“Hi, Billy Mays Here!”
was his famous tagline and for years he made late night television his home, moving millions upon millions of cleaning products like the Awesome Auger, OxiClean and Orange Glo – two minutes at a time. Mays died recently at his home in Florida, but not before leaving us with many an infomercial gem.
While he had his critics and his style certainly was not for everyone, few would argue with the fact that he was one of the most successful pitchmen in television history. Mays could captivate talking compost with his high octane pitch, which often included witty one liners like “it takes the hardwork out of yardwork.” So how did he do it and what can sponsorship sales execs learn from him?
1. Demonstrate the Problem:
If there’s one thing Billy Mays did better than anyone else, it was showing the product in action and demonstrating the problem. Whether it’s yardwork or a title sponsorship, every sales call MUST demonstrate your solution to a problem. What is the client’s specific business problem that you are addressing?
2. Know thy Enemy:
When Billy Mays got wind of an upstart pitchman’s competing knock-off product, he was pissed. First, it was the Zorbeez and then the SlapChop, both of which sold very well. Billy challenged Vince to a “pitch-off” and even re-shot his ads in response to this latest challenge. Do you know who you’re competing for ad dollars with and how can you craft a pitch that makes your opportunity more compelling? Think you’re not competing? Think again. Shrinking budgets mean tough decisions. Keep your eyes wide open for potential competitors and learn from their strengths and weaknesses.
3. Don’t Just Tell, Act:
Let potential partners trial and witness your event in action. Don’t be shy about sharing the success stories/testimonials you’ve had with similar companies, competitors and peer brands.
4. Make a Clear Value Proposition – and Repeat it with Confidence:
Mays provides a lot of color which can be distracting, but you’ll notice that in every spot he showed us exactly what we were getting and for how much… several times, in fact.
5. Controlled tests:
Billy Mays might have made it look effortless, but in reality tons of tests were run to make sure a product would sell. He would shoot multiple commercials to see which resonated. Which markets would the product sell well in? Is the price point right? Just like Mays, sponsorship sales execs don’t get it right every time either. Don’t be afraid to run trial and error tests with your partner to see what benefits can help them move the needle on their specific business goals (and thereby justify the investment).
6. Show Passion:
Billy Mays may have never done a thing around the house, but we certainly had the impression that he was genuinely excited about the product he was selling and had used it before. Don’t be afraid to show your passion, even if it may come across as obnoxious to others (as Billy Mays sometimes did!)
7. Create Urgency Without Showing Need:
Too many times sponsorship sellers begin their pitch with why they “need” sponsors and why it is so urgent that they get them. Mays always created urgency, through his voice tone and through his demonstration of a current problem, not his own interest in moving product. And unlike consumer products with unlimited inventory, sponsorship sellers generally have an expiring offer and a limited amount of inventory.. use this to create urgency without being needy.
RIP Billy Mays. We might not miss all of your late night products, but we’ll miss your late night personality.