I love watching infomercials because I find it fascinating how these modern pitch vehicles can make normal, everyday products like kitchen knives, blenders and vacuums seem like the solution to world peace. I also love seeing how carefully orchestrated dialogue, animations, and quirky demonstrations come together in blissful simplicity to build a compelling business case (or at least a perceived case) in just a few minutes.
As a sales professional though, what I especially love about infomercials is their massive conversion power! The way they almost magically overcome a buyer’s inertial resistance (i.e. propensity to sit there and do nothing) and move them to buy. One minute it’s 2 am and you’re lying in bed, watching an infomercial, about to fall asleep; the next minute a Magic Bullet is being express-shipped to your door! While often captivating, repetitive, and a bit schlocky, there’s a lot that any sales professional can learn from infomercials about pitching a product.
Regardless of what product is being pitched, the messaging approach itself is often formulaic. A story. Something human beings are conditioned to listen to and follow. How we passed our history and traditions from generation to generation for hundreds of years. And in the case of infomercials, that story leads the viewer through a series of simple, easily agreeable arguments that culminate in a solution-centric call to action.
Before we dive into examples, let’s first look at a simple, four-step codified breakdown for a typical infomercial pitch:
- Here’s a problem with what you’re doing today (or what I call “cutting” the customer)
- Here’s the ideal solution to that problem
- Here’s what makes the solution difficult or less desirable
- Here’s how our product makes it easier (or our beliefs and conviction around solving that problem)
For example, the breakdown of juicer infomercial might look like this:
- Eating too many processed foods is destroying your health
- The solution is to eat more fresh fruits and juices
- The problem with typical juicers is that they’re too large, time-consuming to use, expensive, hard to clean, etc.
- Our awesome, compact, easy-to-clean, and affordable juice machine is what you need!
Or how about home workout DVDs or fitness equipment:
- If you’re like most people, you want to lose weight and get in better shape, right?
- The solution is going to the gym 5-times a week and working out
- The problem is that you don’t have time to go and gym memberships are expensive
- What you need is our awesome, cost-effective, home workout DVD/machine.
From a classical sales perspective, this pitch formula is so effective because at each stage, your audience is taking small, incremental steps towards your solution. These steps are rooted in both universal truths and emotion — nothing jarring, no big leaps of faith required. More specifically, the infomercial code would break down like this:
- Illustrating the pain (sometimes latent or hidden pain) associated with your current state (i.e. universal pains that are easy to internalize)
- Outlining an aspirational/desired future state and the path to get there ( in many cases, one the audience is already aware of and agrees with)
- Highlighting the risk or uncertainty associated with that path (i.e. framing the need for a better solution)
- Suggesting a simpler, alternative solution to mitigate or circumvent that risk (i.e. your product)
OK, so jumping back into the world of technology, using this formula to pitch, say, a mobile productivity app to a sales leader might look something like this:
- Your sales team is losing business because they don’t have the key customer/product information they need when they’re selling on the road
- The solution is getting them mobile access to your back-office database so they can access key data from anywhere
- The problem is that creating a custom app and connecting it to your back-office is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive
- The good news is that we have an amazing mobile connector framework that allows a non-technical business user to do the same thing in a fraction of the time.
Now give it a try with your product!
Using the infomercial approach makes it easier for your customers and prospects to understand what you do and the specific value you add — which ultimately convinces them to buy. On top of that, using the infomercial pitch structure will help your sales team ramp up faster, internalize your value proposition, and even articulate it without slides or demos.
So the next time you find yourself lying awake in bed at 2AM, struggling to put together your sales pitch, simply turn on your TV and tune in to the secret formula you’ve been looking for.
Here’s a helpful video outlining the infomercial formula concept.