41 – Look the part. Part 1. You

In professional advisory services, the professional is the product. Above all else, clients need to trust that their adviser knows what he or she is talking about.

So, at the very least, you should look like you know what you are talking about. And this appearance of competence should cover all aspects of your personal presentation – not just how well you dress.

Looking the part really means giving a sense of calm competence. This extends to things like how well, or otherwise, you use whatever technology that you need. This can be something as simple as using a pen that works and that you have not chewed the end off. Or, if you are wanting to show your client something online, make sure that you are able to operate the device that you are using. Make sure it has sufficient power, internet access, etc, before you go to use it. This will help you create the sense that you are on top of what is happening. 

If you have ever been to a conference where the overhead projector did not work, you will know what we mean.

Be punctual. If you are going to be late, let people know. Apologise once, properly, and then get on with the meeting.

Speak well. Speak positively. Don’t swear and don’t speak ill of others – even if they are your competitors. Calm people don’t badmouth their opponents.

If your client asks a question and you do not know the answer, tell them that. Find out after the meeting and get back to them. Who begrudges an adviser who takes the time to be right.

Similarly, if you give an answer that you later discover to be wrong, let your client know at the earliest possible moment.

It is also quite reasonable for a professional to change his or her mind. There is nothing wrong with a professional telling a client that “I have given this matter some more thought, and…” Once again, what client would begrudge an adviser who kept thinking about their meeting after they had left?

Dress well. We were once asked by a junior member of staff how formally they should dress. The simple answer: dress formally enough so that you will not be worried that you are not dressed formally enough. If you remove any anxiety that you have not dressed appropriately this will allow you to stay much calmer in the client meeting.

The simple way to do this to be at least as well – if not slightly better – dressed than the best dressed of your clients. If he or she is wearing a suit, then wearing a suit yourself is probably a good idea. Especially the first time you meet them.

There can be an exception for a meeting after hours. At these times, suits can often inappropriate, especially if you are sitting on your client’s couch. 

But never wear anything less than smart casual. That way, you will never have to worry that you have under-dressed.

The Dover Group