You Can't Wear That!

by David Stewart (other articles by David Stewart)

I had a pretty frank and open discussion with a well-known real estate agent the other day. He was quite scathing of my work attire. To paint the picture he was wearing an average looking suit, a bright tie and a pair of slip on black shoes. I was in a nice pair of jeans, my company polo shirt (emblazoned with the company logo) and a pair of shiny ankle length black boots. In his mind I was being unprofessional. I looked up at the blazing sun and noting that it was in excess of 30 degrees, to me he looked like a sweaty fool. This agent was stridently of the opinion that consumers would not take his expertise seriously if he dared to wear comfortable clothing.


The logic goes that in order for a client or customer to believe you are successful, and in turn grant you the credibility of being knowledgeable in your field, you have to dress like some sort of facsimile of a New York corporate banker.  In reality, wearing a suit on every occasion in real estate simply because that’s what you think the public expects only serves to highlight the stark gap between you and the person you are dealing with.


Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good suit. In fact my wardrobe is full of expensive suits, ties, shirts, shoes and cufflinks that for the right occasion can be an indispensable business tool. It just has to fit the occasion. In the last couple of weeks I have attended a variety of business meetings from lunches with the heads of franchise groups, listing appointments, house showings, open for inspections and meeting my bankers to discuss financing options for my new ventures.

Let’s take a look at one of these meetings. I had to meet the managers of my banking accounts on the 24th floor of 101 Collins St in Melbourne in a very plush and expensive setting where everyone I was dealing with was dressed in a very strict corporate manner. For that meeting I wore my most expensive suit, a fitted shirt, best shoes, cufflinks and the most expensive watch I owned and this was entirely appropriate for the setting.

In the same week I showed numerous houses and sold two of them. On each occasion I wore my jeans and polo shirt and you know what? The buyers felt instantly at ease. I was one of them. They were all in jeans and t-shirts and we were able to connect on a more human level. I was just another guy, someone who had the answers to their questions and could guide them through the process of buying their properties. No suits, no fancy watches and no pretence.

So what’s wrong with this? Well, simply, it doesn’t conform to the accepted norms of the industry. When you ask why, the best answer anyone can come up with is that it’s not professional. Professional? In whose estimation? By whose standards? I’ll tell you, it’s by the standards we place on ourselves and the desire to hold ourselves over and above our clients and customers. Do they want this of us? Does it make sense to conduct an Auction in 40 degree heat in a full suit? Or maybe, just maybe are they looking at us and deciding that the dude too stupid to take off his jacket in extreme heat can’t be all that smart after all.

The idea of sales is to provide a solution that results in your customer buying your clients’ products, in my case houses and units. To do this a personal connection must be made quickly to establish trust. In my market of the Outer Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne it is far more likely the person you are dealing with is dressed in a very casual manner. So if one of the basic rules of selling include fitting in with your demographic and this is still applicable, as it surely is, then it is blindly obvious that a full suit is not the best way to go the majority of the time. Knowing your market and fitting seamlessly into it is very professional and my sales results over the last six months only confirm to me that the idea that every agent must wear a $1,000 suit every day of the year is wrong. Not just wrong but it actually makes it harder to make those tricky but necessary lightening quick connections that allow sales to progress in a more natural manner.

Of course different expectations will apply in different markets and if you’re selling in the middle of Toorak then the full suit may well be your best bet but the one size fits all approach to Melbourne real estate makes no sense at all. It’s time, in this modern world, to make your own decisions and not just blindly follow the crowd, you may just find a greater level of professional credibility.

03rd March, 2014

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