It used to be that only big corporations had ‘brands’ (think Coca-Cola, Crest, McDonalds). But in the past few years the thinking has changed: all of us each now have our own personal brand, with – hopefully – characteristics comparable to the big guys: trustworthiness, likeability, customers’ desire to be associated with us. This concept is super-important if you’re a home-based agent who’s not sitting in a shiny mall or professional office.
In this issue and next, I’ll talk about finessing your own brand, starting with your image.
Next time you’re in a setting with lots of people – an industry event, a social gathering, even a shopping mall – take a few moments to look around you. What do you conclude about people based on their appearance?
It may not be fair to base your opinion of someone on first glance, but it’s true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. For those of us who are home-based, it can be very tempting to dress down every day because ‘no one’s seeing me anyway’.
But while it may be comfy to wear yoga pants (or even your jammies) while you’re on the phone, how you’re dressed affects how you feel about yourself, according to Image Coach Leanne Pepper (Leanne.firstname.lastname@example.org).
“You may be going into your home office, but you are going to work,” she says. You don’t have to put on a business suit, but if you are dressed at least smart-casual and not for washing the car, then that will reflect in your mood, your phone calls, e-mails and other communications.
Going to client meetings or professional events is another matter. Pepper (whose clients include a professor looking for promotion to department head who needs to change his look from rumpled academic to take-charge manager) reminds us that even before you open your mouth, people will have noted your appearance. “Whatever you are wearing must be clean, well-pressed, and fit properly. Shoes – on both men and women – and purses also say a lot about our personal habits.”
What do you currently have that ‘works’? Think about what you wear that brings in compliments (“That colour really suits you!”). Don’t be afraid to ask sales clerks for advice and recommendations: they work with clothes, shoes or accessories every day.
Another tip is to observe people you admire. “Chances are they’re confident – and a lot of that comes from how they look,” suggests Pepper. Dressing for success needn’t be expensive, she adds. She herself currently loves dressing from vintage or elegant consignment stores; and image experts suggest building a wardrobe one classic piece at a time. Perhaps a blazer, classic black pumps, a smart purse. And pearls always add a touch of class, ladies – even if you’re a millennial!
Next month I’ll talk about building your brand in your communications.