How Male Advisors Should Dress To Win Clients
November 24, 2015
by Dan Solin
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The relationship between financial advisors’ dress and their ability to convert prospects into clients is controversial. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, dress can vary by region. It can be more formal in major east coast cities than in the Midwest or South. Silicon Valley has its own set of rules adapted to the younger, tech entrepreneurs who dominate that area.
But some in the financial services industry believe that, regardless of your location, advisors should always dress professionally. One advisor summarized this view as follows: “If you dress professionally, people will take you seriously. Even if [your clients] are casual, you’re there on a serious matter.”
Sherry Maysonave, an image consultant in Austin, Texas, echoed this stance. She was quoted as stating: “Anyone handling money must maintain a professional image even when their clients don’t. Even when they’re casually dressed, my clients expect their attorneys and financial advisers to still be in formal dress. The broker is handling their serious money; they don’t want him in a golf shirt and khakis.”
A sampling of studies
The research seems to contradict the oft-stated aphorism that “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” In one particularly compelling study, participants were asked to view a photograph of someone and quickly decide how they would feel if they were to meet in person. A month or so later, the participant and the person in the photograph actually met. When the researchers compared their predicted impressions with their actual impressions after the in-person meeting, the initial impression was very accurate.
Other studies have demonstrated that people form accurate impressions by watching a video of others or simply looking at Facebook photos of them.
While it’s difficult to quantify the role that clothes play in these judgments, it’s reasonable to assume dress is significant.
My anecdotal experience
My experience from my coaching practice supports this view. I have found the single most significant factor in increasing my clients’ closing ratio has been their willingness to substantially upgrade their wardrobe. In this article, I will discuss my experience with men. Next week, I will discuss dress for women.
Through trial and error, I have come up with this standard for my male clients: Look “appropriately stunning.”
There’s a fine line between achieving this standard and overdressing, which can make you look slick and lessen the impression of your ability to relate. However, I have found most men err on the other side of this issue. They pay little attention to what they are wearing. When they “dress up,” they wear suits purchased years ago, which are often ill-fitting, with non-descript shirts, ties and shoes.
The overall effect is drab and boring.