Say you have shortlisted two professionals to buy the same service from.
They have the same skill set, the same level of experience and the same script. They are both pitching that their ability to creatively think outside of the box, confidence in their methods, forward thinking and great customer service are their brand strengths.
They are both selling “if you buy from me, I will help you achieve the successful outcome that you’re after”. They are promising they are going to equip you with the skillset that will take you to the next level.
Both professionals meet with you to do their pitch. Professional 1, chose to present herself as per the picture above (example 1). Professional 2, shows up presented as per example 2.
Both women, with the same skillset, experience and strengths have presented in very different ways. Who do you think undeniably looks like they’re a forward thinker, confident and has the creative ability to think outside of the box? Who makes you feel like you can buy from them with the confidence that you’ll get the results that you want? Who leaves an impression that what they are pitching is true?
Their line of work is irrelevant here. They could be in any industry. What’s important is their personal brand values and how they have chosen to represent this.
In just seven seconds of looking at these pics, we would have made 11 rapid-fire decisions about each woman based on the way she has chosen to present herself. These decisions sit on the subconscious level. Our mind zooms in and scurries to find visual clues to support what is being said. It’s a natural human protective mechanism – we trust what we see more than any other sense. Just like we tend to trust those that, “walk the talk”. And, we believe that “actions speak louder than words” – show me and I will believe you.
When I run this exercise at keynote speaking events on “how your image is affecting your professional success”, the audience always chooses to buy from the woman in example 2. I, for one, would also buy from that same woman.
Here’s the tricky part. The woman in example 1 may be the most reliable, most efficient, most driven and hungry to get you the results. She may even be the best damn person in her industry. Yet, her image is undermining her message. The pieces of fabric that are covering her body are contradicting her personal brand’s strengths, personality and values. Without the strategic skillset of how to represent her brand, she may have chosen to wear what she thinks is the best outfit in her wardrobe. Yet, it’s not a reflection of her personal brand and costing her potential clients, without her necessarily realising it.
Yes, I hear you, she looks like a lovely person, reliable and sweet. If those were her brand values and they’re working for her to gain high level clientele in her target market, then that’s definitely coming across.
However, there are many visual clues that bring many to the same conclusion in this case study. The obvious visual clues are there, for example – the choice of shoes (they’re dated, which contradicts “forward thinking”) and the ill-fitting suit (this instantly cuts the perception of confidence and professionalism).
Let’s take it to another level. She has covered up most of her décolletage. This part of the body is called the “Vital V” – when exposed it removes the barrier between her and another person and psychologically encourages connection and approachability (indirectly, reflects the commitment to “great customer service”). When this is covered up, it’s the equivalent of crossed arms in body language.
Another clue is the choice of outfit combination – it is like what you would commonly see, there aren’t any details or enhancements that suggest her ability to “creatively think outside of the box”. Overall, her image gives the impression that she isn’t a leader in her field, rather one that is being led.
When you are clear on your personal brand and have the skillset to know how to best represent that visually, your image is working for you. Suddenly, the “should-ing” disappears;
– “I should be wearing that because that’s what dressing for success is, right?”
– “I should be wearing colour because I’m always in black”.
– “My wardrobe is a mess, but I should keep this because I don’t wear it often, I might need it one day and it was expensive”
– “I should wear this because that’s what people in my industry wear”.
Instead, you’re making empowered decisions;
– “I choose to wear this because it’s aligned with my personal brand”
– “I choose to let go of this because it’s not part of my personal brand anymore”
– “I choose this outfit today because I’m off to a client meeting and these are the parts of my brand I want to highlight”
– “ I choose this outfit because it’s the best representation of my authentic self”
When your image is supporting you, you’ll know it. You’ll walk into any room, at any occasion, at any time, with the confidence that you are representing you, all of you, at your best. It will positively enhance your physiology. You will humbly, yet confidently, walk taller, communicate freely and own your place in that crowd. Your experience, skill set and hard work got you in that room and the way you present yourself will be saying, “I deserve to be here”.
Is your image your “authentic self-packaging”? Is it working with you and for you, or against you? Could it have been the one part of your brand that’s been costing you clients, without you even realising it?