Your professional image is made in large part by the details in your attire, says Anne Sowden, an image specialist with Here’s Looking at You in Toronto. However, those sartorial niceties are not the only features that affect the impression you make on clients and prospects.
Last week’s Casual Friday article focused on how your clothes may be spoiling your professional image. Here are five habits that could leave a bad impression about you and your business. Some may seem obvious, but they’re common mistakes:
1. Carrying the wrong bag
The briefcase or satchel you bring to a meeting can say a lot about you.
It’s important that you feel comfortable with the bag you are carrying, Sowden says. However, you should keep your choice of bags business-like.
For example, Sowden says, you should probably avoid a messenger-style bag: “That really is a younger look that says: ‘student’.”
As well, avoid carrying multiple bags, she says. Women in particular often have a bad habit of carrying a laptop bag, a rolling suitcase and a purse. Instead, keep all your items in one professional-looking bag.
2. Using inappropriate pens
You’re at a client meeting and the only pen you can find in your pocket is a Justin Bieber ballpoint.
While you don’t need an overly expensive fountain pen, she says, you also shouldn’t use a pen that has the name of a salon or garage you recently visited.
Always use a professional “grown-up looking” pen with clients, Sowden says. “You don’t need a pen with a Smurf on the end.”
3. Averting eyes
Always make eye contact — to show your clients you are confident and trustworthy.
People text so much these days, Sowden says, that they often forget to look up. Always remember to look your clients in the eyes and smile to make a connection.
“Arriving on time is really important,” Sowden says. “It says: ‘I respect your time’.”
If you get stuck in traffic on the way to meet a client, she says, pull over and call to let him or her know that you’re running late.
It’s always better to err on the side of early. Then, you will have a few minutes to relax in the car and collect your thoughts.
5. Car-wash avoidance
If you make house calls or take clients to lunch, pay attention to the state of your car.
It doesn’t matter what kind of car you drive, Sowden says. What’s important is that it’s clean — outside and in.
“If you’re taking a client somewhere,” she says, “make sure the inside of the car is clean and that you’re not picking banana peels off the front seat from when you dropped the kids off at daycare.”