December 15, 2014

Why Wearing a Company Logo Shirt Sends the Wrong Sales Message

A few times per year I write a post that I’m pretty sure will  be unpopular. Based on how many salespeople I see wearing embroidered logo shirts, this one certainly will ruffle a few feathers – at least that’s my hope.

Here’s my premise: Way too many salespeople wear their company logo (golf, polo or long-sleeve dress) shirts way too often. In fact, I’ll go as far as declaring that most salespeople should never wear their company logo shirts on sales calls.

Before diving in to why I feel so strongly about this, let me offer a few clarifying points. I said most salespeople, not all salespeople. So please don’t hear what I am not saying. Logo shirts aren’t evil, dumb or bad. In fact, in certain cases, they’re appropriate, even desirable. If you run a route like the Frito-Lay or Snap-on sales guy, wearing the logo (uniform) makes perfect sense. If you’re in a service role, go ahead and proudly sport the company colors. Working the floor in a retail operation like the Sprint store or the local Honda dealership? You bet; wear your company shirt.

But the 99 percent of you reading this article aren’t running routes or working retail. So I am talking to you. In fact, that’s a great place to start. Unless you want to be perceived as the delivery guy in uniform, why do you wear your company apparel on sales calls?

Listen, I am all for company pride. I love it when salespeople are passionate about what they sell and they’re in love with their company. That’s awesome. But if you’re a professional seller, being proud of your company doesn’t necessarily translate into wearing your logo on your chest.

The biggest problem with sporting that embroidered logo so prominently when meeting with customers and prospects? It sends the wrong message! Sticking your logo in the customer’s face screams that you are there on behalf of your company and that the sales call is all about you. It’s almost as if you’re wearing a uniform – like you were in the  military or on a sports team. They’re your colors. It’s your logo. The focus is about how great, wonderful and powerful your company is, and how much you love it. And those feelings, while admirable, don’t send the message we want to broadcast when we’re selling.

A few times this past year I was out in the field with two particular clients’ sales teams. I was spending time coaching sales reps, assessing the market and talent, learning their business, and in one case, preparing custom training content for the client’s upcoming sales conference. I LOVE working in the field with salespeople. I always say you can learn more about the business and salesperson from one day in the field than from five days in the office (Side note for another post: that’s exactly why sales managers need to stop playing CRM Jockey and get the heck out with their people). Both of these particular clients were very large American companies with strong brands, proud legacies, and a premium position in the market. Make no mistake, I was personally proud to have these companies as clients. But those days wearing their company logo shirts really caused me discomfort. And, again, that’s not because I was ashamed. Quite the contrary, I’m honored to be associated with these fine brands/organizations. It was awkward because wearing their shirt made me feel like a self-focused billboard. It went against everything I write and preach about when it comes to our sales story and our messaging, and how we want to come across during sales calls. Dressed like we were, I felt like the customer couldn’t possibly see us as consultants who were there to learn about their issues and prescribe the best possible solution for them – because we were wearing these uniforms.

Maybe a different analogy will help drive home this point. Does your lawyer come to your office wearing his logo on a shirt? How about your accountant? When my financial advisor sits me down for a year-end planning meeting, does he show up in business attire looking like a professional advisor or wearing a low-end dress shirt with his big logo stitched on it?

If you’re one who loves your company logo shirt, I just ask you to consider the message you’re sending. Next time you’re in the airport or a popular lunch spot, look around at the sales guys with their embroidered logos. Do they look like professional problem-solvers, value-creators and consultants?