Many people in business believe that appearance is essential. How you look and how you dress dictates how you’re received by others. While, in many ways, this is true you should be very wary of judging others based on their appearance, as you could end up dismissing someone who could be very valuable to you as a business contact or customer.
As a regular attendee at meetings of the referral organisation BNI, I often speak to people who aren’t interested in joining the networking groups because they don’t believe the other members would be valuable to them, or that they would become their clients or customers. This is essentially the mistake I’m referring to. The common saying in BNI is that “it isn’t the people in the room, it’s the people they know”. While the plumber or electrician may be unlikely to become your client or customer, you don’t know who their customers are until you speak with them.
Just because one person wears overalls and one person wears a suit, it doesn’t mean the person in the suit is more valuable as a contact.
Nothing more perfectly demonstrates this like a story I was once told by a colleague with whom I worked at a Cardiff-based design agency. He worked in sales, and had previously had a job at a high-end car dealership in Cardiff. He told me the story about how, in the dealership over the road (a very high-end dealership that sold cars synonymous with a certain James Bond), one of the salespeople made a critical and very expensive mistake.
Two young lads, dressed in T-shirts and ripped jeans, entered the dealership one day and started looking at the cars. They were opening the doors and sitting inside the cars before the dealer, having judged them based on their appearance and decided they couldn’t afford one of the cars, asked them to leave.
You can probably see where this going.
The dealer received a phone call a week or so later from another dealer within the same brand, this time based in London. He was asked if he’d turned away two young lads the previous week. He explained that he had indeed turned them away as they were ‘messing about’ with the cars.
The London-based dealer gleefully told him that, for future reference, those two young lads were members of a pop group called ‘Take That’, and they’d just bought five cars from his dealership.
Never judge someone based on their appearance, or on what they do for a living. The window cleaner you pass in the street may clean the windows of some very well connected people, the personal trainer at the gym could work with that contact you’ve always been trying to get in front of, and the man in the Transformers T-shirt could drive an Aston Martin and run his own business.
You never know!