Driving and dressing for success

Dear Ken Keller,

Recently you addressed an issue an owner had with the summer dress code. My two issues are similar related to my outside sales team.

The first is what is the appropriate dress for outside sales people calling on other business people? On any sales call, my sales people are going to be in contact with the gatekeeper to the influencer to the decision-maker. Our prospects and clients can be wearing anything from tee shirts to suits and ties. I have not had any issues with how my people are now dressing but I wonder if I mandated a formal dress code if it would improve how we are perceived by those who buy from us.

The second question is about the vehicles that my sales team drives. The company provides a car allowance and the choices people make are what I would call sensible. But I fear that as the more successful people earn larger bonuses, they will choose to drive far more expensive cars than I would prefer. I wouldn’t want my employees to drive up to a business in a high end Mercedes or a fancy sports car. I don’t want my sales people flouting their individual success to prospects and clients because of the resentment it may create.

Rick C.

Dear Rick,

At the heart of both issues is how your sales team and by default, how your company, is perceived by your clients.

The trend for years is for more casual clothing to be worn in business. It sounds like you have avoided that path. Last time I looked, lawyers and bankers are still wearing suits.

It might be that you require suit and tie when calling on prospects and clients but for in-office days, less formal business attire is acceptable.

As for automobiles, you want everyone representing your company to drive a car that is clean and neat. Someone should inspect what your sales people’s cars look like (inside and out) weekly to make sure that the expectation is understood.

If someone is calling on Donald Trump, the person needs to be dressed to the nines and drive an expensive car. But in any other situation, discretion and diplomacy is essential, and anyone driving a Bentley needs to keep it parked in the garage and not used for work.


Dear Ken Keller,

I get complaints from clients and vendors that my employees are not very prompt at returning calls or emails. I’m not so good at it myself; any thoughts on this?

Matthew B.

Dear Matthew,

This is a common situation. People are simply overwhelmed by the volume of communications they receive each day. The best advice I ever heard was from a client who told me that he thought it would be a reasonable request of anyone to respond to any email within 24 hours of receiving it.

After thinking about this, I agreed and since that time I have tried to maintain that standard.

You can help your employees achieve this goal by taking the time to learn what the most frequent reasons for incoming calls and emails is and focusing on addressing/solving the root causes. There might be a process breakdown or you might find that there are differences in how people prefer to be communicated to (using emails to respond to people who would rather communicate in person or on the phone).