Billy Mays Pitchmen Notes - Tips to Increase Your Conversion Rates

By Mark Ling
Billy Mays Pitchmen Notes - Tips to Increase Your Conversion Rates


Hi everyone,

I was talking to my friend Ben Shaffer last week about website conversion rates and he recommended that I check out a blog post by Rich Schefren which was all about ‘Billy May’s Marketing Magic’

Billy Mays was one of the greatest TV pitchmen ever, he was really good at taking a product that you didn’t know about and in a short 2 minute mini-informercial he’d get you picking up the phone and ordering it. He was amazing.

Unfortunately, died recently, so Rich Schefren decided to honor him by writing a detailed blog post about Billy and his methods for pitching products. It included several videos from his commercials and I found it to be thoroughly fascinating.

Click here if you wish to go and read that blog post.

After reading it, you might want to check out the notes that I took from it. I basically wrote them into a checklist that I can print out and look at whenever I’m writing email copy or salescopy or any form of copy designed to get people to buy stuff.

My Notes:

____ How can I demonstrate that there will be instant and/or fast results?

____ Expose the pain they may currently be feeling.

____ How can I demonstrate this in a way that gets my prospects to say WOW?

____ How can I demonstrate that this product produces seemingly effortless results (like!)

____ Introduce a new way to do something to 'suspend disbelief', introduce a new mechanism. Don't just make a bigger bolder claim, introduce a new secret mechanism that makes this all possible. Your secret mechanism will make your claims seem more reasonable.

E.G. "The secret the six carbon steel blades combined with the rotating action – each time you tap it rotates and chops at a different angle and never misses a thing

____ Contrast your superior solution with the frustration other products are giving to your

prospects. OR offer other types of contrast like before/after, with/without your solution,


____Use a Sinatra example:

“In Frank Sinatra’s classic “New York, New York,” he sings about starting a new life in New York City, and the chorus declares, “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.” This is what is called the “Sinatra Test’ – an idea when one example alone is enough to establish creditability in a given domain. For instance, if you’ve got the security contract for Fort Knox, you’re in the running for any security contract (even if you have no other clients). If you catered a White House function, you can compete for any catering contract. It’s the Sinatra Test: if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

An example from the cult-classic infomercial The Ginsu Knives; “The Ginsu is so sharp it can cut through a tin can and still cut a tomatoe like this.. It can chop wood and still remain razor sharp…”

____ Use a direct command to ask for the order "Order Right Now"

____ Offer great reasons to buy NOW and not later e.g. great bonuses, better pricing, etc.

____ Have a strong money back guarantee

____ Use testimonials that enhance credibility and use ones that make people say 'wow'


I hope you enjoyed this blog post.

All the best for a fantastic rest of the week ahead!


Mark Ling


Earl 14 years ago
Great observations.

Billy Mays was indeed a classic, a true icon. Even when you knew the product, knew you were being pitched, and knew you were not going to buy (you thought!)... you still watched!!

That is the level of power he had to captivate and close.
Jayne Kopp 14 years ago
Hi Mark, I love using the analogy of the Ways of Billy Mays, it actually made me laugh when you said he could get us to buy products we didn't know we wanted. Wouldn't that be terrific to do that all day every day. :-) I think that if we could master even a couple of his skills we'd likely see a difference! Its really all about having just a thorough understanding of the psychology of people and the product you are pitching. Its great food for thought and your list is a great idea! Thanks Jayne Kopp
chris young 14 years ago
great tips for increase conversion rates. i like "Use a direct command to ask for the order "Order Right Now"", and "Have a strong money back guarantee" ideas in articles and posts specially.
Ryan 14 years ago
That seems so obvious in hindsight, but hard to realize: study the best salesman on TV and emulate their methods in your sales copy. This makes complete sense. Thanks Mark!
Dean Wong 14 years ago
This is a great post, to Honour Billy Mays. He was a true master at his game and you could not help but listen and watch him as he does his thing. I too think it is a good thing to "model" those persons who have mastered the thing we are trying to learn. Billy Mays was Master Salesman.

Thanks again Mark for sharing.
katemc dowell 14 years ago
Billy Mays was indeed a classic, a true icon. Even when you knew the product, knew you were being pitched, and knew you were not going to buy (you thought!)... you still watched!!

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Erich 13 years ago
Billy Mays was indeed the ultimate pitchman. He always had an "order now" call to action. This is one thing I always tell my clients to make that call to action. Ask and you shall receive
Note Taking Nerd #2 13 years ago
Hey Mark,

Billy Mays AND Rich Schefren are beasts when it comes to marketing.

I still remember this post and it's crazy because while I don't read all of Rich's posts, I find it impossible to avoid getting his products. There's very few marketing/business growth ninjas like Rich.

This check list is outstanding! Especially how they focus so hard on the proof. But what if you don't have Ginzu Blade proof? Then what?

Always remember that your customer doesn’t “want” your product – in fact, it’s an obstacle between them and the results they want.

People want the result, the outcome, their desire, their problem solved; not work.

In the instance of weight loss, people don’t want a book or a training or support – they want the weight off of their body.

Most "experts" think of their product as the grand solution and that it’s gonna help people solve their problems. What the prospect really see is one more thing that they probably won’t do that’s standing between them and what they want.

When you start embracing the reality that your product is an obstacle, this encourages you to create a much more valuable marketing. As well as a mindset that knows the importance of communicating the value of it differently so that it becomes valuable to others.

When you run your mouth and say “Buy my book. It’s the ultimate solution to your problem,” you’re communicating that you don’t get it. When you see your product as an obstacle, it forces you to connect their unmet need to your product and invest a lot more time creating marketing that focuses on how the product actually delivers results instead of just information.

You home in with your writing on how every chapter, every segment, every concept within it, is somehow tied back into delivering them from pain and into pleasure.

What If Your Customer Hired You?

If your customer hired you to be a research assistant, what would they assign you to “figure out” and then how would they want you to show it to them?

In fact, if your customer is buying your product, then they are essentially hiring you and paying you to figure out how to solve their problem – then to show them!

Experts believe that their knowledge is the solution to their prospects problem. But this isn’t the case. Out in reality, where your customer has to take your knowledge and implement it, it’s totally different for them.

What if you were hired as a detective to figure out how to get out of $10,000 worth of debt?

What would you do? Well, you probably wouldn’t start preaching at them. You might go and find out all the different methods there are for getting out of debt. You might come up with samples of them that you could show to the person that hired you. And as a good detective searching for clues, you might go find people who’d gotten out of debt and questioned them to find out how they did it. And then you’d come back and show all of this evidence to the person who hired you to solve their problem.

You can do this with this product, I hope.

Connect Everything To A NEED

When you go to the doctor, you usually go because you have a NEED – something is bothering you, and you want to fix it.

Your customers are no different. This is why you want to identify and connect every part of your product to a NEED.

This means you don’t include anything in the marketing of your product or your service or your training, that isn’t directly connected to some need that your prospect has. No shoulds. No stuff that you think they need to learn.

Most people don’t go to the doctor because they feel good and they want to feel great. If you want to create a product that sells itself, you’ve gotta make sure that when people go searching for it, that everything’s tied back to a need their experiencing at the moment.

For example: Someone in debt has certain credit cards. They have mail coming and people calling. They have a trashed credit score.

In our product, we wouldn’t talk about prevention. We wouldn’t talk about saving. We wouldn’t talk about budgets. All you’d focus on with this specific “Get out of debt” product is that, “Getting out of debt”.

So, you want to make a list of their needs, and then show them the solutions with examples and language that will help them to understand it. This is counter intuitive to how most people think they should create a product. Most experts think they need to tell people what they should know, based on their expert mindset.

When your product is mirror to their needs, they can see it as a teeny obstacle instead of a huge one. Think of it as looking at as looking at a 472 page ‘Personal Finance’ College Textbook vs. a “7 Step Solution to Eliminating $10,000.00 or Less of Debt”.

These are a couple ways to get around the snag of not having 8 jillion testimonials or Ginzu blade proof.
Markus Evele 13 years ago
This post is a timely reminder and i have transcribed the checklist also into a handy bullet point reference. (Adding to a growing folder of checklists!)
NoteTakingNerd's comments are very relevant and perceptive, with the bottom line of relating everything to solving people's needs absolutely spot on.
It is a basic tenet of professional sales training, as is the requirement to ASK FOR THE ORDER.
My personal view is that your prospect should be given multiple opportunities to buy, with the first being fairly early in the process. You never know at what point of the decision making process they are already at - so make it easy for them. This can be easily done without seeming to be too pushy.
new pda 2011 13 years ago
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Brian Wohlgemuth 13 years ago
Well being a professional I am dissatisfied about Billy Mays being on and being represented as someone who was a person to be admired and made into an icon. Since i am a professional and this is a "professional" community I will keep it that way.Very few of Mr Hays' products worked. He was effective at getting the public to buy his products he represented, however, he was an equivelant to what they called back in the old west days a "snake-salesman" or a "liar". products he represented did not work usually and unfortunately still today on the T.V you will see all kinds of people selling things that are either outright ineffective or they just barely work. Then you got give him one thing, if you bought one of the products he represented then you got suckered and Mr. Mays along with the inventor and marketing company ALL got rich.
muzamil syed 13 years ago
Hi Mark,

This is a very good post, you have mentioned great ways to create a great marketing strategy. Woogy might be right about product not being of any use...but if your product is good then you will get more sales.