Link to Investor Daily Article published with permission from Scott Smith:
Bookmark the original and meet this SUPER STAR at CEOSPACE live. Bob seeks to put your products on TV where it fits and does so our members so fast and is so effective – what a short cut…now this and think..who do YOU know – who needs to have their product on TV ….???
Bob Circosta Invented Home Shopping By Helping, Not ‘Selling’
Businessman and consultant Bob Circosta pioneered home shopping and found success in discovering novel products. (St Petersburg Times/Zuma Press/Newscom)
- SCOTT S. SMITHCEO SPACE FACULTY AND AUTHOR INVESTOR DAILY
After five years of hosting America’s first shopping channel on a Clearwater, Fla., radio station, Bob Circosta was expecting hundreds of calls to pour in when the program went national on July 1, 1985.
He and Bud Paxson, the station owner, had started selling products on the air directly to the audience in 1977 and expanded to local cable TV. They called it the Home Shopping Club and eventually were taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars daily. Paxson lined up stations across the country for the big rollout.
Circosta kicked things off by announcing that any viewer who called in within the next three minutes would receive a free serpentine neck chain. An auditorium of operators stood by to take the calls, but not one phone rang. He quickly showcased some deeply discounted items and repeated the offer. Five hours later, they had $352 in sales.
“We tried to be like professional news anchors instead of our original approach of just helping our neighbors get great prices on valuable products,” Circostatold IBD. “We returned to our folksy ways, building rapport and explaining why each product could change their lives. Within three months we had reached $1 million in sales a day. The lesson was that the best way to sell is not to sell.”
Circosta, who has made 100,000 presentations and sold $6 billion in merchandise, still pitches on what is now the Home Shopping Network (part of the QVC Group(QVCA)), mentors entrepreneurs on “HSN American Dreams,” and hosts “What a Great Idea with Bob and Chad” with Chad Allen on a Canadian shopping channel.
Circosta, 68, grew up in Shadyside, Ohio. His father owned a bowling alley and entertainment center, and his mom managed a loving home in a supportive community. He attended Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, in the tumultuous years of anti-war protests of 1968-72, earning a degree in telecommunications. His original notion was that he would become a TV anchor delivering breaking news, but he loved interacting with people, so he headed out to Los Angeles to pursue his dream and ended up working in a men’s clothing store. There, he discovered that he hated selling.
Birth Of The Home Shopping Network
A call from his dad changed his life. His father invited him to come live with him in a town house near Clearwater. On arrival, Circosta found a job as a talk-show host for a tiny radio station. One day Paxson came in with a box of 112 avocado-green electric can openers, which he had accepted to settle an overdue ad bill. He announced they would try to sell these on the air for a bargain price of $9.95, if listeners would come by and pick them up.
Circosta resisted being forced back into what he hated, but by the end of the day they had sold all of them. Other merchandise was quickly offered, and they formed the International Suncoast Bargaineers Club. Members bought certificates they could redeem at stores and restaurants, which brought in new customers.
“For the next five years, we were making it up as we went, learning to sell by describing things to a radio audience in a way that became real to them, learning what would later be called relationship marketing,” Circosta said. In 1982, they bought time on a new Clearwater cable channel and soon stopped the radio simulcast, selling on TV in six-hour shifts, sometimes seven days a week.
One thing that sold well, which surprised even Circosta: the AM-FM Radio Telephone Toilet Paper Dispenser (remember, this was in the era before cellphones); 7,000 were sold in the first 10 minutes. Others he thought were great values, like the microwave cleaning solution in a tub, bombed. His longest-running winner is a water filter that only has to be replaced every 25 years, and in various versions has sold in the millions.
“What HSN did was combine two favorite American activities: shopping and watching television,” Circosta said. “These worked well with the rise of e-commerce because it gave people another option if they didn’t want to wait on the phone or go out to crowded malls. Now they can also just punch in the product number while they’re on the phone to place an order. They buy with confidence because they trust the host’s description of product benefits, they can ask questions of the operators, they know everything is very carefully screened for quality before it is offered, and they can read the online reviews.”
Many traits and practices separate the ordinary salesperson from the extraordinary. Circosta’s tips: Research customers deeply, treat the pitch as if it’s being made to only one individual, be authentic in stating the case for buying, make a succinct summary of the value proposition, and learn the presentation so that it doesn’t sound like a canned script.
There are many other aspects of becoming a master salesman, from overcoming nervousness and starting with a “grabber” statement to using variations of “power words” like new, guaranteed and fast.
In “Life’s A Pitch:Understanding the Secrets to Selling from Television’s Billion Dollar Man,” Circosta explains that too many efforts to sell fail to communicate the full value of the product or service. This starts with not thinking about how the features will benefit the customer from the customer’s standpoint.
It seems obvious, but most sales presentations analyze the details too superficially and don’t explain the benefits in a way that has an emotional meaning for the customer that will cause her to buy, he says. What product descriptions need is his WSGAT formula, pronounced “wizgat,” which stands for “What’s So Good About That?”
He gives an example of a 16-inch diamond-cut rope necklace made out of 18-karat gold with a lobster-claw clasp. As he drills into the details, the customer discovers that the length is important because of the way it lays on the skin and can be worn with a pendant that will be seen above the collar. The gold will not tarnish and is a good investment. The clasp is easy to open and close without assistance and very secure.
The customer now realizes this is something she needs, because it would work well with several outfits that make her feel good.
Aside from sales training, Circosta does general business and brand consulting and has worked with many celebrities over the decades, including Bob Hope, Ed McMahon, Suzanne Somers, Jillian Barberie and Patti LaBelle. He’s on HSN with his own products a few times a month, a couple of times a week with entrepreneurs he’s discovered traveling the country for “HSN American Dreams,” and does the live show in Canada once a month. Helping him are his three children from his first marriage: Mike, Chris and Angela.
“I’m excited every day I get up and think about all the possibilities,” Circosta said.
“Bob is the man who has most changed TV in our lifetime, creating a global industry,” said Berny Dohrmann, chairman of the entrepreneur network CEO Space International, at whose boot camps Circosta has taught since 1991.
“When the CEO of HSN gave him the first lifetime achievement award in 2012, everyone there from the cable networks and broadcasters gave him a standing ovation. Bob told them ‘This is just the beginning,’ and direct-to-consumer retailing is now a $350-billion-a-year worldwide marketplace. But more importantly, he is humble, has absolute integrity and has never been especially interested in the money; he just wants to help people.”
Nevertheless, he’s worth $400 million, according to CelebrityNetWorth.com, all from trying not to sell.
Legendary host of the Home Shopping Network
Overcame: No model for how to sell merchandise on radio
Lesson: The best way to sell is to just try to clearly explain the full benefits of a product from a customer’s viewpoint.
Meet Bob Live at CEOSPACE events in Tampa Bay home of HOME SHOPPING worldwide….and home to BOB CIRCOSTA ….serving you is bob’s joy today.
Note to Self – When My Hero Merlone media futurist and leader bought both QVC & HOME SHOPPING and magnified their viewers by millions I said to self – BUY THIS STOCK into 2020 and beyond. Note to self.