Monday, May 12, 2014

Don't Steal My Thunder!

As Jimmy Buffett has been known to tell his audience from the stage, "It's not nice to beat Jimmy to the words of his own songs".  Can't relate?  Have you ever told a joke, and had someone steal the punchline? See, it's not cool when someone steals your thunder. Well, this holds true with product presentations on TV Shopping shows.  

As a guest expert, I spend a considerable amount of time before I ever appear on TV with a product, crafting my presentation.  I carefully choose my words, the demonstrations, and the order in which they'll appear.  Just like a piece of music, the presentation needs to build slowly to a crescendo, not flop all over the place without rhyme or reason, jumping from one point to another.  But, I've seen some serious flipping and flopping on occasion because people jump the gun.  We can't help ourselves!  It's like a child knowing the answer to a question in class and just blurting it's human nature.  I've experienced this as both a host, and as a guest expert.  I've seen it happen on every TV shopping network out there at one time or another. While it's not an epidemic, it certainly happens often enough to take note, especially with successful products, where everyone gets to know the pitch over time, due to the frequency of airing. So what can you do?

Be patient, wait your turn, and know your role.  Sounds simple doesn't it? But it's not.  It takes discipline to hold your tongue,  and give someone else the spotlight for a moment.  You have to be committed to your role, and revel in the fact that it's every bit as important as the person doing the presentation, telling the joke, or playing the music.  

"Remember: there are no small parts, only small actors." - Constantin Stanislavski

 So, play your part, be it show host, wingman, or straight man (or woman).  Those are important parts too, and in some cases even more important than the person talking.  Timing is everything, and in the end, someone has to react to the pitch, laugh at the joke, and applaud Jimmy Buffett's songs.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Talk TO me, not AT me!

It might seem like splitting hairs, but there really is a difference between talking to someone, and talking at them.  When you talk to someone, you're having a conversation.  When you talk at someone, well, then you're just lecturing them...and no one likes being lectured.

The best product presentations are conversations between the host and guest expert.  Where they go awry, is when one or the other stops listening.  Yes, we all have things we want to say, and yes, it's very important...but wait your turn!  When I teach someone how to pitch, one of the first things I tell them is remember to W.A.I.T.  That acronym reminds them to ask themselves, "why am I talking"?  In other words, take a breath, and do a gut check.  Is what you're saying relevant?  Is it moving the presentation forward?  Is it helping you hit all the points you need to make?  If not, stop talking, and start listening. With any luck, your host is doing the same thing, and VIOLA!  You're having a conversation. Ideally, the host is asking you questions that actually set up your next demonstration, and you're answering with pertinent information.  Ideally.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and the result is two people fighting for air-time.  There's no listening, there's no teamwork, there's no flow.  Not only is it uncomfortable to be a part of this, it's even worse for the viewer at home.  The result? The audience changes channels, sales plummet, and the presenters wonder, "what happened?"

So, next time you do a presentation on TV (think positive), choose to talk to the other person, and not at them. It'll be a lot more fun for everyone involved, and you might be surprised by the results!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Product 101

Some 25 years ago when I went through host training at HSN, the first thing we were taught was that that the product is king.  Not me, not you, not the model, and certainly not the set we're selling from.  And yet, it seems like people forget this from time to time.  I like to call it believing your own press release syndrome.  This is the phenomena where a presenter starts to think that their mere presence is more powerful and important to the sell than exploring the features & benefits of the actual item being sold.  This is a bad thing.  Because the customers want to see what they're (hopefully) buying.  They want to see it work, they want to know what it can do, and they want to know how they might use it in their homes.  Do they care about our opinions?  Sure, to a certain extent.  But, not more so than seeing their potential purchase do it's thing on live TV.

Now, if you're reading this, and we work together on TV, don't worry, I'm not talking about far as you know.  The truth is, that we're all guilty of hogging the camera from time to time, taking the limelight away from the true star, our product.  So what should you do? Listen to yourself, listen to your co-host, and ask yourself, "does what I'm saying actually impact the sales of this item?"  If the answer is no, change your tactics, let the other person talk, but for the love of Mike, please don't just monologue for the sake of face time!  Remember, air time is precious, and the product is King...not you.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Importance of Being Earnest

When I was in college, I studied acting for a while... a really long while, like four years.  And in that time, I learned a little about acting, and a lot about myself, mostly that I'm a lousy actor.  But, I did learn that I enjoyed being in front of people and commanding an audience.  And that's why I'm SO lucky to be doing what I do, because I get to be on camera without acting...I get to be myself.  It's true, the person you see selling products on TV is exactly who I am.  When I laugh at something, it's because I genuinely think it's funny (catch me working with Robin Wall some time), and when I'm enthusiastic about a product, I'm really excited about what I'm selling.
It's authentic, it's real, and it's all I know how to do, because remember, I'm no actor.  Which makes it all the more strange to me when people new to the field always think they need to be someone else...some ideal pitchman they have in their head.

I train new presenters, so I get to see how hard it really is for them to be themselves.  They always want to be that guy/gal they see in infomercials. Now there is a school of thought that favors this method. Tony Robbins is one proponent of copying success...

If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do, and you'll achieve the same results.

And in certain situations, that's excellent advice!  But not when it comes to selling products on live television. Because unless you possess some next level acting skills, people will know.  Sure, when we're watching a TV series or a play, we KNOW those people are acting. But, we suspend our disbelief and go with it for the sake of the show.  That's not the case with television retailing. When you're watching someone present a product on live TV, you want the TRUTH.  You want them to be earnest about their item, and to not pretend to be someone they're not.  It sounds easy, but it can take years of practice to be comfortable enough to just be yourself...on front of millions of people.

Of course, there's more to being a successful Pitchperson on TV than just being yourself, but that's another story for another day.  For now, remember step earnest, and be yourself!

Monday, February 3, 2014

We're back...well, I'm back.

It's been a REALLY long time since I last posted here, and I mean to change that.  Despite my hectic appearance schedule, I'm really going to make the effort to keep my blog current. Perhaps it'll be cathartic to get my thoughts out about being a Ptchman on TV, or maybe it'll drive me insane.  Either way, it should make for an interesting read.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stay Frosty My Friends...

In addition to being a pitchman on television retailers, I also bring product to the networks. Often I am approached by very clever, industrious people with a new idea that they've worked on for countless hours developing. They have lived and breathed their idea, spent their life savings and truly believe it is the next great thing. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't...but all of that doesn't matter, because at the end of the day it all comes down to dollars and cents. You see, if even their idea is next best thing since sliced bread, if the numbers don't work no one will buy it. And I'm not talking about consumers here, I'm talking about the buyers at retailers, catalogs and TV shopping channels. While that might seem terribly elementary, it's a surprise to many people. It's all about margins, or the markup a retailer can make on an item, so if your wholesale price is too high, even if you've invented a perpetual motion machine, no one will give you a purchase order unless the numbers work. Too often, I encounter people who have fallen in love with their product and refuse to believe that it's not worth what they want to charge, or more often, what their costs and the margins demand.

So be practical, detached, aloof even, when it comes to your product. Believe in your invention, nurture it and watch it grow, but source it properly and make sure your costs are inline with the margins needed for the sales environment(s) of your choice.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The January Doldrums

Well, it's that time of year again. Time for all of us all to get our Christmas credit card statements and clamp down on spending like a mousetrap on a, well...mouse. Those of us in television retailing see it every year, and yet, every year we're surprised by it. Why is it so many of us in this business have such horrible sort term memory? Don't answer that. Anyway, sales these days are down across the boards, but I'm here to tell you, "don't panic!" Like I said, we go through this every year, so don't worry that your item has lost it's luster, run it's course or hit the end of the product cycle. It's the credit card bills! It's their fault! Buck up, the sun'll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun! After all, if you think our short-term memory is bad, it's NOTHING compared to that of the general public when it comes to spending and bills.

And thank God for that;)