The Billy Mays 5-Step Guide to Easy Selling

The Billy Mays 5-Step Guide to Easy Selling

Reader Comments (40)

  1. All the essential characteristics for the successful selling of a product are true for the type of products that Billy Mays sold…those mass appeal products that could fit into just about any household. But obviously there are niche markets and niche products that can be and are highly successful that would not sell in the mass market segment even with Billy Mays pitching.

    That doesn’t mean that they can’t be successful products, just not successful in the mass market direct sales market. His market was a niche, albeit a MASSIVE niche, but suited to a very particular type of product.

    So much of building a successful brand and product line is having that intuition and natural sense of what will work and what won’t for your particular market. That is something that you can’t learn, it’s something that you just know. Billy Mays was a master of knowing what would work. Love him or hate him, he was great at what he did and earned his success.

  2. Excellent post. Billy Mays was truly a magician when it came to selling. He was also phenomenal at delivering value. I recently had 21 of his most popular infomercials transcribed just so I could study his style. (They’re available here (no opt-in required):

    I think the biggest tip I learned from him was the importance of being demonstrable. It’s something I think about now every time I sit down to write.

  3. Billy Mays was a powerful speaker and a great pitchman. He even had a new show called pitchmen that I would watch. The show wasn’t around for very long though because of his end.

    R.I.P. Billy Mays

  4. Great article. I’ll admit that I’m one of those who found this guy annoying, but there’s no denying he was a great salesman.

    Your tip #1, “solve a problem,” is making me think of new taglines for my blog. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Agreed on most of the points except for “Must have mass appeal.” While mass appeal may result in higher sales potential, I don’t believe it usually results in higher sales.

    How many brands of toothpaste are there? Do you think it’s a good strategy to enter to toothpaste market?

    The best policy is becoming to choose the underserved market, not the overserved.

  6. @Brian Cray –

    Agree to you that mass appeal is not possible in a toothpaste market. But we can have mass appeal for he same demand where a tooth paste is used. Ex. A toothpaste specially for gum problems, or cavities or plaque ONLY. Any one of them. Will have mass appeal wont it.

    Rules are always important but to add a taste of Change to flavor it right for the current times 🙂

  7. I cringe whenever I hear someone say they can sell ice to Eskimos. It’s that attitude that gives selling a bad name. The problem/solution approach is much more authentic.

  8. I’d have to agee with Brian here, I think launching a mass-appeal product nowadays is beyond the abilities of all but the best funded organisations, requiring masses of investment in both marketing and distribution infrastructure.

    I think it comes down to identifying a niche and creating a mass-appeal product/service for that niche.

    The great thing about this is that it allows you to take over-saturated markets and split them down.

    For example if we look at the toothpaste market, sure there are loads of brands, but there are fewer brands of 100% organic toothpastes, or hand prepared toothpastes. These are potentially viable markets to introduce products in.

  9. I agree with your 5 points. However, I disagree with your premise that these make for a great product. They make for a satisfactory product – one that solves the problem. From there, it’s up to the salesperson to tip the scale in favor of their product and that’s what Billy did well.

    Like him or not, and I believe his style was likeable, you clearly understood that he believed in his product and that creates trust – and makes sales. All things being equal, people do business with those they like and trust.

  10. Great breakdown! Backing a great product is the big key, here, whether or not we all agree on what makes a product great. Could Billy have sold iPhones? Hmm… probably not.

    Billy may have backed great products, but more to the point, they were also products for which he was a great match as a pitchman. I wouldn’t buy an iPhone from him and I wouldn’t buy laundry cleaner from Steve Jobs.

    His passing was unfortunate. I always wondered what dinner with him and his family must have been like. I can just see him bellowing, “COULD YOU PLEASE PASS THE MASHED POTATOES!” R.I.P. Billy Mays.

  11. Great article.

    I sell group travel programs. My products really don’t meet any of the guidelines.

    I’m still on track to have well over a million dollars in sales this year.

    The imperative words used in the article make a great statement, but aren’t true in all cases.

  12. I actually don’t watch TV, and we don’t have cable or satellite. Yet every time I’ve seen a spot on our carpet for the past 5+ years, I think, “Man, what I need is Oxyclean.”

    I only saw his commercials for one summer several years ago while with grandparents, and the impression was just that powerful.

    I’m glad he didn’t get into politics, now that I think about it. 😉

  13. Nice post and some good nuggets about great salesmanship that can transition to any product, any language, any demographic and anywhere.

  14. I agree Jeff, Billy made the sale not the product. He made you want to like him and trust him. Without the trust and likability Billy thrust into those watching him, those products wouldn’t make as much sales.

  15. Glad you did this write up. Brillant. *wink.

    He was a liked, and his personality just sold the product. O don’t know – but everytime I watch him now, he still gets you with his character, personality and how he gets message across so easily.

    I still watch his videos cause I learn a lot from them, and I loved your article here to.

    The way you broke it down. Oozing with value.


  16. Nice post. I used to work at an ad agency specializing in direct response television and I watched plenty of Billy Mays commercials as part of my competitive research. I also watched the “Pitchman” tribute to Billy and really realized that Billy Mays was no flash in the pan. He worked his butt off for years traveling across the country and away from his family. It took him a long time to get good at selling and he was very direct and to the point. It didn’t hurt that he pushed good product, too.

  17. RIP Billy Mays. I love the commercial buildings at the State Fair due to all the guys selling crazy new crap that helps around the house. I eat that stuff up.

  18. That was a superb post about Billy Mays, about salesmanship and a smooth segue to copyrighting being salesmanship in print.

    I liked it enough to click on your link and check out your page. On your page you mentioned creating “MONEY-SUCKING COPY” (your caps) and I want to suggest that you consider revising that phrase. From a strictly copyrighting point-of-view, that phrase could rub some of your readers the wrong way.

    We’re not all here on the net to suck money out of our customers. And I know you didn’t really mean it the way I’m making it sound…I’m thinking you meant create copy that’s capable of compelling the reader to open his or her wallet right then and there and pay you for a great product that you’re selling.

    But my first impression of “MONEY SUCKING COPY” was that it was off-color and I hope this feedback helps.

  19. Solving problems is something that everyone is looking for even when they don’t know it. On my recent trip to the US we called into the fair and there were so many things I didn’t need but was amazed by the fact I ended up coming away think what a great product.
    This is because of the marketing techniques and the selling of products that shows solutions to making your customers life easier and applies to all business of any shape and form. Thanks for this insightful post Barry.

  20. MONEY-SUCKING COPY is actually a play on Gary Halbert and John Carlton’s OPERATION MONEY-SUCK. When I first heard that phrase I fell in love with it–which, yes, severly dates the copy on my homepage. I’ve been wanting to redo that site for years, but can’t seem to get around to it. But since it ain’t broken, why fix it–that phrase alone tipped the balance many times in my favor with prospective clients. Nonetheless, one of these days I will re-write the homepage, if for no other reason than to try something different.

    Finally, I’m getting a lot of credit for the “5 traits of a successful product”. The credit belongs to Billy Mays alone. All I did was restate what he believed and practiced. All the credit goes to him.


  21. I guess you could consider me one of the ones that liked Billy. He is worth taking a look at for inspiration on selling! Sad to hear about him passing away.

  22. Some great advice beneficial to both people starting out.
    And veterans who have forgotten to review the products they are selling. Before they sell them using this criteria.

  23. “It must be demonstrable” is a key element that I think a lot of people underestimate. Maybe you don’t have before and after pictures of wood floors that you can show, but you need to keep in mind that there must be some perceivable benefit. When I think back to my days as an education major, my professors used to tell me that “The student will understand” is not a viable learning objective; “the student will list,” “the student will write,” “the student will demonstrate” are. And so it goes with selling a product. You can’t just tell me it’s better, you have to show me. Even if it isn’t better, I’ll buy it if you give me a better demonstration.

    As for Billy himself, I won’t go so far as to say that I liked him, but I can tell you that the new OxyClean commercials can’t hold a candle to the ones he dominated. My 2-year-old son is a fan though.

  24. What I believe is the key to Billy May’s success was his intuitive understanding of his buyers. He could get into the heads of his buyers in a way that connected to the problems they had and present a solution that was a perfect fit.

  25. Billy Mays was a great salesman who catered to the general public. It’s really not that hard to sell to the public when you have a good “hook”. The question is, could Billy sell to a purchasing agent of big company who is skeptical and not easily swayed. If he could have done that, then he would truly have accomplished the art of selling.

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