Billy Mays, who, sadly, passed away at age 50, was a potbellied, black-bearded Atlantic City carnival barker who wore a blue long-sleeve shirt and a white undershirt.
He had a loud, shrill, and annoyingly exuberant voice. And he seemed to lean forward, through the TV screen, and put his nose in your face, the way only pitchmen do.
Madison Avenue–style brand marketers who believe that asking for an order even once, unless it's in small gray type, is undignified, contemptible, and just plain bad manners, loathed him.
Direct marketers idolized him.
Consumers, well, they either loved or hated him, or were totally unaware of him (presumably TiVo owners).
The bottom line: Mays sold the hell out of stuff. And he didn't have to reinvent the wheel to do it.
He bellied-up to bar with the TV viewer and spoke straight and to the point: You got a problem, I've got the solution; I can guarantee it or your money back; buy it now, and I'll make you an even better deal.
He was inelegant, but he sold and made millions. Not through artifice—there was no false imagery, cheating, or stealing—but with great showmanship and...
But great salesmanship, contrary to popular opinion, is not about selling ice to Eskimos.
The truth is less flamboyant and far more reasonable.
Simply put, behind every great salesman is a great product. And Mays understood that better than most.
He could easily sell a great product by using salesmanship techniques he had honed over two decades of selling.
Who better than Billy Mays could grab your attention (Hi, Billy Mays here for...), get you excited (So fast and easy...), make you want to buy it (No more dings, dents, or scratches—and it'll save you money, too...), and get you to buy it (But wait, order now and I'll...)?
So how do you know if the product you're currently selling or developing is great and easy to sell?
According to Mays, to be great and an easy sell, a product must have these five essential character traits.
1. It must solve a problem
If it doesn't fix, mend or alleviate a nagging pain, problem, condition, or situation—why would people want it, much less buy it? There must be a strong, recognizable, and somewhat measurable or appreciable benefit to owning and using your product.
2. It must have mass appeal
You may have invented the best mousetrap ever, but if only one in 10 million homes has a mouse problem, you're not going to sell a heck of a lot of mousetraps. Sure, you can sell just a few at a high price, but a mousetrap priced at $50,000... how easy would that be to sell?
3. It must be unique
If it's the first or only one of its kind, that's a home run! If it's not, then it should at least be different and beneficial in a way that that other products don't offer. A rose by any other name is still a rose, but a rose that never loses its petals—now that would be unique.
4. It must offer instant gratification
If it'll be of use only next spring, why buy it today? People don't want to buy seeds. They want a fully grown tree, planted and providing shade now. We're an impatient nation of consumers. We don't want the fishing pole; we want the fish fresh, filleted, seasoned, and served.
5. It must be demonstrable
It's a law of nature: Seeing is believing. Customers must see with their own eyes how easily, quickly, and effectively your product does what it does. Though people will often say they can't trust their eyes—they always do.
As Mays would say, "But wait, there's more..."
You Don't Need TV Airtime to be a Successful Marketer
A demonstration doesn't have be live or on TV to be effective. If you're selling off the page, diagrams, schematics, and before-and-after pictures will also do the trick.
And if you're not limited to a 30-second or one-minute TV spot, you might have a distinct advantage!
When you're selling off the page, you can pile on as many benefits as you can think of. And you can highlight features and advantages in bullet point after bullet point..
You can show why your product or service is superior to your competitors' by creating tables.
You can provide testimonials, endorsements, and your own impressive credentials.
And as long as you know how to keep the reader reading—you can methodically, step by step, convince and persuade the reader to buy from you in a voice and style that's compelling, empowering, believable, and completely your own.
I'm sure that's what Billy Mays would do. He'd begin every letter or ad with, "Hi, Billy Mays here for..."
Thanks, Billy. Rest in peace.