Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Bottom Line of Style - How Your Professional Image Affects Your Profit

When you’re an entrepreneur (or desiring to be one) you have to set your own path – be your own boss, sometimes without the same amount of guidance that is provided in Corporate America. This same principle applies to not only your business acumen and experiences, but also those relating to the way you present yourself. The public “face” you show the world is not only a reflection on you as an individual, but upon your business as well.

First Impressions
What is the “image” of your industry? If your work and your clients are primarily centered on a conservative industry like law, banking or insurance, you will have a different impression – a different image than someone working with a more creative industry like marketing, advertising or graphics. How you present yourself to current and potential clients can make a big difference in the relationships you cultivate, and whether they will grow or stagnate.

Imagine for a moment you are a parent, dropping off your precious 3 or 4 year old for pre-school. Upon arriving, you notice that the classroom is rather messy, disordered, and seems chaotic. The teacher approaches with a smile – he or she is young and attractive, but their clothing is rumpled and disheveled, and their hair is all over their head. Does this individual and the environment they’re in inspire confidence in you?

A second example – you are starting a business bank account and happen to see the bank president arrive in the parking lot of the bank. He or she steps out of a very expensive luxury car wearing an impeccably tailored suit and sporting expensive accessories. Does that visual impression inspire confidence that they will take care of your money, or just that they have access to money?

The initial impression we make on others is 55% visual – what they see; 38% vocal – the tone, speed and pitch of our voice; and only 7% verbal – what we actually SAY during the initial conversation. We as human beings tend to follow the LOLO theory – we Lock On to what we believe to be true, given the visual and auditory clues we receive – and we Lock Out anything to the contrary. A less-than-favorable first impression will stick with those you meet for quite some time.

Defining Your Image 101
So how do you define a personal and professional image that sets a climate for success and helps you to make positive first impressions? Start with basic information:

  1. What is your body type? Realistically – are you evenly proportioned from top to bottom, or do you have areas of your body you’d like to emphasize more and others you’d like to de-emphasize? Knowing where you are starting gives you the opportunity to take charge and decide what will be an area of emphasis.

  2. What are your best colors? While everyone in theory can wear every color, no matter what, the simple fact is that everyone has a color “temperature” and there are specific colors that will flatter you more than others. Wearing a less-flattering color near your face, for instance, can cause shadows and lines to be more prevalent. Knowing your best colors will help you to create that positive first impression.

Impact Killers
Impact killers are things that can negatively affect your first impression and your image at any time. Some of which are:

Starting any sentence with an apology – don’t give up your credibility and authority by apologizing before you’ve even begun a presentation or when disagreeing with someone.

Wimpy handshakes – while you don’t want to squeeze the daylights out of anyone’s hand, a limp handshake does NOTHING to establish your authority and experience.

Being late – NEVER be late for an appointment, or if you are, call to notify the individual you are meeting with.

Closed body language – many people feel sitting with your arms crossed or sitting back in a chair as opposed to sitting forward means that you are resisting or feeling negative about what is being said. Watch the body language!

Maintaining Your Image
When meeting with current and prospective clients, take some time to prepare mentally – often as entrepreneurs, we can be our own worst critics. If you tend to be critical of yourself (aren’t we all at some point?) try to develop a series of affirmations that you can repeat out loud every day and every evening to boost your self-confidence and self-assuredness to a higher, positive level. This is not saying you must be conceited, nor is it conceited to know your worth and your value – but the world will not necessarily reflect positive back to you if you don’t exude it for yourself.

The impression you give when conducting business has multiple components, including:

1.       Credibility – are you an authority on your subject? Do you have the in-depth knowledge to answer questions and provide assurances for your customers?

2.       Likeability – are you a likeable person? Do you have personality elements in common with those you are speaking to, and can they relate to you?

3.       Personal attractiveness – this is not being “model perfect” – but does speak to whether you are intentional about your visual presentation. When someone takes time to present themselves as polished and professional, it’s noticeable. It’s also very clear when someone does not – and often, whether the individual does not KNOW what to do is not considered – a less-than-polished appearance is deemed a negative.

4.       Confidence – do you sound convinced of the truth of your statements? Do you engender trust and appear knowledgeable, relatable and capable?

Bottom Line
Let’s touch on some aspects of your image with relation to “packaging” – your current and potential customers want to know that you will ‘sweat the details’ and not just let things happen. That you are in charge and ready to take charge when needed to assure the results they hired you for.

Be Appropriate  – inappropriate dress, language or personal interactions all call your credibility and professionalism into question and can make a potential client shy away from hiring you.

Maintain Visual Integrity (visual integrity means that you “look the part”) – a polished web site, professionally created proposal and great conversations via the phone or electronic communication can all be ruined if you show up looking rumpled, haphazard or in ill-fitting clothing. Be sure that every aspect of your professional image is in harmony with all the others.

Ensure your Verbal Image is Consistent With Your Visual Image – do you promote eco-friendly solutions, but drive a gas guzzler of a vehicle? Are you a success coach who drives a beat-up and shabby vehicle and wears outdated, threadbare clothing or run-over shoes? Your visual image is conflicting with your verbal image and this can cause a disconnect and lack trust in those you seek to work with.

The Bottom Line of Style incorporates every aspect of your professional image – Visual, Vocal and Verbal – and being intentional about each aspect will ensure your success in whatever business venture you choose.

Dianne M. Daniels, DivaStyle Coach

Dianne motivates her clients and speaking audiences with her dynamic speaking presence, trademark high heels, high energy and high level of immediately applicable personal development information. She is a sought after expert in the image, self-esteem, weight loss and self-confidence areas and writes articles internationally – sharing her experiences and her affirming philosophy that changes hearts, minds and lives. Find out more about Dianne, her business, and her journey at www.howtoloveyourreflection.com!

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