Anthony Sullivan, the master of transforming infomercials into famous household entertainment, has recently shared his talents with his local community in Florida. He has been partnering with DreamJobbing by giving high school students job shadow days at his studio. He has continued to give back and inspire local youth, and is now sharing his knowledge with the world in this new book, You Get What You Pitch For: Control Any Situation, Create Fierce Agreement, and Get What you Want In Life.
In this interview, Sullivan explains why pitching is necessary for people not just in sales, but for all of us. He describes how understanding a successful pitch can change your life. His enthusiasm, wit, and stories will inspire you to add these skills to your own repertoire. Anyone with big dreams must learn the art of the pitch.
1. Before we delve into the book, could you tell me about your background? Where did you grow up? What were your childhood dreams? How did you get started in this career?
I grew up in a small village in England and I always knew there was a life out there for me. I used to listen to the song “Big Time" by Peter Gabriel. I would sing those lyrics to myself and think I had to somehow make it to the big time. Don't get me wrong, I love where I come from, but I wanted to have my opportunity.
Throughout my whole life, I've had pitching with me. My dad told me that if I wanted to excel I would have to sell myself. I think I knew that to get ahead, you have to sell. I had a couple of jobs as a kid, I worked for my father, and I managed a bar. One day I was at a street market in England watching my friend's booth, and there was a guy opposite of me doing his pitch. I was completely mesmerized. This guy had this pitch and he would just do it over and over and over it again. It dawned on me that this guy had figured it out. I realized I had to ask him if I could work for him, I pitched him and that's where my journey began. I went very quickly from working this street market to the top venues in London. I would literally take a tape recorder and watch expert pitches' eye contact, their pauses, the way they would move on the stage, their arm movements, the timing; I started to realize they were masters of pitching. There was no doubt in my mind that the way forward was to pitch. My journey continued from a small town in England to London all the way to California. Pitching is what got me there.
In the late 80s, I saw my first infomercial. This was my aha- eureka moment. I knew this was my dream. I called all the TV programs in England and figured out everything was being made in Los Angeles. I sold all my stuff, bought a ticket, and landed in LA with nothing more than my big dream. It was tough-the thing about LA is that there are 12 million people all also chasing their own dream. I started out by selling out of the back of my van, traveling from state to state. I eventually gave the pitch of my life at HSN.
All I had been doing was selling mops. I convinced the network with my pitch that there was no one who knew how to sell mops like I did. My first appearance was on Halloween; I sold 5,000 mops in 22 minutes. That was the beginning of my TV career. All of the sudden, this dream I had worked so hard for started to take shape
2. What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
There were times that I just didn't know if my dream was going to work. A year into my visit into America, it was quite tough, I didn't have an apartment and was homeless living in motels and out of my car. The hardest part was not quitting. I'll never forget the days sleeping in the back of my van while it's boiling hot at the state fair. I had my mop and thought I just should give up. I was eating ramen noodles every night. But I had to remind myself, I was surviving, I was doing okay. I was making sales. I was making progress; just not at the rate I wanted. Those days were the hardest part, waking up in the morning and not giving in.
I was working for myself and making my own schedule. When you're on your own, you have to this tremendous self-belief, you have to wake up and say I'm going to do this. Everyone was telling me I was crazy. With all the people telling me I can't do it, you know not having the support system, you have to believe in yourself with everything you can. I had to have a reality check at least once a week.
(Anthony Sullivan & a High School DreamJobber from Florida)
3. Reflecting on your career, what has been your favorite part?
I love making a sale. I love turning a skeptical person around. You take a skeptic and turn them into a believer. You turn a skeptic into a customer. The challenge of turning someone who doesn't think they need something into a believer, it still gives me a rush.
4. Let's focus on your book. Can you tell me what the book is about and where the inspiration came from in writing it?
I felt that I had achieved an immeasurable amount of success by learning how to pitch. And I realized that there's not a solid book out there about the basic mechanics of pitching. It's not all about product; I used my pitch products to tilt the odds a little bit so they're in my favor. I use pitching in a crowded restaurant to get a table; I use pitching to make a case in a “full" parking lot. There are loads of opportunities in life where you don't have to take no for an answer. There's a way to ask for a pay raise and to ask for a job. There's a way to convince your kids to eat sushi for dinner instead of fast food. You can get what you want if you pitch it right.
I truly believe there isn't a situation you can't pitch you're way out of. I started to use my pitch powers in every day life. Not only is it fun, it's beneficial for business, school, and relationships. From the president to the person trying to get into college, you will be remembered if you come in with the great pitch. This book is about helping people create better lives for themselves.
5. Could you tell me why pitching is important and the most important skill needed to pitch successfully?
People have told me I'm enthusiastic. You have to have a genuine enthusiasm for what you're doing. If you really do believe in what you're selling and really do believe in yourself, there will be no stopping you. Practice and believe.
I talk about ten pitch powers in the book. The way you look, the way you sound, the way you walk into a room, the way you self deprecate and make fun of yourself, how you own a mistake, when you're going to go for a laugh. There's not one single skill, it's a combination of techniques.
6. You have spent a majority of your life selling products on television. What is your advice for our readers on focusing on products? What is your process and approach?
I personally have to have a passion for it. If I pick it up and I'm like this thing is awesome, I'm going to work with it. I'm not just going to sell you this thing; I'm going to blow away. I look for products that I love. My enthusiasm for this product is going to be so intense that you're going to be in awe. I tend to bring a lot back to me, about why I love it. I have to have a genuine level of connection to the product. There's normally an element of magic to them (OxiClean, Smart Mop) it required some finesse; it's a little bit of a magic show. I spin it around and can flip it over upside down. It's visually compelling matched with an authentic belief in the product.
7. Sales is an essential skill for entrepreneurs, and yet it's so hard to perfect. What is your advice on becoming an effective salesman? Why do you think its so challenging for people?
The upside is so high and the downside is so low. The fear of failure is overwhelming and it stops people. They let the fear stop them. A great example of this can be seen in relationships. People refuse to approach someone because they are terrified of rejection. Often times in sales it feels like an insurmountable feat, and the fear of failure stops people from giving it 100%.
With this book, I want to help readers develop excellent pitches that will work. Knowing that a no just means you're one step closer to a yes. In the book, pitching turns it into a fun experience. I give you the tools to work with. It blows my mind that pitching and sales isn't a mandatory class for all students. By turning this skill into something fun, it could change your approach to your daily life.
8. Regarding your book what are the greatest life lessons you can share with us that come from your career?
You can never get complacent and never underestimate the customer. Respect the process, respect the customer, and always be prepared to stand behind your product. Even if you made a mistake, you HAVE to stand by your product and offer a solution to the customer who is unhappy. Relationships are essential and do not try and shortcut anything. If a customer wants a refund, you have to give that customer a voice and make them happy. Sales have such a bad reputation for ripping people off. I want those who read the book to use their pitching powers for good.
9. What do you think is the most important thing young people should do as they follow their dream jobs? What would be your one piece of advice?
You need to learn how to connect with someone on a human level. One of my favorite things to see is kids selling lemonade on their streets. It's the perfect example of learning how to interact with customers face to face. Everything from how you hand the customer their change to how you greet them; that human interaction is something I would perfect. In this digital age, understanding the human interaction level will give anyone the advantage. I stop at every lemonade stand and the better the pitch, the better the tip. The more you understand about people and what they want, the more prepared you will be for any encounter on your journey to your dream job.
After speaking with Anthony Sullivan, it's clear that we could all benefit from learning how to pitch. For more information on his book, visit Amazon.com. The book will be released September 12, but is available for pre-sale at $12.