The Last Of The Pitchmen

A few weeks ago I took a mental break from the tasks at hand and watched a short video about Billy Mays. Yesterday I heard that Mr. Mays had passed away at the age of 50. Chances are you’ve seen Mays in commercials for OxiClean or on the Home Shopping Network pitching one of his many other products. What you may or may not realize though, is that Mays was in many ways, the last of a breed. He practiced a dying art form…that of being a pitchman.

CNN Money Interview with Billy Mays

Trained on the Atlantic City boardwalk, traveling pitching numerous products, landing on HSN, and then on to starting is own company: Mays Productions, Inc. His look, his style, his volume…it was all part of the sale. And sell he did!!! You don’t pitch products on television for 11+ years if you aren’t getting results…and you don’t make it on HSN if you aren’t generating instant, and consistent sales.

I’m sure there is much more that could be learned from Mays that can be applied to any career in sales. I also believe that no matter what your profession, we all need to be able to sell from time to time. I think it’s a valuable life skill. Here are some things to consider from a brief examination of the techniques of Billy Mays.

  • Learn the basics and practice them. He learned from the old school pitchmen on the boardwalk. He took what they gave him and put it in to practice. Over and over. No matter what your profession or personal goal, there is bound to be some fundamental, basic skills involved. Skills only become second nature through repetition. Practice, practice, practice.
  • Know who you are. His hair, the blue shirt, his tone of voice and volume…two thumbs up, various hand gestures…these were all part of who he was. They were the tools in his tool box. His own personal branding. And he was quite comfortable with all of it. He was a pitchman and everything that came along with that. He knew it. He owned it. Who are you and are you comfortable with it? If you aren’t sure who you are or you aren’t comfortable with it, start talking to people. Do some personality profiles such as the D.I.S.C. or some other similar evaluation. Then keep talking to people.
  • Keep growing.Atlantic City boardwalk, traveling salesman, HSN, Mays Productions Inc., Pitchmen on Discovery… As you practice and learn be sure to keep growing. Professionally, personally… learn, practice, grow…learn, practice, grow…

How good was Billy Mays as a pitchman? Did you find him occasionally annoying based on his over the top enthusiasm and vocal volume? I would still argue that his pitch worked. I have a feeling, if you go to your laundry or cleaning area…at one point or another…you bought what Billy Mays was selling.

Wikipedia Bio on Billy Mays

Billy Mays Top 10 Commercials – As Seen On TV


1 Comment

Filed under 2009

One response to “The Last Of The Pitchmen

  1. Paul Malczewski

    Just a quik note to let you now that there still are Pitchmen , AKA ( Pitchman101) out here.
    I was/ am a billy mays fan but do take offence to the title , The last of the pitchmen.
    I also have a blog on twitter under the name Pitchman101.
    I have been told many times I should be doing sham wow, ( I now! not billy.) and also told I should be billys side kick like tim the tool man had.
    I can be contacted at

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