Sometimes Blue Jeans Make a Better Impression

You walk into an electronics store to upgrade your stereo, but – like me – you don’t know diddly about electronics.

There are two salesmen. One wears an Armani knock-off suit and, from what you hear him telling other customers, he seems eager to carry you into his techie world of woofers, tweeters, and high-pass wave modulators.

The other salesman is wearing a slightly rumpled suit, shirt collar unbuttoned, necktie pulled three inches down.

Which one do you want to help you?

I’d choose the second man. He looks more like me. He dresses like me. From his looks, I expect he won’t try to bowl me over with electronics jargon I don’t understand.

And guess what? At the end of the month, he’s going to be the salesman with the bigger commission check.

He’s learned the real secret about “dressing for success.”

Like him, if you want to dress yourself, your marketing copy, your website, your sales pitch, your brochure, and your office for success … you will not dress to impress.

Because looking “cheap” can mean lots of money to you.

Michael Masterson often tells the story about a travel agent who was selling bargain tours with a slick brochure. It didn’t work. The fancy brochure was trying to impress the prospect (potential customer) rather than make the sale.

The agent changed to a plainer, cheaper-looking brochure. And sales skyrocketed.

There are several basic sales principles at work here. But the one we’re interested in today is this one: Do not try to impress your prospect.

Inform him. Educate him about your product. Give him the information he needs in order to make the decision to buy. But do not try to impress him with your knowledge, intelligence, wealth, or wit.

If you do, you might just push him away.

Here are three ways to improve your sales by NOT trying to impress your prospect:

1. Keep your language simple.

  • Say “There are nine justices in the Supreme Court” instead of “The Supreme Court is comprised of nine justices.”

  • Say “use” instead of “utilize.”

  • Say “It’s me” instead of the strained but grammatically correct “It is I.” Or say “Who are you giving it to?” instead of “To whom are you giving it?”

2. Stay away from jargon.

If you’re selling specialized products like consumer computers, you’ll have to use some industry-specific terms. But don’t use them to impress.

Let’s say you’re selling a Mac G5. Yes, you’ll have to say that it has dual 2-gigahertz PowerPC processors. But don’t leave your prospect there. He has no idea what the computer can do for him. If you want to make the sale, translate that gobbledygook into plain English by saying something like this: “And you’ll whip through your work faster than… .”

3. Don’t show off. For example …

  • Just because you know how to use Flash or similar technology, don’t use it on your website. Most users hate the delay. They’ll go somewhere else where they can buy more quickly.

  • Just because you can afford a multi-million-dollar workspace doesn’t mean you should have it. An expensive office, fancy furniture, and high-priced artwork demonstrates that you do not put your money where it belongs – into improving your product or saving your customer money. This doesn’t mean card tables and orange crates. But conservative furnishings give your customers the message that you give value for their money.

  • Don’t wear a tuxedo to sell a refrigerator. Your clothing must reflect an understanding of the social status of your potential customer. A good rule of thumb is to dress slightly better than your average customer.

  • In all likelihood, your attempt to be witty or clever will be entirely lost on your prospect. If he doesn’t understand you, you’ve wasted effort. And he just might resent you for saying something he doesn’t “get.”

[Ed. Note: Will Newman is the editor of AWAI’s student e-letter “The Golden Thread.” In his article today, he shares just one of the many secrets you’ll find in the AWAI copywriting course.]