The title for this post originated with a wise German fellow named Schiller over 200 years ago. I chose that title as it is very fitting for the following story. John Barrier had done business with Old National Bank in Spokane for 30 years. He made his living buying and refurbishing old buildings, so he wore everyday work clothes that October day in 1988. He left his pickup truck in a nearby parking lot while he paid a visit to his broker, and then ducked into the bank to cash a check.

The teller took one look at his grubby clothes, quickly cashed the check, but then refused to validate his parking ticket. She told Barrier that the bank only validated parking when a customer made a transaction and cashing a check didn’t count. The millionaire was a bit agitated, and asked the teller to call one of the bank managers. She did, but he also refused Barrier’s request.

“He looked me up and down and gave me one of those looks,” said Barrier, turning up his nose to imitate the manager.

Barrier then said, “Fine, it’s obvious you don’t need me so I guess I don’t need you either.” He immediately asked for a cashier’s check in the amount of his entire account balance and closed his account, which was the first time the bank realized he was one of their biggest customers. He walked right out the front door of the bank and down the street to Seafirst Bank.

“The check he brought me was for a little over $1 million,” said Dennis Veter, a Seafirst vice president. “You’d never know by looking at him that he was wealthy, but regardless, I felt very lucky to gain him as a new customer.”

Barrier said, “Whether you have $1 or $1 million, I think they owe every customer the courtesy of validating your parking ticket.” I doubt Mr. Barrier ever had trouble with parking tickets after that day.

I relate that short story simply to remind salespeople that if you have as much money as Barrier, maybe you don’t have to be concerned how you look to others. However if you’re not a millionaire yet, you really should put some thought into your appearance as long as you continue to conduct sales calls.

Rather than following the fashion guru’s latest advice, you should be concerned with how you are viewed by others. Never forget the slogan, perception is reality. Closer to home, your buyer’s perception is your reality.

In the Old Testament God instructed Samuel the prophet to go examine the sons of Jesse in order to determine which son was to be chosen as Israel’s next king. God reminded Samuel that, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

————Help Could Be on the Way————

In Doug’s book Sell is NOT a Four Letter Word, there are 116 lessons like the one you are reading. But just in the first two chapters you will read tips about Attitude on page 1, Likeability on page 26, Credibility on page 28, Goal Setting on page 32, and Prioritizing on page 35. If that sounds helpful, check out the entire book contents HERE. And, by the way shipping is FREE!


In the sales world we may not think it’s fair to be judged by our looks… but every prospect, buyer, and customer judges that way.

My point in all this is to remind you men to decide if your tattoos, excessive facial hair, or gold ear studs are worth what it might cost you in reduced credibility and lost sales. Ladies, you need to rethink your miniskirts, heavy eye shadow and visible facial piercings. As people meet you for the first time they naturally observe your appearance, which includes your clothing, makeup, jewelry, grooming, accessories, and cleanliness. This scrutiny extends all the way to your dirty fingernails and yes, even that hickey on your neck!

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, if you don’t have a pretty face…learn how to sing. The sales profession is tough enough without having to endure unforced errors that may be impossible to overcome. So make sure you look and smell good!


Some years ago, I (Doug) got a 911 call from an inexperienced insurance sales rep, who was failing miserably. After meeting him, I suspected that at least part of his problem was the noticeable multiple tattoos on both arms. I mentioned these and he shared that he had been a member of a gang as a teen and that these tats were from that former lifestyle.

I simply suggested he wear long-sleeved shirts on sales calls so they would be unseen by prospects and customers. He took my advice, and his results improved almost immediately. Over the next couple months he called me twice to thank me again and share his progress.

As the title states, Appearances Rule the World.  Nearly 500 years ago Martin Luther said, “You can’t keep the birds from flying overhead, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” Many things in sales are out of your control. But your appearance isn’t one of them!

Before walking out the office door for every sales appointment, ensure you make a quick stop in front of the mirror, mirror on the wall, and see yourself from a buyer’s point of view.


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