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Build a Sales Kit for Your Car

A lot is made of first impressions. I believe a lot should be made about last impressions, too. But whether the sales call you are making is your first, second, or twenty-fifth call on the same client, you are leaving an impression. You don’t want that impression to be negative.

One of the things that you are being judged on is your discipline. Your appearance is one of the ways someone can discern your self-discipline.

Have Clean Shoes

Honestly, good shoes are expensive. I used to buy one brand of business shoes because they were so reliably sturdy and held up well under all conditions. Sadly this is no longer true of that brand. I am trying a new brand now, and they seem to be far sturdier, and I am tough on shoes.

Here is what is important. Your shoes need to be clean and polished. It’s easy to keep them looking good with a little bit of care. But you also need to be prepared to clean them up enough for sales calls while you are out on the road.

Those little Kiwi Instant Shine Sponges work incredibly well to clean up your shoes. They cost around $6.00, and they take up almost no room. Put a couple in a box in your trunk or in your glove box.

You might also throw in a couple extra pairs of shoelaces, too.

Be Odorless

I don’t smoke, and I am not judgmental about people that do smoke. It’s terribly addicting, and I believe most people would quit if it were easier to do so. But because I am not judgmental doesn’t mean that your prospective client won’t be. When you smoke, you stink like smoke to non-smokers. Some will judge you.

If you are in the field making sales calls, don’t smoke in your car on the way to your sales call. If you can avoid it, don’t smoke before calls at all. If you have to smoke, find some way to minimize the odor without making it obvious by spraying something all over you (that just makes you smell like smoke and whatever you sprayed on yourself).

If you are putting your client in your car, it can’t smell like smoke either.

Clean Teeth, Fresh Breath

You are making a sales call. You are going to be talking, and you are going to be close enough to shake hands with your client and greet them. You need clean teeth and clean breath. Anything less is impolite.

Keep a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash in your desk. Keep another toothbrush and travel-size toothpaste in your briefcase or bag. I like the dental toothpicks with the built-in floss. You can toss a zip-lock bag with some of those in your bag, and you can keep another in your car.

Also keep mints in your desk, your bag, and your car.

Prepared to Capture Ideas

Have you ever seen a salesperson borrow a pen from their client? How about paper? This isn’t high school, and you can’t show up unprepared and bum paper and pen from the kid sitting next to you. You are a paid professional, and you need to be prepared.

I like a good pen, so I never lose them. But pen and paper are cheap commodities. You can buy a bunch of legal pads and a box of pens and put them in a box in your trunk.

I am mostly paperless. I carry the iPad 2, and I use Evernote. I never leave the house without my iPad because it is my primary capture tool.

You don’t need to worry about making a good impression by having a fancy leather portfolio as much as you have to worry about the impression it makes when you aren’t prepared to capture what is important to your dream client. Don’t try to impress them with your memory. Impress them with your disciplined attention to details.

Clean and Crisp Collateral

Your company paid top dollar to print four-color glossy sales collateral for you to leave behind on your sales calls. You have left on the back seat of your car, and now that sales collateral is dirty, dog-eared, and it’s embarrassing.

You can buy a plastic box for files for a few dollars. You can equip that with hanging files for a few bucks more. You can load that box up with all of the things in this post, and you can prevent yourself from being embarrassed to hand somebody your mangled sales collateral.


What do you need to keep with you so you can make a good impression?

What are you sometimes guilty of that might make you appear undisciplined, unprepared, or unprofessional?

What mistakes have you noticed in others when it comes to the impression that they make?

What have you noticed others do that makes a killer first–and last–impression?

What might your client be judging you on?

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  • Raul Colon

    I think those are all great points. 

    I don’t smoke either and as soon as someone that smokes approaches me it really turns my stomach on occasions. 

    Some people forget that level of attention to detail to adequately present yourself. 

    On my side since I was in the Military when boots had to be shined. I have made a huge effort to keep my shoes super clean especially when I am speaking. 

    Thanks for sharing! 

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Raul. I never get to a military grade shine, but I have a separate pair of shoes just for speaking gigs. 

  • Anonymous

    Great post — I would add that anyone and everyone in the field should have an extra stack of business cards that stay in the car. I also suggest using those Listerine strips–less messy than liquid and just as potent. Much better than simple mints. Keep a few packs of those in the car. I buy them in bulk at Costco.

    I’d also consider keeping a projector in your bag if you use PowerPoint. I’ve been to many customers who have to run sound looking for a projector. I don’t fly with mine, but I will take mine with me if I am driving and need it. Generally I am a bigger fan of using a whiteboard though.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Business cards are a great addition. I have been on calls with reps who thought they would have access to a projector and Internet access only to find out they didn’t. I think the projector is a great addition, as well as a wifi hotspot, if you need those to present. 

  • Dennis

    Great post!

    Here are some items I’d like to add, mostly from experieince with being on the wrong side of not having them:

    1. Shout wipes/Tide pen… So you never have to show up to a meeting with a mustard stain on your shirt or tie.
    2.  Lint brush
    2.  Extra wall outlet charger for phone/tablet/laptop
    3.  Over-the-counter medicine for unexpected medical issues (immodium, allergy meds)
    4.  Map – Yes, I’ve been places where my GPS wasn’t getting service so I learned the hard way to keep one in my glovebox.
    5.  A complete backup padfolio with legal pad, pen and business cards (Ithe previous poster was spot-on about carrying extra business cards…)

  • Katie Clancy

    Yes, excellent post! I’ve shared it with my whole office, and I’m taking inventory of my own car kit right now. I’d like to add a couple of things unique to women:

    1. The shoe factor is a little different for us. We should also have clean and presentable footwear, but it’s not as simple as the one good pair. We need to have at least 2 or 3 options per season (though I will concede to only 2 real seasons…:)). Guys will rib us about the $$ we spend on shoes, but we have to find a tough combo of style, comfort, and durability. I learned that this is something that can’t be skimped on.
    2. Like shoes for men, women’s hair is a crucial constant that must always be presented well. If you color or highlight (and you probably should…just saying), never let your roots show. Also, there is no cut or style that doesn’t benefit from a little product and primping. Straight hair should be blown out with mousse. Even if you’re going to do a ponytail, a little root spray and teasing goes a long way. And don’t wear your daughter’s scrunchie. Ever. Don’t ask me how I know this.
    3. Makeup falls into this category as well. At minimum wear tinted moisturizer to even out your skin tone, mascara and tinted lip gloss. You can do your makeup so it doesn’t look like you’re wearing any, but if you don’t *actually* wear any, you look the same as you did when you rolled out of bed.
    4. Nails: There are many schools of thought here, but at minimum I think they should be clean and evenly trimmed with clear polish. I’m a big fan of a neutral taupe color on short nails.
    4. The previous poster’s idea for OTC meds was great. I’d also throw in a few woman-specific additions and bandaids.
    5. Add to your kit: clear nail polish for runs in your stockings, and extra stockings.

  • Bruce Sallan

    My sneakers are always clean! And, I wash my jeans quarterly, whether they need it or not! 

  • John D

    Great post.  I would definitely agree with a lot of these suggestions.  I’m interested to hear what your thoughts are on the opposite of being odorless.  Too much cologne, not enough, too much aftershave, etc.  I have different colognes that I wear and some are definitely more potent than others, but after some time, I get used to them and can’t smell them anymore.  I think I have the right amount and I’ve never heard anyone say I’m using too much, but people could just be polite.  What’re your thoughts?  Go al-natural?

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Smelling clean is good. Smelling like an Abercrombie store is not good.