Dear Mr. Molloy:

I’ve been a salesman for the last three months and I’m just learning the business. The top sales trainer just quit and went to work for another company as a salesman. There were rumors that he was fired but he told us the reason he was moving was he wanted to go back to sales and I believe him. Obviously, he made more money as a top salesperson than he did as a trainer.

I only went to two of his training sessions but I hung on every word and learned quite a bit. The new trainer they are hiring to replace him has never been a top producer, so how can he possibly train salespeople. I’ve been reading your blog for over a year and you said that you often formed groups to discuss problems. I’m wondering if you could form a group of top salespeople and ask them how they go about selling? If you would print their answers in this blog I would appreciate it.

Name and address withheld

Dear Future Salesperson:

It’s obvious that you are very new to sales or you would understand that most sales training is designed to get the average and below-average salesperson io imitate top salesmen and as a result sell more of the company’s products. The only problem with that is it doesn’t work. Most top salespeople have no idea what makes them top performers. Often they base their advice on their own experience and that is why one will tell you that knowing your product really well is the key to sales, while the second will tell you that going into technical detail will turn off most buyers and the third will assure you that it’s neither of those factors but how you dress when you are selling that is critical to success.

In fact, all three are telling the truth from their perspective. If you talk to top salespeople they usually admit when they first got into sales they had problems but they overcame them. One will tell you how by studying his product and the top competitors products he was able to convince clients to purchase his. Another will tell you that his method is the KISS method “Keep it Simple Stupid”. While the third will tell you that image is everything. The reason they tell you this is when they changed one aspect of their presentation their sales shot up. A simple fact proven again and again by research is most sales are made or killed when you walk through the buyers door. To make a positive impression you must look like a relaxed, friendly, competent, confident, professional and the top salespeople were telling you that other factors are really critical because they have always looked relaxed , confident, competent and friendly so they skip over those because they came naturally.

I am now finishing a book on popularity and preparing to write a book on sales. I have all the information I need, I simply have to update it. The reasons I didn’t write a book before this is when I wrote “Dress for Success” there were literally hundreds of imitators many of whom are still in business today, most of whom do not know what they are talking about. That created two problems first they were given consulting jobs because they worked for less and when I approached the companies who used them, they told me they tried dress for success and it didn’t work. The reason it didn’t work was my imitators put their own spin on the results of my research and once they did it was no longer valid, which put in question the whole concept of dress being an important factor in success. Since I was making a very nice living speaking on sales, I decided not to share my research with the world but since I’m no longer traveling around the country speaking I will share it with you on this blog in the near future.

Please don’t dismiss your new trainer because he was never a top performer. Every superstar from Babe Ruth to Mickey Mantle wanted to be a team manager. However, when star players were hired as managers most failed miserably. The great managers were usually third-rate players who studied every aspect of the game while the superstars were usually so talented they didn’t have to understand the game to be great. Classic example of this was Ted Williams who constantly talked about studying the game but I do not think that was the reason he was a great player. During World War II he became a fighter pilot and of course took the three tests necessary to be a fighter pilot. His reflexes were so good that he still owns the record in one of those tests. Add to that two facts, first the great managers were rarely great players and second when companies put superstar salespeople in charge of sales forces, sales usually dropped. That is why you should give your new sales trainer a fair shot, past experience indicates he is more likely to train you to sell than most top producers.

I’m now preparing to write “Popularity and Sales.” . In it, as an all my other books, I will not give my personal opinion b ut advice that is based on research. I can tell you now it’s the far different from anything you’ve ever read about sales. If you’re in sales it’s a must read.

Until then, good luck!

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Dear Mr. Molloy:



I am an electrical engineer who is 6”1′ and weighs 230 pounds. I weighed 181 pounds when I got married less than four years ago.  I did not notice how quickly I was gaining weight, it sort of snuck up on me.   I’m writing you because my direct supervisor expects to move into the executive suite in about a year. He is being promoted and he is planning to put me in his position because we work well together. However, the other day he called me into his office and told me that I would have to lose weight. .He explained that it would be easier to move me up if I looked trim and in shape. The company is run by a man 55 and about 20 pounds overweight but the executive suite is peopled by fitness addicts.  There is a very well equipped gym for the executives and their staffs and one third of the executives go to the gym at least three times a week.


I am going on a diet but I need advice. I went out last week, purchased several diet books and read them.  I do not think one of them is suited to my needs.  My problem is I am obliged to take at least two clients to lunch every week.  My boss likes me because I am not your typical engineer. I am friendly and very social. Most of the people I meet like me and so do most clients.  In my opinion, that is the primary reason I am being considered for this promotion.  Since I am going to continue to take clients to lunch, I would appreciate it if you could suggest a diet plan.


A Dieter


Dear Dieter;

Research shows that men who are more than 10% overweight and women who are more than 14% overweight  are less likely to be successful than their trimmer counterparts.  That’s because our society puts an emphasis on being trim and we have been conditioned to think that thin people are more intelligent, harder working and more productive than their overweight coworkers.  Heavy people must continually prove themselves while their trimmer friends are often given a pass.


Many executives have the same problem as you. While penalizing the overweight, companies give people like you expense accounts and insist that they take clients to lunch.  This can be a significant problem for people like myself who have a tendency to gain weight. However, a number of the executives I questioned who have a similar problem said they had learned to manage it.


Over 30 years ago I conducted a study on how being overweight impacted careers in six companies.  The results convinced me that every extra pound decreased a person’s chances of moving up in corporations.  I have since changed my mind.  We recently found that women executives particularly those over 40 could be as much as 20% overweight without negatively impacting their careers.  In fact in some cases it actually helped them compete with men.  It made them appear more formidable and authoritative to men.  However, for added weight to help a woman’s image, it has to be evenly distributed. If those extra pounds went to her belly or butt, it made it more difficult for her to be seen as an effective leader.


We interviewed 62 executives, 26 of whom said they were on a lifetime diet.  If they didn’t diet or watch what they ate they tended to put on the pounds.  There are two solutions for this problem, first, eat less or at least avoid foods that put on the pounds and the second exercise.  Almost 1/3 of the business people we questioned said if they exercised regularly they could eat almost anything or at least some of the foods they liked without gaining weight.  That’s probably the reason that many of the executives at your husband’s company show up at the gym three times a week.


Based on these interviews I advise you to go on a lifetime diet.  What that means is don’t diet this week and come off the next.  The lifetime dieters who were successful cheated regularly.  What they didn’t do is come off the diet the minute they cheated.  If they have steak and potatoes for lunch they don’t say to themselves, I am off the diet today so I will have two desserts tonight.  That is the thinking of someone who gains weight.  Successful dieters say,  I cheated but the cheat is over and I’m back on the diet.


The next piece of advice will have doctors writing in from all over America telling me I am mistaken.   Nevertheless, I must report that 23% of the more successful dieters did not eat breakfast. Many said they had coffee for breakfast but only coffee and they did not eat until lunch.  Not only do they take in fewer calories, they found that breakfast acts as an appetizer.  Once they had breakfast they were hungry by 10 or 11 o’clock and starving at lunch.


A majority of the successful dieters were fish eaters.  They ordered fish most of the time they went to restaurants.  One of the reasons they did this is they took the menus of their favorite restaurants and tried to estimate how many calories are in each meal and each part of each meal.  That is why they hardly ever eat bread and butter when their at table and usually have vegetables as a side instead of  starches.  And of course when they have to choose between soup  or salad they always choose a salad.


Successful dieters hardly ever order dessert and a majority avoid all sugar.  They use artificial sweeteners whenever they can, most often with their favorite drink, unsweetened ice tea.  Successful dieters are often teetotalers or severely limit their intake of alcohol.


Finally, don’t run out and start dieting. Most young men and many young women think they are young and healthy and can do anything. Unfortunately, that is not always true. Before anyone goes on a diet they should check with a doctor and in your case since you gained weight so quickly I suggest you look for one who specializes in weight loss.





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Dear Mr. Molloy:

I am writing you from Honolulu Hawaii while sitting on my balcony overlooking the ocean while most my fellow engineers rooms are on the other side of the hotel with a view of the street. Getting a room on the side of the hotel is a sure sign that my bosses appreciate my work.

I just came from a presentation where the speaker told us that to get ahead in corporate America you have to kiss up. He did not say those words but that was his message. When I asked him where he got his information he said your blog. I disagree with you. While I treat most people very well most of the time, I do not put up with nonsense or stupidity. When I see either I speak up.

In my opinion the first and most important rule is if you want your boss to like you, it’s necessary to be very smart and a good worker. My IQ puts me in the top 1% of the population and I get most of my projects done on time. It is not necessary to do anything else.

                                                                          A Genius

 Dear Genius:

You’re right the first rule if you want your boss to like you is to be a very good worker. Our research showed that bosses often like people liked by others. However, there are exceptions to that rule, and one of the few exceptions to the rule was Hank. He worked with a team of fourteen engineers in the aerospace industry. When I interviewed those engineers and their supervisor the first time, Hank’s fellow employees were not too happy with him. They found him obnoxious, pushy, arrogant, and sometimes rude. He made a habit of showing off how bright he was, often at the expense of others, and some people never forgave him for it. Hank was a mathematical whiz.

When I spoke to the team leader he said that he liked Hank because he got the job done. If they had a mathematical problem, Hank would solve it, usually as they explained it to him. The boss went on to praise Hank. He told of one occasion when Hank was flipping through a project that was about to be finalized and he spotted a mistake in the figures. They had to stay up all night and reconfigure the entire project. The boss said if Hank had not noticed the mathematical error, the company would have had a serious problem, and it could have negatively affected its relationship with a major client. He concluded, “Hank is a wonderful employee and I like him very much.”

In their department engineers were regularly reassigned when they finished a project. They did not necessarily work for or with the same people. I returned to interview a second group of engineers a year later. I found that the same manager had Hank on his team but when I questioned him this time he was very critical of his mathematical genius. He described Hank using the same unpleasant terms as his co-workers had used a year earlier. I asked the manager when he discovered that Hank was a difficult employee, he said, “I always knew he was, but I needed him. Hank was the mathematical whiz who held this team together.” I asked what had changed, and he said a new engineer was as good with math as Hank and was a nice fellow. Keep in mind, if you are a genius but unpleasant, the minute the next genius comes along, your boss may get rid of you. That is what happened to Hank.

Keep in mind. if there are 500 employees in your company statistically five of them will have an IQ similar to yours. If you have 500 engineers you are likely to find more than five in the top 1% because engineers tend to have above-average intelligence. There’s no question your high IQ is an asset but with your attitude you seem to be turning it into a liability. That is not something a really bright person would do.

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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am a salesman for a software consulting firm. I sell generic software, programs that have been developed for specific industries or specific companies and consulting services that are necessary to activate and maintain them. We recently developed programs for an industry which is dominated by women. In most cases we have to sell our services first to the technical people who are usually male and then to management where a substantial percentage of the decision-makers are women.


I’m not complaining I just made two of the largest sales in my career. I thought when I left their office they were not going to buy but they surprised me. At our last sales meeting I admitted I did not know how I made these sales and asked if someone could explain the difference between men and women buyers. I wanted information on how to approach women buyers but the trainers didn’t give me useful information. When I complained they said find someone who spoke on the subject and they would be glad to hire them. I was told by one of my fellow salesmen you cover that subject in your sales presentation. Are you available as a speaker.



St. Paul Minnesota


Dear G.M.:


I’m not available for at least three months, I am finishing two books. However, since you need the information right away, I will give you a synopsis version here.


Today, since women have moved into the corporate world in large numbers any sales course that does not take into account the sex of the buyer and the sex of the seller is missing one of the most critical elements in successful selling.


Any man who has ever gone shopping with a woman and stood there while she goes through an entire rack of clothing one piece at a time knows that she looks at the world differently than he. If you asked her why she does that she will tell you she has to see everything before making a decision. Women are comparative shoppers and bargain hunters. When they purchase for a corporation, they bring the same approach to that undertaking they do to any other purchase.


When a man goes into a clothing store to purchase a suit, most of the time, he will walk over to the suits, look for his size, and in less than 15 minutes picks one out and tries it on. A majority of his time is spent waiting for the tailor, being measured by the tailor and paying for the suit. When most men purchase a shirt or a tie. they spend a minute or two looking at their choices, before picking one up, and taking it to the cashier.


Women insist on looking at all the products before making a decision. To make a comparison they often ask detailed questions. If you don’t know the answer tell them you will find out. Do so as quickly as possible and call them. Then fax them, women love documentation.


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Dear Mr. Molloy:

I have been working six months as a real estate salesman I have sold before and I thought I would have no trouble selling real estate but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Three days after I arrived you spoke at our national sales conference and I listened carefully. You spoke about getting buyers to commit.


Getting a commitment from the buyers is not my problem, when I get back to the office getting them to make a down payment is where my sales often go up in smoke. I have one of the better sales records but I would be the top salesman if I did not lose sales after I made them. I’ve tried everything from serving coffee and snacks to purchasing padded seats for oak chairs in the conference room.


 (At this point I thought the problem might not be Jack but the company’s conference room, so I emailed him and asked him to send me a picture of the room.)


It showed me a small conference room with a square oak table with matching oak chairs similar to those you find in a kitchen. The conference room was designed by the boss who thought clients would be at ease in the conference room that reminded them of their kitchen.



                                                              San Francisco


Dear Jack:


I am afraid your boss was wrong but don’t tell him, instead give him a copy of this blog. Around 30 years ago I was hired to speak at a meeting of the New York Realtors Association in the Catskills. I wasn’t speaking five minutes when I noticed a small group in the back of the room talking to each other. I immediately went into high gear, I assumed I lost them and was determined to win them back. For an hour and a half I used every trick in the book. I walked into the audience asked them questions and had them demonstrate points I had just made. When that didn’t work, I demonstrated body language and I finally told humorous stories and asked the type of questions that elicited responses from the audience.  I had the audience laughing, clapping, cheering and having a wonderful time and while I captured most of them two or three talked no matter what I did.


I thought I had failed as a speaker but obviously I had not. As a direct result of that speech I received 158 offers to speak to real estate people all over the country. Of course I started researching real estate sales.  Among other things, I discovered that most real estate firms at that time had poorly designed conference rooms.


To gather the data we placed cameras in over 40 conference rooms. The first thing we found was that clients who were relaxed were more likely to buy. When we looked for ways to relax them we discovered that traditional square or rectangular tables separated the buyers and sellers and led to confrontational conversations. When we put oval tables and comfortable swivel chairs in conference rooms which allowed clients to move without leaving the table, sales increased.  That is why in most real estate offices today you will find oval tables even though they’ve never heard of my research. In addition we discovered that if the client sat with their backs to the door they were defensive, however, if you sat them facing the door while the real estate people took seats with their backs to the door the buyers were more relaxed.


Conference rooms should be painted white or light beige to give a feeling of openness. When they are painted darker or stronger colors about a third of the clients felt closed in or trapped. This was even true when there was one wall with a strong accent color. The feeling of being closed in was particularly strong when the clients were used to having open spaces around them. In Alaska,  most of the West and in rural sections on the East Coast when we tested conference rooms with large windows with a view they relaxed almost everyone particularly those who felt trapped.



If this blog can convince your boss to invest in an oval table, comfortable swivel chairs and  paint the conference room, you and everyone else who uses that room should find it easier to ask for and get commitment from clients.


Good luck!






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Dear Mr. Molloy:


Jeff is our only child and I have always been proud of him but never as much as recently. He was a C student in grade school and junior high and then without warning and without spending hours in his room studying he became a straight A student and maintained a straight A average in high school. In addition in his senior year he has earned two full scholarships to top engineering schools. When I asked him why he went from C’s to straight A’s he said he found the girls like guys who got straight A’s if they weren’t too nerdy.


I am writing you because I am not proud of his latest decision. He wants to get a tattoo because girls like guys with tattoos. I hope you can convince them he’s making a very bad mistake. I am in the construction business where tattoos are common but I won’t hire anyone covered with them. I find them unreliable and often they have criminal histories.


 You’re the only one who has a chance of changing his mind. He reads your blog and has read several of your books and is a fan. He says with your help he is going to become president of a big company or partner in a top law firm.


Please address your reply to him.


                                                                             Jeff’s father


Dear Jeff:


While tattoos are found attractive by some women they turn off others, so it depends on which type of women you want to attract.  Since I often hire college students to run surveys I visit a lot of college campuses and the one thing I’ve noticed is in the better schools students are less likely to have tattoos. I’m not saying that you won’t find tattoos at Harvard but they will not be common.


Tattoos like body language, clothing, and speech patterns send a socio-economic message. Today while they are mainly an indicator of class or lack of it they were in the not too distant past associated with motorcycle gangs and prison and in some minds still are. I realize they are popular with young people today but if you wish to attract well educated, successful women you will be more successful without one.  We interviewed 67 college women who were studying to be professionals and most said tattoos were turn offs.


Even more significant was the women who said they would date men with tattoos commented about the size, the location and the subject matter of acceptable tattoos.  65 out of 67 would not date a man covered with tattoos, or who was tattooed in an inappropriate place, on his face, neck etc. or who had unacceptable designs or messages.


Finally, if you are serious about moving ahead in business tattoos can and often will kill your career before your interview starts. I spoke to nine men and women who interviewed students. All nine said it can keep you out of most public contact positions especially those where you will be interacting with clients. Remember corporate America’s first rule is never do anything that even  might negatively affect the bottom line and since tattoos do offend some people if you have one you will be eliminated for consideration for most executive positions.


Do not get one and if you already have an unacceptable tattoo even though it requires a long, expensive, and uncomfortable procedure, start immediately preparing to get it removed.          





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Dear Mr. Molloy

You are scheduled to speak at my company in June. When I heard the topic of your speech I was astounded. I thought you’d be speaking on dressing for success which for someone in my position would be a waste of time but actually are speaking on popularity which is a complete waste of time for a scientist who works by himself.


I have two PHDs one in biochemical engineering which has now become my life’s work. I spend the vast majority of my time working in my own lab. When I first came here I was given an assistant but I got rid of him. I prefer to work alone. I believe most scientific breakthroughs are made by one person not by a team which makes my ability to get along with others inconsequential. Nevertheless, my boss insists I attend to your lecture because he maintains Thomas Edison not only helped develop the concept but proved the efficiency of scientific teams.


I don’t believe you can give me any reason I should come to your lecture. However, my director asked me to write to you and get your input.


Name and address withheld


Dear Biochemical Engineer:


I admit that great Great researchers are often pictured working alone late at night in their laboratories and most people believe that is in fact what they do. They are looked upon by most as outsiders. Society has one or two visions of brilliant scientists and both put them outside normal society. The first is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein who worked alone in a dark isolated castle and was attacked with pitchforks by the local townspeople. The second are the socially inept nerds on the TV show The Big Bang Theory. There is an element of truth in both portrayals, however, neither is even close to being an accurate picture of real scientists.


A study years ago on what made scientists at a major research laboratory effective found among other things that those who had friends where they worked often were more productive and believe it or not more creative. The reason is simple: Let’s say a physicist, while studying the far reaches of the universe, runs across a problem dealing with chemistry. A popular physicist with a number of friends at the research center could just drop in on a chemist and ask him what he thought. A less popular physicist with few friends would have to make an appointment with a relative stranger in the chemistry department and even then the chemist would not be as likely to give him as much time or consideration as he would a friend. The researchers concluded that a scientist’s ability to bring others into his circle of friends can be and often is critical to his success.


Before this study, it was the opinion of most managers of research facilities that if a candidate for a research position was socially inept, it made no difference. While technical expertise is critical to making breakthroughs in most if not all fields, the ability to connect with others can often be an important factor.  This is not a shock to most scientists today, but it was to the people who paid for the research the early 60s.  A number of managers of scientific research projects told me that until they read the research on the advantage of having friends within a research organization, they sought people who shut off the world, because they believed that the world interfered with deep thinking.  Some still hold this belief, because there is an element of truth in it. However, most of the people who hire or manage researchers today favor those with impressive educational and scientific backgrounds but some are beginning to look at those who are in addition sociable.


I personally believe that both have a point. Edison while he believed in teamwork was a creative thinker and problem solver. One day he told one of his scientists to find the volume of an irregularly shaped container. When he came back the scientists was measuring it and doing calculations. When Edison saw that he filled it with water then for poured it into a standard container and said that should make it easier. Edison did not waste his time doing the calculations for the volume of a standard container, he told his assistant to do it.  Which proved he was a genius and teamwork made him more efficient.







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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I read once that you conducted a study that showed that hospitals are sued less if their employees wear traditional uniforms. Could you please share your findings with me. Most of our employees who have patient contact wear scrubs along with a badge that identifies their position and training. I am considering proposing that every employee wear a large badge identifying their rank and their department. We have become a very letigeous society and am wondering if this would help?



Dear G J:

No, it would not. There is a shortage of registered nurses. In fact the shortage is so severe that many hospitals are offering bonuses for those who can bring in a registered nurse. As a result, much of the work done by registered nurses in the past is now being done by people who are less qualified. RNs today spend most their time managing a small staff of people who actually do the patient care.


The most important finding of my study is that patients expect to be treated by people they can  identify as medical professionals. If the person who treats them is not easily identifiable as a professional, patients become frightened and annoyed. If anything goes wrong our and other studies show these patients are likely to sue. We conducted a similar study in dental offices with dental assistants. The results were the same. Patients who believe they were treated by an unqualified person will immediately run for a lawyer if anything goes wrong. The best way to prevent this is to do nothing. The scrubs nonverbally say that the people wearing them are medical professionals and most patients do not  read tags. If they do read them most do not know the difference between a practical nurse and a registered nurse.


The longest and most extensive study I did in the area of medicine was on why lawsuits for malpractice took place. Obviously, if a doctor cuts off the wrong leg or removes the appendix from someone who only has a rash he’s going to be sued but the reason most doctors are sued is something goes wrong and the patient assumes that he or she is incompetent or uncaring.. In spite of this there are doctors who occasionally don’t wear white coats when treating patients. The doctors white coat announces to the world that they are competent medical professionals. Not wearing one when you’re dealing with the patient is a big and often costly mistake.



Dear Mr. Molloy:


I would like your advice on how to dress as a medical mental health professional. I’m interested in how I should dress when being interviewed, interacting with patients, testifying as an expert and giving presentations.


Name and address withheld


Dear Mental Healthcare Professional:


The rule for job interviews is that you have to dress for the interview, not the job. Mental health professionals dress less formally than business people. I suggest a skirted suit or a jacket over a conservative dress.


Once you are hired your dress should change. The first thing you must do is look at how your peers dress and try to fit in.


There is an enormous amount of research indicating that beige and brown tweeds work best when dealing with patients. These colors tend to relax them. In one study which was designed to prove that these colors would not have a positive affect hooked the patient’s up to blood pressure machines. It is not uncommon in doing a study designed to prove one thing you prove another. That study showed that wearing beige and certain shades of brown actually lowered blood pressure. In addition in recent surveys of people in your profession most indicated that earth tones worked best.


When speaking before a group earth tones will identify you as a professional, if you’re too talking to others in your field. On the stage you must wear eye catching or sharply contrasting colors so that you stand out. How you achieve this is a matter of personal taste. Keep in mind that most people think that mental health professionals dress more formally than they actually do. One of the ways of creating credibility with an audience of people outside the field is to fulfill their expectations, so it would be wise if you would dress as if you’re going for an interview.


Finally, I tell all women who going to speak three things: First test the mike and the room if possible before you speak. Second, speak more slowly and clearly, Third don’t shout or speak in a high pitched voice. Even if you have a female audience practice speaking half to a full octave lower. I have women question this advice all the time. They’ll say such things as you’re having me sound like a man and I don’t want to do that. My advice to them and to you is to listen carefully to the women who are occasionally invited to appear on shows to give advice about dress,  lifestyle etc. Then listen carefully to the women who appear regularly on TV, the best examples of professionalism are the news anchors.  Invariably, while remaining very feminine they speak slower, lower and clearer. .


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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I work in the home office of a bank in New York State. Although our dress code loosened up over the last 10 to 15 years most of the officers at the bank were expected to wear suits. About a year ago in an attempt to attract high-tech customers, Thursday and Friday were designated as casual days. On those days we were allowed to wear casual outfits including jeans, sneakers and polo shirts. I thought the whole thing was silly because when meeting with important clients the bank insisted that most employees wear suits.


I’ve been wearing suits every day, I simply ignored the new casual look. However, three weeks ago  the president of the bank sent around a memo saying that everyone should be casually dressed at least one or two days every week. The only concessions he made is he recommend that all bank officers keep a jacket and tie in their office and put it on when they think it’s necessary.  A week later he sent out a second memo saying if  we know ahead of time we are going to be meeting with a very casually dressed decision maker we should switch our dress shirt for  a golf shirt. We deal with one high-tech company that is expanding very rapidly and constantly needs banking advice. He set the deadline for   May 1, so please answer my letter as soon as possible.


I have no choice I must go casual but I’ve no idea what to wear. I’m convinced that what you wear affects the way people treat you and in some cases whether or not you will be promoted. Keeping that in mind I would like you to recommend outfits I can wear on those two casual days.


Name and address withheld


Dear Semi-casual Banker:

The bank president’s  recommendations are not well thought out but he is trying to adjust to a new environment and for that he should be commended. However. you are right, he and everyone else at the bank will judge you by the way you dress and the closer your casual outfits are to a traditional bankers look the more effective and efficient you will appear to be.


The first thing you should keep in mind is that even though you can get away with wearing jeans, sneakers and polo shirts it will not be in your best interest to do so.  You must put as much time and effort into purchasing your casual outfits as your traditional business wear. What is more you must spend as much for the casual attire you’re going to wear to work at you do for your traditional business outfits.The slacks you wear should be interchangeable with suit pants high quality and conservative in cut and color. The shirts you will wear when you’re not wearing a jacket must look crisp, new and traditional.


Your leisure wear whether it is going to be used at work or not should be in traditional colors and cuts and natural fibers because that’s what those in power wear. The outfit that works best for men in the most casual environments consist of good slacks and a golf shirt unless of course your casual dress code evolves into a traditional dress shirt without a jacket and tie which is standard in most casual high tech companies. At this point it can go in any direction. However, under no circumstances wear shirts without collars, t-shirts or polo shirts and sneakers are a no-no. When you are meeting with a client who is more formally dressed, I recommend a blue blazer. If you are forced to wear a sweater it should be a well-made traditional cardigan, preferably in navy, black or dark brown.


Finally even though you’re wearing casual clothing don’t try to wear the latest style. It’s not wise to be an innovator or leader in fashion, leaders in fashion are usually followers in business.


The rules for women in offices in companies where they are introducing a casual dress code are basically the same. The one difference is when they are forced to dress casually at work they usually have to spend considerably more because obviously expensive designer accessories become essential to a woman executive’s image.


While at one time the introduction of a casual dress code often killed women’s careers today that is not the case. You will notice that the president while making specific recommendations for  the men he let the women define business casual for themselves. This indicates that he has thought long and hard about the subject. The female equivalent of the male suit is a jacket it says the wearer is competent and has authority. As a result if it is combined with appropriate garments it gives some women a visual advantage over men in a casual environment.


You may ask yourself why women aren’t considered casually dressed when wearing jackets. The answer is color. If a woman’s jacket is in a powerful feminine color, eg. red, maroon  brown, tan, green or even yellow her dress is looked upon as casual by a majority of businessmen and women, This gives women while dressed casually the advantage of wearing a power garment..


I would list specific colors and shades of color that work for women in a casual environment but I cannot since this blog goes nationally. The colors that work in the North-East are different than those that work in the Midwest, the South, West Coast and of course Hawaii. The only advice I can give to women if you come from an upper-middle-class background follow your instincts, if not find someone who does and copy them.








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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I give financial advice to people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Of course before I start I have to sell them on the idea that they will gain from my expertise. What I am really doing is selling myself.

In order to be successful I must convince them of three things. First that I am a competent professional. I have not had difficulties doing this because I have a large number of written recommendations from past and present clients. Second, that I am honest. That is not a major problem because most of the people who come to me are referred by friends or associates who would not recommend me if there were any question about my character. Three, convince them that I am their friend which I find very difficult.


It is difficult for several reasons. First, I have never been popular. People tell me I’m brisk and abrupt even when I’m trying very hard not to be. I believe the clothing which you recommend and I wear adds to my not charming clients. Pinstripe suits do not say friendly. If I wear friendly brown suits and beige tweed jackets will I be more successful attracting clients?


CL, Dallas Texas


Dear CL:


All the advice I give is statistically correct. Most people giving financial advice should dress traditionally and conservatively. After all, you’re asking people to hand over their hard-earned money to you and in a sense you are asking to control their lives and in many cases their children’s lives. Naturally, the first thing they are looking for is someone who is reliable.


While there is a general rule if you feel it is not working for you and that you may be the exception to that rule the only way you’re going to find out is to do your own testing. Try to divide your new clients into two if not identical very similar groups. If one third of your clients are women and two thirds men make sure that each group has that break down.and so forth. Each group has to have a minimum of 20 members. When you meet with the first group dress in a traditional, conservative style.. After each meeting, note the difference in their reactions and how successful you are getting and keeping them as clients. Do not meet with group one and then with group two, intermingle them.


Since the research is going to take some time you cannot realistically expect to remember each and every person so it is absolutely critical that after each meeting you write down your impressions in as much detail as possible. If you can, come up with a check sheet with numerical values. For example, on a 1to 10 scale rate how friendly they were at the beginning and the end of the meeting and on the same scale rate how carefully they listened to you and how they responded to your answers to questions. And of course your record of whether they became your clients and how long they remained your clients.


If you find that wearing a softer look increases your ability to give financial advice and make a living, do so. However I doubt it will be an either/or situation.


I spoke to several people in your industry and they suggested that you wear a conservative suit that announces your professionalism for your initial meeting and something more friendly and easy-going for subsequent meetings. While just about all of them were uncomfortable with wearing a tweed jacket they suggested that a nice beige suit worn with a blue shirt would be ideal if you find that the traditional financial consultants uniform did not work for you.


We discovered that sticking with the traditional conservative look works best even when you presented a relaxed version of that look. For example, if you are wearing a traditional gray pinstripe suit with a white shirt you can send a friendly message by letting your coat hang open, loosening your tie, removing your jacket, rolling up your sleeves etc. The fact that you are no longer wearing the entire outfit says you are relaxed and easy-going and friendly but the outfit itself says you are a competent professional. Once again you would have to test how your potential clients reacted to your new casual look.


I do not want to create the impression that everyone can do their own image research but to draw to your attention that image consulting is now more and more being designed for individuals within groups. I have two companies that want me to rewrite my computer program so that they can use it with their employees to help choose the outfits that they should wear at different times and when dealing with different people. The reason they want our guidance for individuals is the same salesperson often has to meet with casually dressed people in a high tech company on Monday morning and conservatively dressed buyers from a traditional company on Monday afternoon. In the last seven years we have found that techies in high-tech companies are substantially more likely to purchase from someone who looks like them or at least wears nothing that turnss them off. Salesmen wearing traditional conservative suit outfits are often rejected before they start by high tech buyers. The business world has in some senses changed dramatically.


I will end this blog with good news. I am in the final stages of a book on popularity which I will publish electronically in the next couple of months. If you read it carefully and do the exercises you will learn to charm the people you meet.





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