Presenting Your New Closet

By Heather Baldwin

Why is it that some days when you walk into a sales presentation you feel confident, comfortable and in control – and some days you’d rather just slink into the shadows? It likely comes down to what you’re wearing. We all have clothes that make us feel confident and professional and others that make us feel rumpled and dowdy. The challenge for many salespeople is to build a wardrobe that’s organized and full of those clothes that make us feel good. “Clothes are an unbelievably powerful tool that can work for you or against you,” says Dawn Waldrop, president of Cleveland, Ohio-based Best Impressions, a company that consults with businesses on how to increase revenues through employee image. To ensure you walk into your next presentation looking your best, Waldrop recommends doing the following closet-clearing exercise.

First, set aside one hour. If it takes longer than that, she says, you’re thinking too much. Next, find a paper, pen and three garbage bags. Designate one bag for charity, one for dry cleaning and one for repair/tailor. Start at one end and go item by item through your closet asking yourself these questions: Have I worn the item within the past year? If not, you won’t wear it. Put it in the charity bag, no excuses. “If you think you’ll lose weight and wear it again, chances are you won’t,” says Waldrop. “If you think it will come back in style, it probably will but you’ll look outdated by the time it does.” Does the item communicate professionalism and make me feel great, or do I feel a bit uncomfortable in it? If it’s the latter, donate it. Does the item need to be cleaned or tailored? If it does, put it in the appropriate bag. If not, hang it back in the closet and move on to the next item. As you go through this exercise, separate clothes that were purchased as a unit, such as a suit. And remember – don’t spend too long with any one item. If you have to think about it, it’s not something that works for you.

Once you’ve categorized all your clothes, go back through your closet and separate the remaining clothing into three sections: work, weekend and evening. Finally, separate the clothes in each section by type, such as dresses, suit jackets, long-sleeved shirts/blouses, short-sleeved shirts/blouses and pants. Now you know exactly what you need and don’t need. Did you throw away your only black work shoes because they were worn looking? Put a new pair on your shopping list. Did you donate your only navy blue shirt because you never liked the way it looked? Put a new one on your shopping list. Do you only have one or two long-sleeved shirts but 10 short-sleeved ones? Now you know what to look for on your next shopping trip. This simple exercise will ensure you look great every day, at every presentation you give. “By visually removing the items you weren’t wearing, you can see your many options – options you never even knew you had previously,” says Waldrop. “It’s guaranteed you will put on a jacket with a different shirt/blouse and pair of pants that you’ve never worn together. What a great feeling – and you didn’t even spend a dime!”

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