This is an idea that originally gained a lot of popularity in traditional retail stores where the idea was to hire visually attractive staff and have them standing at the shop front to draw people inside. Is this still a concept that works in business today?
A 2010 study from the University of British Columbia, which looked at physical attractiveness and first impressions, concluded that “people do judge a book by its cover, but a beautiful cover prompts a closer reading.” The study demonstrated that physically attractive people are seen both more positively and more accurately.
However, once a ‘closer reading’ takes place, you could argue that other elements become more influential in the making or breaking of that sale, for example through the content or presentation of that content. There are many instances in which you can like what you see visually and you can maintain a positive impression of the person, but you just can’t do business with them because their content didn’t hold up. In other cases, you like how they look and the product they are selling, but there is something in their voice and delivery that doesn’t connect and makes you think twice or decline due to the doubts that raises for you.
However, in the instance that someone doesn’t look the part but they deliver substance through their content and they have the voice and delivery to match up with it, I can confidently say the sale will still have a strong chance of being made. In other words, good looks may be a benefit but they are not a deal breaker. Voice and delivery is. And so is the content.
This was evidenced in the study too. Voice and delivery was nearly equal in weighting with the nature of the query, in its contribution to the buyer’s impression of the seller on a call. Voice and delivery was nearly twice as important as the company being called from and more than four times more significant than job title. 38% of participants chose voice and delivery as the most influential factor in helping a seller build rapport with them and 79% of participants said that strong voice and delivery would buy a cold caller more time on the phone with them.
With a lot of business being initiated on the phone or by email, the visual has very little opportunity to influence at the early stages of the sales process. So by the time you have reached the stage of a meeting in person, a good level of interest and buy in is likely to have already been established, deeming the visuals less important in that early impression. Then once you reach the face-to-face pitch, as established by the results of my study above, it is the content that takes precedence and visual and vocal influences are relatively even.