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Financial Planning > College Planning > Student Loan Debt

The advantages of common ground

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Isaac Asimov, the great science fiction writer and political philosopher, reasoned that “all things being equal, we root for our own sex, our own culture, and our own locality.”

He was certainly referring to competitive events such as football and baseball games. The more someone acts, talks and communicates as we do, the more we tend to find them attractive.

In the classic story of “Evita”, Juan Peron, the one-time dictator of Argentina, was able to quell a workers’ riot. Dressed in formal military attire, he was taken to a riotous factory. While climbing up a ladder and addressing the unruly workers, he took his tie and jacket off, and loosened his shirt while rolling up his sleeves. He was then able to play the part of simply a “worker just like them” who happened to also be the dictator of Argentina.

You have probably heard it is important to wear a dark gray suit if you are selling to a professional. Yet, it is equally important to dress down to the level of your less well-heeled prospects.

Recently, a salesperson in Indiana relayed the story of his visit with a farmer. While he parked his car, he put on one of three jackets in his car reserved for his various prospects. Donning a simple plaid sports coat, he took his tie off, making sure he would not intimidate his prospect.

The degree to which your prospects see you as like them will influence whether or not they will also buy from you. Researcher Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University reports that one researcher who studied the sales records of insurance companies found that customers very closely fit the personality, characteristics, and preferences of their salespeople in the areas of age, religion, politics, and even smoking habits. It seems as though your prospect is thinking, buy from you because you are just like me.

A couple of years ago, I was able to contact the clients of one of the nation’s most successful financial advisors. Nearly all admitted they didn’t know what was in their portfolio, yet bought because of their trust in the salesperson. When I pressed on what they made them trust the advisor, they mentioned he was just like them. They belonged to the same country club, were members of the same social groups, and communicated by phone or in person frequently. If you are able to communicate that you are similar to your prospect, you have a much better chance of getting business.

In one psychological study, students were asked to dress in either hippie or straight garb. They were then asked to walk up to other students and request money to make a phone call. Those students who were dressed down in typical college student garb received money two-thirds of the time from other students. Those students who were dressed more formally, straight (non-typical college fashion) were given coins only one-third of the time to make phone calls. Dressing like your prospect has a very real chance of affecting your pocketbook.

The suggestion here is to dress like your prospects- but a slight bit better. If you dress in a suit and your prospect or client appears in coveralls, get rid of your jacket, take off your tie and even roll up your sleeves. Dressing substantially better than your prospects and clients can also detach you from them.

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