean, and professional. Depending on the situation, it may be appropriate to go causal, but never underdress for the occasion. Whenever you are in doubt, overdressing is much preferred.

When dealing with a client who operates out of a large distribution center, khakis and a tucked-in polo shirt is usually appropriate. However, when making a sales offer to the CEO of an accounting firm, a suit and tie is best.

For women sales reps, professional attire requires a suit, skirt, dress, or blouse. When opting for a skirt, the length should hit just below the knee. In terms of colors, black, grey, navy, and white are safe, traditional choices. Shoes should be polished and closed toe. For a more casual meeting (i.e. the distribution center sales call), dress pants and a conservative blouse are appropriate.

For men sales reps, professional attire consists of a pressed suit – black, khaki, or grey – tie, button down shirt, and polished shoes. When choosing a business casual outfit, you can either ditch the jacket or the tie, but never remove both. For patterns, it’s best to avoid clashing designs and to coordinate attire based on color scheme. Stripes and plaids should never be combined, unless for a small accent.

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Tips for Grooming

For men, proper grooming plays a major part in dressing for success. Maintaining a neat appearance shows that you care about yourself and those around you. You should either be clean shaven or have a neatly trimmed beard. A beard that is neatly trimmed has a distinct line at or just beneath the jawline and is evenly cut throughout.

Fashion Accessories

While most salespeople have the professional dress routine down, it’s common to run into problems when it comes to fashion accessories. Both men and women frequently make mistakes in this area, and it can have major effects on a first impression in the field.

Women may wear their wedding rings and small earrings if so desired; however, anything past this may come off as showy, distracting, or tacky. Men should also keep jewelry to a minimum, accessorizing with a nice watch and wedding band if applicable.

Outside of jewelry, it’s important for both men and women to bring along a small briefcase or leather portfolio. Not only is it useful for keeping your documents organized, but it shows a certain level of professionalism. You can store sales catalogs, spreadsheets, brochures, endorsements, and more inside your briefcase. If you don’t really need a brief case but want to carry one as a statement of professionalism, you can use it to store personal items you don’t want to carry in a purse or on your person.

Making the First Impression

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In addition to dressing for success and knowing what not to wear, it’s important to make a solid first impression from the very start. Introductions are always key, and they set the tone for the rest of a meeting.

When meeting a potential customer or client for the first time, remember four aspects: posture, handshake, eye contact, and body language. As soon as you walk in the room, your posture will say a great deal about you. A slumped or tense posture portrays meekness and fear. A strong posture, on the other hand, shows confidence. Your handshake should be firm and last anywhere from two to four seconds. Eye contact should be maintained throughout conversation, with only brief breaks.

Finally, your body language should be warm, inviting, and professional. This requires you to smile occasionally while maintaining composure at all times. Additionally, avoid closed poses like hands in pockets and folded arms. When talking, use your hands as a form of expression, but never let it be a distraction. Hands should remain between your chest and neck and never extend too far in the direction of the person you are speaking with.

Putting it All Together

As a salesperson, much of your success will depend on making strong first impressions. Next time you’re in the field, remember to be aware of how you groom yourself, what you wear, and how you present yourself.