The first time I heard the name Ron Popeil was in an interview with Conan O’Brien from 1994 that showed up on my YouTube feed. I had never heard of the man, but something about his charisma got me hooked. His salesmanship seemed effortless.
Turns out the man’s an infomercial legend, and was dubbed “Salesman of the Century.” His career is filled to the brim with a surfeit of snappy catchphrases that, if you’re old enough, you probably might have come across somewhere, like:
- “Set it and forget it” – Showtime Rotisserie
- “It slices and it dices” – Veg-O-Matic
- “The biggest fishing invention since the hook” – Pocket Fisherman
The more I looked into the man’s career, I found that there’s a goldmine of marketing lessons to take from his decades-long journey of out-of-the-way salesmanship.
So, I’ve wrapped up some of Popeil’s marketing wisdom into 5 simple points.
1. Be passionate about what you’re selling.
I believe passion helps you build trust with your customers/audiences. Not only do they believe you more; they also see how much you believe in your product. On top of that, when you’re passionate about what you’re selling, you want others to feel how you feel. This makes you more willing to go to great lengths in trying to understand your customers and connect with them on a deeper level.
2. Know when to call for action.
One of my favorite things about Ron Popeil’s selling techniques was that he told stories and built up a strong case for his products, and only after he’d gotten his audience invested into the story emotionally and mentally, only then would he call for any action.
3. Let customers do the selling.
In his Inc. Magazine article (linked above), Ron Popeil said that he would take the first 250 pieces of a product and give them out for free to the people who would be in his audience. He would then let them use it for 30 days before coming to sit in the audience. The premise here is that people tend to trust each other more than they trust brands or salespeople. That’s why referrals/word-of-mouth are the holy grail of marketing.
4. Talk about the benefits, not the features.
What’s the difference, you may ask? Well, put simply, the TV’s features are the interface, compatibility, sound system, etc; the benefits can be simpler usability, a better visual experience, or maybe even more family time.
A lot of the time marketers are too hyped up about their product’s features that they forget to tell the customer how that certain product can make a difference in their lives.
5. Don’t preach, teach.
You can look at Ron Popeil’s long list of salesy taglines and think he was all about the hard sell. Well, that only scratches the surface. How I see it, looking at Popeil’s effort, is that you’ll find that most of it went into teaching people how to use a product rather than sell them on it.