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  1. #1
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    What to Wear on The First Meeting

    Any reccomendations for dress atire on the first meeting w/ a client?

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    whats your country and the business of the person you meet?

    Jochen
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    Country - United States
    Company Business - Dentistry

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    I'd wear a suit or at least trousers and smart shirt/top in most situations, regardless of whom I was meeting. You'll want to be at least as smart, but preferably smarter than the person you meet (IMO). Only a few times have I turned up and felt a little over dressed (e.g. a meeting with a steel works company where everyone including management wore old jeans and T-Shirts - I still got the job though).

    In the end, you need to show people that you are a professional who runs a professional, respectful business.

    Once I have them as a client, I may go slightly more casual (but still smart).

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    _ silver trophy ses5909's Avatar
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    I would definitely say nice pants and a nice top. I don't think you need to wear a full suit, but at least business professional would be good. As you get to know them better you can start wearing polos/khakis etc.
    Sara

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    SitePoint Wizard LiquidReflex's Avatar
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    Like most everyone says, it's best to at least dress as nice as the client you are meeting, if not nicer. With that said, it's also going to depend on a few things (I think):

    1. The image you want to represent
    Most of the time, you're going to want to represent a professional business ... thus you'll want to wear something nice (dress pants / button-up shirt at least). I don't think a full suit is necessary, but a sportcoat wouldn't be bad (particularly in the colder months). However, if you are in school or are younger and just freelancing, you may want to represent yourself as someone who is young and/or just starting out. I doubt this would occur many times, but if you were trying to land a client for, let's say, a new grunge clothing line and they want a trendy website ... I'm not sure a person in a suit is going to provide them with much confidence in relating to the subject. I don't think you would show up in a T-shirt and ripped jeans, but perhaps tone down the formal factor a bit.

    2. What you feel comfortable in
    Some people do not feel comfortable wearing a suit. If you are one of those people, by wearing a suit, you may give off the feeling of being un-easy, uncomfortable or even nervous. You want to feel comfortable so you can focus on selling the client. If you're comfortable, you can be yourself and represent yourself more freely. If you are comfortable with yourself, then your potential client will feel more comfortable with you (which is what will land you the client).

    3. How you look in it
    This is minor, but some people probably don't look good in certain clothing. For example, if you're a small guy, sometimes by wearing a suit it makes you look like a little kid in daddy's clothes. :P If an outfit doesn't fit your image, don't wear it!

    Those are just a few of the things to think about before filing through your closet. Like Sara said, as you build a relationship with the client you can start to dress-down a bit, but don't do it right away (and not too much). You don't want to go from: day 1 = suit, day 2 = polo and jeans. It will produce an image that you only represent yourself in that way in the beginning, not during the entire process. And if you don't continue with that image, what else don't you continue with? Service? Quality? Definitely want to keep that image as long as you have the client (and even after).

    Good luck!
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    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    It depends on the client.

    If you want something which goes with everything, show up wearing some decent pants (preferably dark, no jeans) and a shirt and tie. Unless it's UltraCorp Conglomerates Inc. or something like that, this should be formal enough, and you can take off your tie and unbotton the top button of the shirt if it's too formal for the situation.

    In either case, go to a good store, and ask the clerk what he thinks looks good on you. Make him know (although not directly) that you'll be a returning customer, and tell him your budget for the clothes, and he'll be more likely to give you objective advise.
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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy linkin99's Avatar
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    You never want to overdress nor underdress too much. Khakis and a collered shirt (I'd go long-sleeved) would be safe.

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    Meeting a dentist, you need to dress professionally. I don't think jeans or khakis are formal enough. This is someone who has spent the better part of a decade in school to learn their profession - show them you're a professional and make a good first impression.

    Wear dress slacks and a button-up shirt. I don't often wear ties, but if it's not dead summer heat, I'd throw on a sport coat.

    If it's REALLY hot, you could probably get away with dress slacks and a golf shirt... I've been wearing a lot of golf shirts this summer and it has a nice side effect - people ask me if I play. I've gotten 2 clients to agree to play a round with me this summer.

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    SitePoint Enthusiast Bare Koncept's Avatar
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    Dressing up in a business suit makes you seem boring. I usually wear jeans and a polo shirt. It reflects confidence and lets your personality show through which is what clients want, especially if the client is interviewing multiple people/design firms.

    P.S. Raggedy *ss jeans are not a good idea!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bare Koncept
    Dressing up in a business suit makes you seem boring. I usually wear jeans and a polo shirt. It reflects confidence and lets your personality show through which is what clients want, especially if the client is interviewing multiple people/design firms.

    P.S. Raggedy *ss jeans are not a good idea!
    That's subjective and depends greatly on your clientelle. I guarantee if you went to meet with many of my clients and wore jeans you would be talked about after you left and they would comment on how unprofessional you looked.

    It all depends on the client and what is appropriate for them. Go into a bank or investment firm you need a suit. A doctor's office, maybe dress slacks and a golf shirt or buttonup. Skateboard shop? You might be able to get away with jeans.

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    Mark H. McCormack says, in his book What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School:

    As a general rule it is desirable to have your business dress say nothing about you -- other than perhaps that your clothes fit.

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    SitePoint Wizard Dean C's Avatar
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    This is a great topic, and something that I thought over for quite a while before I met my first client face to face.

    Back on track. Chances are if you're asking for advice on what to wear to your first client meeting, then you aren't quite the professional yet, so stay clear of a suit. As much as I love wearing my suits, I only wear them generally to interviews. I would reccomend a nice pair of designer jeans (dark blue), and a nice shirt and of course you will need some nice black shoes

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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy Bleys's Avatar
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    I think it's more likely that you'll lose a client for dressing too casually than the other way around. I'd say play it safe and dress up rather than down.
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    Community Advisor ULTiMATE's Avatar
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    Dress smart. As said before your business dress sense should say nothing about you. You have casual dress for that. A Monkey can wear a shirt and tie. Why can't you?

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    As said before your business dress sense should say nothing about you.
    Actually, it has a lot to say about you. Remember, first impressions stick. And the first visual impression people get is how you are dressed.

    We hired a design firm to come in and help us revamp one of our websites. This was a pretty big-cheese meeting, with a large number of the senior staff present, etc. They showed up wearing suits, but a kind of new york technohippiish looking suits. They never overcame that perception with a few of the senior staff members. I should note I work deep in the heart of DC where liberal dress means not wearing a red tie with the white shirt, blue blazer and khaki slacks.

    Which segways nicely into my nice point--where are you working. If I was in california, I would skip the suit at nearly all costs. People just don't wear them. On the other hand, in DC or New York, I would probably break out the tie.

    PS:

    I think it's more likely that you'll lose a client for dressing too casually than the other way around. I'd say play it safe and dress up rather than down.
    Quoted for truth.

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    SitePoint Wizard Pedro Monteiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bleys
    I think it's more likely that you'll lose a client for dressing too casually than the other way around. I'd say play it safe and dress up rather than down.
    Absolutely. You can never go wrong with the regular dark suite.

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    A Smarter Way to Web! zivo's Avatar
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    Post Consistency and "your" uniform

    Whatever you wear to your first meeting, you should wear to subsequent meetings. Why? There is the impression that you are trying hard to make a first impression, and perhaps you are slacking by dressing business casual.

    It is also important to define a "uniform" for your business. What is the default dress you will wear to a client meeting, networking event, etc.? For myself, I dress business casual, rarely ever wearing a tie. I may just wear a long sleeve dress shirt, pants, shoes, and perhaps a blazer - usually I wear a blazer to a networking event for the functional aspect of it - holding my business cards and those that I collect.

    mp/m

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    SitePoint Enthusiast Line's Avatar
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    I haven't worn a suit yet. And sometimes the only way I meet my clients is via email.

    The most dressed up I've ever been was in a short sleeve button down shirt and some cargo pant khakis. I may still show up that way.

    However, the one thing you could always do is ask the client you're going to meet if they wear suit attire. They'll probably tell you if they do or do not and just may tell you if you should. Then, you'll have a definitive answer.

    Funny thing, I once met a client that I got a web site deal from because the previous companies they met with wore all suits and were salesmen. They said they were just good at talking but did not feel they were the "designer" type they were looking for.

    But in the end it's not the suit. It's what you can bring to the table that really matters.

    Good Luck in business BrotherDaron,

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    SitePoint Addict ikabon's Avatar
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    don' wear fancy colors irritating into the eyes.

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    SitePoint Addict Ronny's Avatar
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    As a young designer I don't wear suits, it will look just silly and pathetic on me. I also want to express my creative sides as a designer, so my "business uniform" is usually as follows:

    1) Beige / light regular pants
    2) A buttoned blue (with a bit of green, not too blue) shirt - All unbuttoned, including sleeves, and underneath you can see a
    3) standard white tee.

    The unbuttoned-buttons thing represents the whole image I'm trying to express - A creative, young professional. The beige/blue contrast is a perfect match, very complimentary to eachother and to my eyes, and the background of the white tee resembles the "classic" buttoned shirts wore by businessmen.

    Oh, all that - alogn with my favorite ('shoelacesless' ) blue-grey Skechers shoes, which fit the shirt, as well as the sportive side of the wanted image.


    This 'uniform' is well defined by the very rules Kevin (LiquidReflex) wrote up here:

    1. The image you want to represent
    2. What you feel comfortable in
    3. How you look in it

    and in addition, the balance I've found hardly ever gets 'over-dressed' or "under-dressed", with most of my varied clients.

    Good luck everyone, I hope I contributed something here
    Ronny.

    P.S.
    Just one quick tip - If you wear glasses, make sure they're very clean before the meeting. You may get used to wear not-so-transparent glasses, but when you want to give a great, not good first impression just take care of your glasses so they won't hide your (very beautiful and deep-looking) eyes behind. This is very important when some of the main objectives of your meeting are being persuasive and communicative. 8-)
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    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    I think it's important to remember that a lot of the time, a business owner will hire people that he can relate to, someone he percieves to be on a similar standing to himself, someone he feels comfortable talking to.

    If you turn up to a meeting trying to look the part of a trendy new media guru, you may feel quite smug and self satisfied that you look oh-so hip and trendy, but the 'boring' guy in the stuffy suit sitting opposite you with the cheque book may think otherwise. He may not be so quick to hand over 5000 of his hard earned money to someone who seems to eminate from a completely different world to his own. 'Does this guy really understand my business goals and objectives?' 'What does he know about dealing with the problems in my world?'.

    While I appreciate the mindset of wanting to impress your potential clients by looking the part of a creative professional, IMO, you really have to look futher than this and understand the type of people you will be dealing with. I personally would rather impress a prospect by showing them case studies of how effective my web solutions have been for previous clients (clients on a similar standing to the prospect I am presenting to), showing how much I helped increase turnover, etc. I can also show them just how cool and hip my designs were (if they indicate that's important to them), simply by running through those designs as part of the presentation. In the end, business people buy results, they don't buy from people because they look 'cool' (well, not on the whole, anyway).

    At the same time, I would dress respectfully to what they perceive as a professional businesman, the kind of guy who spends his days dealing with business problems rather than twiddling with Photoshop. What I wouldn't want to do is turn up and confirm their fears that hiring a web designer means hiring some slack-asss, lazy, good-for-nothing Uni drop out who spends his days surfing the net and playing Xbox.

    Maybe an extreme example, but hopefully you get my point.

  23. #23
    SitePoint Addict Ronny's Avatar
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    I totally agree.

    1) I always make sure my dressing-code fits my client. Most of my clients (and as a rule, a large portion of the serious businessmen in Israel) don't wear stuffy dark suits for work.

    2) Suits is not an option for me, especially at my age - So I can choose between wearing something that is kind-of-formal and wearing what I wear and wrote about above.

    3) The challenge that you raise here is true. Personally, I have to represent both the designer and the manager that I am. My expreience shows that my solution works just great - Dress like a designer, but work like the best CEO around:

    The answers to the questions you said the client will ask, such as: 'Does this guy really understand my business goals and objectives?' 'What does he know about dealing with the problems in my world?' are all answered by me. This is content. I answer the prospect, I show similar case-studies and I offer results, in numbers (reffering to Brendon's great webdev business kit's principle, 'quantify the results for your prospect').

    But as for presentation, I'm positive that what I wrote above works great for me. Don't take it as a 100% working formula - It works because the whole thing happens here, it deals with the specific businesses I work with and because, well, it's me. Try to take the principles I wrote about in my previous posts and here and implement them for yourself and your situation - The details and the results may and will vary, but the ideas stand still.
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    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Ronny - my post wasn't aimed at you individually, just generally to everyone in the thread. As you say, we're all different and all situations are different, but I've found it's better to dress in a manner that my prospect can relate to - my aim is for my dress sense to not even be an issue for the client as hopefully my appearance will be one that he is used to seeing in his every day business dealings. I just like to be smart, professional, give a firm handshake and look people drectly in the eye - then get on with the meat and potatoes of the meeting.

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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy Bleys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox
    I think it's important to remember that a lot of the time, a business owner will hire people that he can relate to, someone he percieves to be on a similar standing to himself, someone he feels comfortable talking to.
    I think that's true, and another reason to err on the side of caution and dress up rather than down. It's easier to unbutton a jacket and pop the top buttons of your dress shirt to quickly "dress down" for more casual clients than it is to conjure a blazer and shirt out of thin air. You can still act comfortable and casual wearing a blazer and slacks if your clients shows up in shorts, but it would be more difficult to make your well-dressed clients forget about your jeans and t-shirt (if that's the sort of thing that bothers them--which you probably won't know until you meet).
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