Sunday morning TV is pretty much restricted to political talking heads, church and infomercials. Spinning around the dial I’ve casually settled onto a blender or vacuum commercial more than once. After a minute I’ll figure out what happened and realize that I’m being a willing viewer of a commercial for a product that I never thought I needed. What’s that all about?
I think it’s less what the product is and more who’s telling me about it. When Billy Mays was still alive, I truly admired the guy. He seemed to bring a lot to the table for these products and he wasn’t the only one. He teamed up with Anthony “Sully” Sullivan, another pitch-pro, to create the Discovery show, Pitchmen. They took being a salesman and turned it into a series, and that’s pretty wild. They were more than simple salesmen, though. They had a number of qualities that I think would carry over amazingly into a training session.
Pitchmen and women are charismatic people. They smile, look directly at you, and are well spoken. As trainers we need to be friendly and likable people, otherwise you’re fighting an uphill battle with the learners.
I’ve never seen a pitchman who wasn’t confident and there are a couple reasons for that. They have a lot of experience with the products that they are peddling, or at least enough to go through the motions for the cameras. They are not saying anything that they are not comfortable with and neither should trainers. If you have to present something, get to the know material front and back. Try and learn information below the surface if you have time. They are also in a controlled environment when they demonstrate the amazing and time saving features of a new dish soap. When in a training session who controls the environment? It’s controlled by the learners but guided by the trainer. Maybe it’s the other way around, but either way, you know the knowledge and skill base of the learners that are coming in and you know the end game of the session. You should anticipate most of the challenges in your session like equipment failures, have all materials required, run through it ahead of time. I did a podcast on confidence a while back, check it out.
I’d also say that they are some of the most enthusiastic people you’ve ever seen. Isn’t that refreshing? We currently live in a society where everyone is trying to be clever and ironic and it’s not cool to get excited about anything. Drives me nuts. But here we have a set of people that are bringing a terrific amount of enthusiasm to their role and it’s through that enthusiasm that they convey their conviction and belief in a product. Granted, that conviction may be for sale in this particular instance, but have you ever watched an infomercial and thought, “well, this seems like an average product that is’t special at all”? I didn’t think so. What about what we bring to the training room? Don’t we believe in the value of what we bring? Pitchmen labor the value of their products to the end user and we should do the same. As a brief note, back to Sunday morning television, have you every seen a preacher deliver a sermon with conviction, charisma and enthusiasm? Yep, I’ll stick around for a few minutes on that, too.
Next time you’re spinning around the dial and see someone pitching a new product that cooks a whole chicken in 23 minutes, stick around for a minute and see if there’s anything you can use in your next session.