When you meet with a prospect on a potential real estate transaction, the way you dress will speak volumes about you. Just as certain clothes in Florida tend to scream, “Tourist!”, what you wear will have direct bearing over whether you’re shaking hands at the end of your conversation with a seller as the new owner of a property or as somebody who’s walking away empty-handed. By dressing like your prospect as a real estate investor, you can forge a bond that will very subtly send the message that you and the seller have something in common.
Real estate investors shouldn’t overdress when they meet with a seller because they will send a message – but it will be the wrong one. If you’re wearing a suit and your prospect is wearing a faded Bud Light t-shirt, a pair of cut-off jeans, and a pair of sandals, your prospect is going to have trouble identifying with you or relating to you. To him (or her) you’ll be pointing out the glaringly obvious fact that you’re different.
At the same time, if a real estate investor meets with a seller who is dressed much better than he is, a different – and just as damaging problem – crops up. The real estate investor looks unprofessional. If the prospect thinks you’re unprofessional, any chance you might have had of doing business has gone out the window.
Why is being different such a bad thing?
Look at it this way. If you look too different your prospect might decide you think you’re better than they are. Looking radically different than your prospect could cause your prospect to look more carefully at you and get the wheels in their head turning about whether you might be trying to pull a fast one on them. To them, a real life real estate investor is an oddity. You could very well be the first real estate investor they’ve ever seen in their lives. People tend to reject that which they don’t understand.
The second half of that equation is that people tend to reject those with whom they can’t relate. So whether you’re dressed too well or you look like a hobo who just hopped off a train, the way you look is vitally important.
If you can possibly find out before you meet with your prospect how they’re likely to be dressed, it will make it easier to mirror the way they’re dressed. This isn’t an exact science, so don’t lose sleep over it or call the FBI to try to get answers. Unless you know ahead of time how your prospect will be dressed, it’s always best to show up in business casual attire. This will cover you no matter what. If they’re dressed in a suit you’ll still be in the ballpark because many people who wear a suit to work still find business casual to be acceptable.
The main point here is that you’re trying to establish a psychological bond with your prospect. By being dressed as much like your prospect as possible sends a subliminal message to them that you’re alike. If you look at your own circle of influence — your friends, colleagues, and people you hang around with — most tend to look much like you. Our friends talk like we do, think like we do, and dress like we do.
By the same token, we tend to be distrustful and distant with people we don’t resemble or have anything in common. A critical component in putting together a real estate transaction is building a bond. While not impossible, it is considerably more difficult to build bond with someone we feel is completely different than we are.
For that reason, it’s also important to figure out what some of the seller’s likes and dislikes are while making small talk during the warm-up period heading into your sales pitch. There’s nothing wrong with opening your mouth and talking, but don’t forget why you’re there. By keeping the conversation focused on your prospect, you can learn more about them by simply sitting back and listening for 10 minutes than you could during an hour of intensive grilling.
The way you dress will build a bond, a bond can build a friendship, and a friendship can close the deal. I’m not necessarily saying you should try to plant the seeds of a lifelong friendship, exchange pictures of your kids, or plan vacations together, but by mirroring the dress of your prospects and being mindful of the psychological reasons that we are the way we are, you can better prepare your prospect to at least consider your offer – if for no other reason than because they like you.
People like to do business with those that they like. The way you dress could set the stage for a lucrative real estate deal. Don’t blow it by misunderstanding the importance of being as much like your prospect as possible. Dress like they do, act like they do, be a friend, and close more deals.