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Anthony “Sully” Sulivan is noted as a “Pitchman Extraordinaire,” but the British pitch-master is more than a standard pitchman as his passion, intelligence and upbeat attitude shine through each and every one of his products. Starting off at a young age, Sully has taken his knowledge and expertise of pitching products and has created a learning tool to educate others.
From OxiClean, the Edge of Glory and Sticky Buddy, ‘but wait there’s more!’ Sullivan also works behind the scenes through his company Sullivan Productions which features some of the most recognizable products on DRTV industry . TheCelebrityCafe.com’s Sarah Douglas had the opportunity to talk to Sully about his work, pitching and his iconic stamp on America.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Sully you are described as a “Pitchman Extraordinaire” — when did you realize your talent for pitching great products?
Anthony ‘Sully’ Sullivan: The very first time I threw my first pitch I was about 20 years old and I knew immediately -- I just picked up a product car washing device called a “The Amazing Wash Magik” and I was a nervous wreck. I was shaking like a leaf, but I managed to get through the first pitch because I learned the lines, like an actor would learn lines, and I sold something. That person gave me £10 and right then and there I thought ‘I can do this.’ So in seven minutes I made £10, so $20 in seven minutes, so I did the math and figured this is a pretty good hourly rate! It was the first time I knew, it was something that I was good at -- it came very naturally.
TCC: How do you come up with the perfect pitch?
AS: When I was young I used to take a tape recorder out and go around the street markets and I would actually record people, I would go over and write them down and I would learn them. So I kept track using other people’s pitches and over time people would give me products and they would say, ‘Hey you have to come up with a pitch for this.’
It actually takes me quite a while. I find it harder when someone just hands me a product and says ‘pitch this’ and some think it’s easy. But I do spend a lot of time working on a pitch, so it can take me sometimes two to three months to come up with what I think is the beginnings of a good pitch, and I can hone it over a six-month period, and by the end of about a year it becomes something that can be taken and passed along. It becomes something like lyrics to a song, if that makes any sense.
You have these little one liners, I have this steam product called the X5 five-in-one Steamer and, “Get off your hands and knees and clean with steam at 200 degrees. It cleans, it helps sanitize and it deodorizes.”
Things tend to come in threes. I use a lot of alliteration and you want it to be authentic so it’s like you’re telling a story in a really enthusiastic way. That’s sort of how I weave a pitch together.
TCC: What does a product have to have for you to stand behind it?
AS: First it has to work, it has to be a good product that works. It has to represent good value, it has to have people say “Okay that looks like it works.” It has to have a “wow” factor, like something that people will look at twice, [that] makes them want to stop and say “Hey how does that work?” You’ll find a lot of products that are pitched have that.
Take OxiClean for example -- there’s a great power in the OxiClean bit where we pour a scoop of OxiClean into a big vat of black murky water and it just sort of turns white right before your eyes. It’s kind of a little bit of magic, it makes people stop in their tracks. So each product has that and they have to have a little bit of fun. I think for me you have to be able to throw a little bit of humor in to the pitch and I think once you start to make people laugh, laughter is just a universal language, so I like something that you can tell a couple jokes about. It also has to be something that solves an everyday problem.
Take a dull knife for example, nobody wants to use a dull knife, so we took the Edge of Glory — a knife sharpener — and we solve a common problem for $10 and the Wow demo is we use a credit card [and make it] into a knife. I know it sounds silly, but we actually … cut a tomato with a credit card, which is a really unusual thing to do. So its fun products that solve common problems, are a great value and have a “wow” factor. It works.
TCC: You were the executive producer of PitchMen in addition to starring in it, any future plans to get behind the scenes?
AS: I am actually behind the scenes a lot. I just produced a commercial with my kid brother. There are a lot of things I do actually, I’m not always in front of the camera. I enjoy the actual process of filming TV commercials and coming up with demonstrations and figuring out the best way to film them. So PitchMen: Billy Mays was one of my closest friends and a great pitchman, the two of us would feed off of each other and being an executive producer of PitchMen was great. It was a pitch in itself getting it on [the] Discovery channel, and yes, we have more plans to film more reality star television, but [I’m] taking a little break right now and sticking to what I am good at which is pitching in front of the camera.
TCC: Having started in the industry at such a young age, how have your opinions about products developed over the years?
AS: The old classics always seem to sell, like the vegetable slicer. If it chips, it chops, it slices, it dices, if it washes your laundry, cleans your car, you know the old classic products always seem to sell. But, it’s actually gotten harder to find new products to sell. I think the Internet has sort of made it more difficult to find products because everything is available over time. There is just more out there. There’s just more of everything. To find a diamond in the rough now we have to look even harder. The way to test it, what we do, we still go out on the street to a home show or a fair and we sell it to see if it actually sells to people in person. We found that doing Internet marketing research doesn’t really work for us, so we will still use the old-fashioned techniques of taking a box of whatever it is, set it down, set up a table and start pitching it and see if you can sell it to people. So it’s still very much the ‘art of the pitch’ is still very old- fashioned.
TCC: You’ve pitched a lot of products -- any favorites?
AS: OxiClean, Swivel Sweeper and I even love the product I first sold, the original Wash Magik is always one of my all-time favorites because it’s what got me into the business. One of my favorite products right now is the new steamer, the X5 five-in-one steamer, which is great, and then Sticky Buddy was a fun one last year. the reusable lint roller has been a lot of fun too.
TCC: You offer a helpful list to those who may also want to start pitching. What do you think is the MOST important thing to remember when pitching a product?
AS: You have to have energy and you can’t give up. It doesn’t always work the first time. You have to have energy, enthusiasm, be authentic, be sure to study — learn the marketplace and don’t be afraid to get out there and sell. I think some people are very afraid.
This is sort of strange, but I’m going to tell you, when you go to a market or home show, there are a lot of people selling things. They wait for people to come up and ask them questions, if you’re a pitch-person you’ll say “Come over here, look at this” and you’ll invite people to come over to your stand and some people are afraid of that. They’re afraid to just say “hey come over and check this out” and that’s the difference between selling and pitching. You have to get out there and do that little extra. Get a crowd together, you take a breath and before you know it you start talking to one person and then two, then four and then eight and then you’re pitching to a crowd, so rather selling one-on-one, you’re selling one-on-fifty. You have to have the courage to get out there and get that crowd. It takes hard work, tenacity, but if you’ve got the gift of the gab you can make a lot of money.