Sales Essentials Blog

Building trust through personal image

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Guest author: Helen Robinett

In Sales Trend 11 from the Barrett 12 Sales Trends Report for 2019, guest author Leadership Stylist Helen Robinett discusses how our personal image can help build trust.

Trust in business has never been more crucial than what it is right now. 

People do business with people they like and trust. Full stop. No-one does business with an ‘organisation’.

Human beings are highly visual and it takes an instant to create a first impression. Gone are the days when it took 7 seconds to form a first impression. If I walk to the front of the room to deliver a presentation in my Ugg boots, the audience do not need 7 seconds. In the blink of an eye, I have lost credibility. Malcolm Gladwell explains the impact of the first impression in ‘Blink’.

So, it actually matters. It always has. Yet there is a growing trend I have seen in the past few years of people refusing to acknowledge it.

In the realm of personal style there are a few trends playing at the same time. Some are positive, others not so much. Let’s take a look at what’s happening.

Negative trends

The tired and dated prejudice

We are seeing more and more in business, people being passed on promotions because they don’t abide by the absurd standards of wearing something different every day, being perfectly styled and looking fresh 24/7. This has an impact in the careers of many brilliant professionals who don’t know how or can’t afford a different outfit for every day and a change of wardrobe every season.

Inconsistent behaviour – ego driven

Demonstrating a consistent behaviour is one the most important elements in personal image.    

With the proliferation of social and professional platforms, we are continually giving an image of who we are, what we stand for or not, ‘how successful we are’, who are we connected to. Then there’s the image we give when we reply to messages, emails and when we take (or don’t take) phone calls. These two instances can happen (as it is usually the case in a professional environment) before we even meet someone face to face. That is why is so important to be consistent. If you have a fabulous LinkedIn profile and seem to be engaging with your contacts and replying to messages, but then you are rude or dismissive over the phone or in person, your image won’t stand well in time. People find out sooner or later.

It may appear as an ego problem. Consider the ego of the banks and nursing homes driving profit. Perhaps of more concern in our current climate is the ego of our politicians at both a state and federal level.  Somehow they appear to have lost sense of what really matters in life. People. I’m seeing a trend of entrepreneurs in business acting like rock stars, treating clients like underlings. Completely overlooking the fact that the person they are connecting with may well be in a prime position to refer business to them.  Politicians have lost sight of the fact that the people have the power to vote. What we value more than ever at the moment is authenticity and transparency. This has an impact in building trust.

Positive trends

Hiring image makers

Hiring images makers is longer the exclusive privilege of a few. More and more people are aware that building an image for themselves (their professional selves, that is) is good business. Professionals are hiring image makers to create a consistent brand that builds trust and attracts the right clients. This is about how you present yourself in person, online, via phone conversations and what you model to those around you. Consistency is key here. Looking good is simply not enough.

Trends that have both a negative & positive outcome

Business casual

People in business are dressing in a more casual manner now. The negative trend here is that when the dress code goes down, from business to business casual, the quality needs to increase and this is not happening. Why? Mainly because people just don’t know what they don’t know. Quality in clothing and accessories speaks louder than an opera singer. Quality doesn‘t necessarily mean huge expense. It’s more about making smart buying choices considering the cost per wear rather than the price of an item. 

Business casual attire is more relaxed. If being stitched in a suit is not for you, then dressing more casually gives the people you interact with a better sense of who you really are. When we think about doing business with people we like and trust, this is very encouraging. My experience is that people think they are different at work compared to who they are at home. Truth is, we are the same person. I encourage my clients to remove the boundaries of work clothing and social or at home in their wardrobes. All of a sudden, the options expand and the cost per wear reduces. This seriously impacts the bottom line. I work from home and I dress every day. In an instant I can be ready for a meeting, all I need to do is change my shoes and toss on a jacket.

On the other hand, strict business attire can be seen as a bit too slick and untrustworthy. What are they hiding? By nature, Australians can be a little suspicious if it looks too good.

I have noticed a trend in people wanting to learn how to do this better. I see so many professionals with wardrobes full of nothing to wear that is suitable for where they want their life vision to take them. Essentially, they are wasting thousands of dollars and not attracting the clients they really want.

Online shopping mistrust

For many people, online shopping is fun, even addictive. There’s something gratifying about opening a parcel delivered to your front door. Kind of like a birthday or Christmas! However, the items bought online are nearly always the first thing to go during a wardrobe audit. We seem to get caught in the promise that we can return anything and even return it for free in the case of needing to exchange for size. But we don’t. During wardrobe audits we find quite often the items with the swing tag still attached. The promise of the possibility to exchange the piece of clothing is there, but most people are too busy and the mere fact of thinking of preparing the parcel and getting to the post office is enough to postpone the task.

People are starting to realise this and together with an increase of scams online, we are seeing people going back to trusted brands, and with that we are starting to see a trend of shoppers coming back to the brick and mortar store. This trends also sees a want from customers (particularly in the shopping for business attire arena) of more and better service. Retail outlets that can provide this are growing. One retail fashion store I love to work with has recently introduced a concierge service nationally to attend to alterations, garment repairs, dry cleaning and special garment sourcing for occasions. And we are also seeing that multi-label boutiques have got an edge over single designer outlets.


In a business world where trust is running low, having a personal image that helps you build trust faster is a must-have asset. These a 3 things you can do to get started:

  1. Take your grooming up a notch or two. It sends the signal that if you take care of yourself, you’ll take care of your clients and their business too.
  2. Purchase only good quality accessories. Let your prospective client know that you value yourself. This builds a level of trust and makes it safe for them.
  3. Be consistent in how you look, behave and in what you do. Someone is noticing. It all contributes to your brand.

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