Can Wearing Black Really Give you a Sales Edge?

On Saturday, after the third round of the Masters, Phil Mickelson told a CBS interviewer that he'd be wearing black on Sunday. When asked why, he said:

It helps me get more aggressive. Studies have shown that when NFL teams wear black they have more penalties.

Turns out, he's right. Here's the link to the actual research done by two Cornell professors in 1988.


But what does this have to do with sales? And why in the world would you want to be more "aggressive" -- especially when no one likes pushy salespeople?

The truth is, aggressive doesn't always mean hostile. Mickelson certainly wasn't thinking about punching Jordan Spieth in the nose or throwing his club into the crowd after a bad shot.

Instead, he wanted to play boldly, with lots of initiative in the energetic pursuit of his goal. Timidity was not an option for him.

Black Makes You Bolder

Cornell's research shows that one reason players wearing black uniforms get more penalties is because they seek out more opportunities to be aggressive. Much of that has to do with self-perception. Players feel that they need to step up and act more formidable when they wear black uniforms.

Timidity doesn't work in sales either. Yet, I have to admit that I feel that way sometimes -- and it's totally related to self perception. 

I've hesitated to initiate contact with senior executives because they intimidated me. I've waited an eternity to call people back because I'm scared they'll say no. I've been afraid to raise my prices because prospects might not want to pay more. I've agonized over narrowing my target market, fearful that I'll lose an opportunity.

I don't like feeling that way, but I think it's normal. Maybe I should have worn more black clothes.

Boldness Leads to a Sales Edge

My only saving grace was that I finally kicked my own butt. I took action, even though I wasn't feeling strong, aggressive or bold. And I discovered that I didn't die when I did it.

On the contrary. I became stronger each time I stepped into my fears -- and more aggressive, in a nice sort of way. I think it's all about forward progress.

However, I can also assure you that if I ever get into a Masters of Sales Tournament, I'll be wearing a black power suit. If it gives me a competitive sales edge, I'm all for it!


After a successful career in the sales world, writing five books, and speaking internationally, Jill is now tackling an even bigger challenge. She's focused on bringing the "millions in the middle" together to solve some of the biggest issues facing our country and the world. Jill truly believes so much more is possible if we can work together.