Be a Kingsman in Sales — What Shoes Are You Wearing?
When a Startup’s sales team engages with the old economy, it needs the right mindset, a straight posture, and a pair of Oxford shoes.
When I visited an inside sales office of a starting up B2B software company last summer, I was surprised by the teamwork and spirit of the people. It was an international crowd of talented people from all over the world. Meghan from Chicago, Christopher from a tiny village next to Stuttgart, Tarek from Nigeria and Huang from Leipzig. Even a few people who grew up in or around Berlin. The software the team had developed automated boring and repetitious tasks of bookkeeping and financial controlling. Aiming at the midsized market of businesses in Germany and Europe. All employees were excited almost every day they came to work — or at least that’s what they were saying.
Yes, they had free coffee, and fruit baskets delivered every Monday morning, and regularly the boss bought pizza or salad for lunch! There was a TV blurring the news and the IT Developers next door were occupying the lounge area with large headsets wearing T-shirts with the company’s logo while wearing leather sandals or sneakers. All in all, the management made it fun to work at their place!
What was missing was a competitive atmosphere, and people generally dressed very casually (to put it mildly). When I was checking the team’s sales conversion, the sales team fought very hard in each prospecting call. They were calling high-level managers and directors, accessing their pain points and offering a short description and benefits of their solution. The aim was to excite the prospect and to get a chance to demo the software. Unfortunately, they didn’t come across on the same level, and therefore mirror matching the potential client was difficult. The problem had not been a casual Friday, as every day it had been causal. Free beers almost every night for staff who dared to stay late, sometimes more Pizza or a local pub next door.
During a group session, we asked if they have been to the offices of their clients before, or if they had an idea of how their offices may look like? The overall answer was: The opposite of their place. The clients were mainly considered as traditional “Old Economy” many of them founded 30–50 years ago. Their employees and management seemed to have an older average age, and the dress code was indeed more serious-, more business-like. It couldn’t have been a higher contrast.
Dress like a Kingsman — Sell like a Kingsman! Stand straight and elevate your self-confidence!
As an experiment, we asked the CEO to separate developers from the sales floor and closed up the lounge area during the morning hours. For one week, we planned not just to mirror-match the clients from in the inside, but also to resemble their appearance. We asked the sales team to dress up in a suit or at least dress pants and shirt, to add a tie or scarf and to leave the sneakers at home. We asked them to exchange the casual footwear to business shoes with a leather sole. Granted, not all of them had a suit at home, a few had to borrow something or just bought some cheap dress pants and added a tie to a shirt. Yes, it did look a little geeky — some of them felt as if they were going to a job interview, or to be attending a wedding, or going to grandma’s birthday party. After a couple of jokes and funny remarks at the beginning, they accepted their new look, and the kick-off meeting also happened to be more serious. We asked the team leader to give a little sales presentation to the team and to pretend that he was addressing real clients. Once done the team went to work hitting the phones — standing. We asked them to stand up when speaking to a prospect and letting the voice travel up and down for a more excellent timbre. Also, they were allowed to move and not to be stuck to their desk. As a direct result of matching the prospect’s appearance from its looks, self-confidence lifted. The voice sounded much more firm, and arguments came across much more sincere. We noticed that prospects reacted much different compared to before and the level of objections declined. At the end of the week, sales hit the year`s highest level, many opportunities which used to fail at first actually translated into a valuable discussion for both parties.
Of course, it wasn’t feasible to change the dress code forever, as the company culture was based on a starting-up, fun environment and people were choosing their workplace for a reason. If they had wanted to work in a traditional economy, they would have done so. So there was one last trick which we tried out to achieve better results: Let the team wear leather shoes, as you wear with a suit, best with a hard leathered sole. The more rigid the base, the stiffer the walk and movement. The posture changes accordingly as well. Now, even when wearing jeans and a polo shirt, they achieved similar results as when wholly dressed in a suit.
Whenever I go to meet clients, or whenever I have essential appointments and presentations, I wear a unique pair of Oxford shoes. It elevates me and my self-confidence beyond the norm. It also corrects my posture and appearance in the eye of others. Go and buy yourself a pair of “Seling Shoes” and see yourself!