What we can all learn from Billy Mays

What we can all learn from Billy Mays

We were all sad to find out  America’s favorite pitchman, Billy Mays, had passed away suddenly last month. From a sales perspective ( face it marketers, PR gurus, social media experts – you are ALL in sales) we can learn a lot from Billy Mays. Why of all people was HE so popular? I don’t think it was the products in particular, although I admit I’ve never tried Oxiclean. And TV pitchmen aren’t usually our favorite celebrities. Look how much fun they make of Suzanne Somers on The Soup – her incessant hawking just makes me like her less.

I watched a bunch of Billy Mays videos on YouTube – there’s even a Billy Mays gangsta remix – to find out what made him so loveable as the quintessential salesman. Here’s a short list I’ve come up with – these are all things we can incorporate every day as we either promote our own products, or work to promote others.

  • Billy Mays was full of unstoppable ENERGY.  Some people believe we all “vibrate” at different levels. If you hang out with high energy people, their zeal will tend to rub off on you.  Every time we see Billy he is pumped up and ready to sell. I wonder what life would be like if we took a moment to gather at least a tenth of that energy before we sent a tweet, made a phone call, or wrote that important email? Billy brought our spirits up because he was irrepressible.  After watching a half an hour of his work, I could definitely feel my mood lifting.
  • Billy Mays was no bull*&$. I know that sounds weird, given he was selling stuff on TV, but when you really listen to what he says in his pitches it’s all about what the product can do for YOU. Adjectives are used sparingly and Billy doesn’t spend much time on the aesthetics of the product (like our friends on QVC – think about how much they love to admire the cosmetic bottles, rather than the actual cosmetics!) When Billy sells, he’s got a short list of powerful features and he shows you over and over the problems they’ll solve for you.  No one has any time to spare these days – why are we all trying to frame our products or services with flowery introductions and clever taglines. Say it like it is! Say it like Billy Mays would.
  • Despite the fact he was always selling someone else’s product, Billy Mays had a strong personal brand. He delivered messages in his own unique style and he never wavered from that style, although I would bet you $100 many marketers tried to change him.  His own brand became a kind of credibility stamp for any product. Imagine as a publicist, marketer or social media expert, how  a strong personal brand could become part of the package a client would pay for? I would love to have a newsman say – “if Bonnie is pitching this, it must have merit” I would be thrilled to hear that even just a couple of times. (Hopefully people are saying it but don’t want my head to get fat.)
  • We liked Billy Mays. He was one of those guys that always made you smile even if you didn’t care how white your shirts were. It got me thinking about what my own “likeability factor” was. How do you determine that? I actually found The Likeability Factor a great book that discusses what the “l-factor” is and how to improve yours. I’ll bet Billy’s was off the charts.

We’re always trying to find the science behind more sales for our products or services. That’s important but really, it’s the BASICS that we tend to forget about. Billy Mays knew those basic rules and he lived and sold by them. I’m always saddened to see a great salesman pass on. Thank you Billy, for reminding us what really matters. My condolences to your friends and family . I’m sure you were not only a great salesman, but a great man. You see, I liked you too.

1 Comment
  • Bryan Sanchez
    Posted at 00:15h, 01 March Reply

    I’m going to be just as good a salesman as he was one day.

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