The Recruitment Underground Blog

Career Skills, Training and Transitions

But Wait There’s More! or What I Learned From Billy Mays

Posted by jamesseetoo on July 2, 2009

Well I watched the season finale of Pitchmen last night and as those who’ve been following my blog know I’ve mentioned Billy Mays a few times. And while it’s all been in good fun, I really learned a lot from Billy and so can you.

I think there’s really something to be said for the 6 Degrees of Separation theory  because a little over a year ago I was recruiting someone who had been the Marketing Director for Oxi Clean (which I think is two words but I’m still not sure even after looking at the package a few times) and I had to ask him, what’s the story with Billy Mays?  I mean, here’s someone who shouts at you on TV, how does that help you sell anything?

He thought about it for a minute and said, “You know what, I don’t know.  But half the people love him and half the people hate him. They all remember him.”

Think about it for a minute, half the people love him, half hate him, they all remember him and I would bet that if you’re inclined to buy Oxi Clean, love him or hate him you’ll buy it.  But even if you’re on the fence, you’ll remember him and Oxi Clean and you might just try some.

Now from the show, it seems that even if you didn’t like his shouting or as Billy said, “projecting and using my hands”, you might find him annoying but there’s never the feeling that he’s trying to cheat you.  He seemed to be genuinely enthusiastic about his products.

And more than selling products, he sold himself.  The people who liked him came to trust him and bought the products he pitched which realistically did exactly the same thing as a bunch of other products out there.  But the fact that he was the one pitching them made them stand out.

I’m sure he would have loved to have everyone love him, that’s natural.  But did that matter for what he did?  No.

In fact, it’s phenomenal that half the people who came across him liked him to begin with. So he did his thing and in essence, catered to the half of the people who liked him.  I’m sure he got a lot of mail telling him to tone it down but would these be the people buying from him to begin with?

So what does that mean for you?

Well, I have a question and please be honest with yourself.  Is it important that everyone likes you?

Please don’t confuse the question with, “Do you want everyone to like you?” That answer is, of course I do.  If not, then that’s a whole other conversation.

But is it important?  And do you change the way you do things to accommodate people who will not buy from you in the first place?

I’m not saying go out there and antagonize people – that’s not a way to success.  But if you’ve never had someone push back on you because of an idea you’ve put forward or an initiative you’ve wanted to try then I would suggest that you haven’t done anything of note in your career, even if you run your own business.

If you want to be seen as a leader in what you do you have to be willing to stand up to criticism and try to make your vision happen.  And if it doesn’t, then maybe you were wrong to begin with but at least you tried.

It’s all about how you handled that opposition and overcame it, tried and failed, learned from it and preserved your relationships with those who opposed you that distinguish you from all the other people in the resume pile.

So Here’s How to Order (Known as a Call to Action)

Yes, you should care if people like you but remember, not everyone will.  Make sure that your key stakeholders (boss, peer, interviewers etc.) like you and be yourself.  If they don’t like you, look to the other half of people and companies who will.  You can’t be everything to everyone but you can be yourself and people respect that.

In other words:

If you haven’t pissed someone off, you’ve been playing it safe and that’s no way to stand out in a crowd.

So Rest In Peace Billy and my condolences to the Mays family and friends.  Billy was a person who really understood, you’re always selling.


Your Skills Are Your Job Security

Have a great 4th of July!




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2 Responses to “But Wait There’s More! or What I Learned From Billy Mays”

  1. Excellent post James! This one really hits the nail on the proverbial head. Thanks so much.

  2. Ani said

    Awesome post with great suggestions!

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