A recently released study revealed that only one in ten employees in Britain wears a suit to work, with the majority of offices filled with chinos, button-down shirts, smart blazers or jeans.
Most industries said this was because wearing a suit all day was uncomfortable and 43% of the 2,000 respondents believed that suits no longer have a place in the workplace. A similar amount said wearing a tie has fallen out of favour.
However, estate agency seem to be one of the last remaining sectors of the British workplace in which wearing a suit (sometimes a three-piece suit for men) is expected. Isn’t it time for Estate Agents to lose the suit?
Estate Agents have arguably experienced more disruption over the past 5 years than any other area of property – the rise of online agents, a wholesale change of business model, huge reductions in fees and constant government meddling by an array of housing ministers, who seem to have one eye on their next position rather than actually getting to know the nuances of a complex and ever-changing industry.
Add to this the ongoing negative public opinion of estate agents – which according to most surveys still ranks as one of the least trusted professions in the UK, closely flanked by professional footballers, journalists and politicians – and it’s clear there is a perception problem. Perhaps adopting a more business casual dress code could change the public view from agents as ‘salespeople’ to trusted advisors.
Let’s take the banking industry, for example.
The 2007-8 banking crisis placed the finance and investment community in the firing line of not only the general public who were forced to bail them out with taxpayers money, but also the government via committees and the scorn of mainstream media.
In order to try and rebrand and rebuild their appeal, many investment banks relaxed their dress code from the old school pinstripe and braces to a more informal ‘weekend casual’. Think chinos, a long-sleeved shirt and a smart blazer or coat.
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon was inspired after conducting business meetings in Silicon Valley, calling his own banks dress code “significantly out of date”. You can imagine the size and scope of deals that were discussed between the CEO of JP Morgan and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, so there is not a strong argument to suggest that a suit in the modern age has any relation to size or type of business transaction.
Another way of putting this: “our clients are high end and expect us to wear a suit” doesn’t cut it in most cases.
Most recently, Dimon was spotted at the exclusive Davos Economic Forum wearing a t-shirt and jeans to meetings, adopting a business casual dress like a number of other high-level executives at the event. The vast majority of Davos attendees who chose to wear a suit were, you guessed it: politicians. The least trusted profession in the UK.
I know there are agents, male and female reading this thinking ‘I need my to come across as professional to clients’ or ‘the public expect me to wear a suit’ or ‘all my colleagues wear a suit’. All valid points, but woefully outdated in 2018.
You can still come across as eminently professional during client interactions through your market knowledge, advice on the sale/purchase or simply executing the basics well – turning up on time, following up, setting expectations, providing next steps. Differentiate yourself through your actions and your reputation will swell far beyond your suit choice.
Of course, there are exceptions.
If you wear a suit and tie every day, to every appointment and viewing because it gives you confidence then more power to you. More confidence typically means more sales, more commission and if you’re in this particular category, undoubtably more suits!
The same goes for agents out there whose clients are usually dressed in suits themselves. If your clients are in the dwindling bracket of workers who wear a suit and tie everyday to work, it’s absolutely a good idea to mirror and match their style. Your clients will see themselves in you and be more likely to trust you with their property.
However, the vast majority of agents have a client base from the local area, consisting of ordinary working people of the UK. There is no reason why you couldn’t try out a business casual dress for your next appointment. If you’re tentative on the idea, perhaps look to emulate tech and banking firms who started with a ‘casual Friday’ dress code. Once they discovered employees are more productive on dress down days, it was a no brainer to roll out the scheme to cover the entire week.
If you’re still unsure of what reception you would get from a business casual look – ask your clients! Let them be the one’s to tell you that they 1) Probably don’t care what you wear as long as you act professionally and achieve asking price and 2) Quite like the smart casual look.
Make 2018 the year you ditch your suit. Get more buy-in from clients, more referrals, more commission, all while being more comfortable at work than ever before.
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