I don’t quote too many celebrities but it seemed that Billy Mays came up in my speech this past year more than any other celebrity. A celebrity? Well, considering that most people know his name and what he did, I would say he’s the best known spokesperson ever.
He died today. Age 50. Discovered in his home by his wife.
“But wait! There’s more!!!” he would boom. And his public life reminded us of 6 things in the “how to sell” manual. And you need to master them as a business owner. “Read on!” I say in a higher pitched Billy Mays voice…
1. Have passion for your product. Billy Mays not only knew everything about the product he was selling, he had genuine passion for it. You could tell that he realized every reason for people to want it and then fell in love with the way it would help the consumer. He was genuine — if you don’t have authenticity in this step, your audience will sense it and be skeptical.
2. Discover something unusual, almost unbelievable about your product. Billy Mays (or at least his writers) always revealed a very interesting thing about the product. As he revealed it, I would often realize that I had a problem I didn’t even know I had. And that product would fix it. It was always unusual enough to leave you talking about the product.
3. Yell your benefits. Billy not only talked about the benefits of the product. He yelled them. In order to do this, you have to know the “pain” that you’re relieving. And rehearse listing them. Each of benefits reminds the consumer of their need to purchase. If you say it loudly, people hear. We often say that in print materials. If you have a key benefit, say it loudly! Make sure it’s big and bold!
4. Develop the art of the metaphor. Billy Mays’ commercials always demonstrated the product in a “real life” demonstration. One that’s almost unbelievable. Like the magical glue that will mend a parachute that you would use to jump from a plane with. Like anyone would try that! But then before your eyes, you would see it. Or the worst stain in the world would be “lifted off” the fabric. Metaphors connect the dots for the consumer faster than if you allow them to think of them.
5. Develop your style. In the news reports today, they often talked of Billy Mays’ style. And did he ever had a style! What’s yours? Will you be remembered after the sales? You need to develop your own style, not Billy Mays’, one that matches who you are.
6. Know how to finish your pitch. It’s one thing to know your benefits and have an unusual style in promoting your product. But it’s another thing to sell it. And that comes in the finishing. You have to know how to close. Billy Mays’ had 30 or 60 seconds to do all that and then get people to pick up the phone and buy. Business owners often can’t do that (about their product) in several minutes! Billy would often add “one more thing” that was time-limited, or “if you act now” you get a better price. All these things encouraged the consumer to respond quickly. Every commercial ended with a clear “call-to-action”.
I could write lots of other lessons you could learn from Billy Mays! He added so much to the art of the infomercial. I’ll miss him. And so will the products that he hyped. Rest in peace, Billy!