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Sales Lessons from Bob Vila

By Mike McDaniel
Posted Saturday, January 29, 2005

There’s more to what he does than meets the eye

With so many different programs, and reruns and re-packaging of older programs, we can assume there are few people on the planet who do not know about Bob Vila. Starting with the original "This Ol’ House" programs on PBS in 1979, Bob Vila and his empire, have grown into a major force in the Home Improvement Television genre.

The professional salesperson can learn a whole lot more from Bob Vila than how to screet concrete or put mud on the drywall.

Bob Vila is a study in brand awareness. Bob is the brand. The challenge was getting people to recognize, and ultimately respect Bob Vila, as THE home improvement expert. Whatever he did before that first TV program is inconsequential as is whether or not he can saw a board of drive a nail (something he does verl little of on his show).

Bob Vila became a household name. Brand awareness to the highest degree. So high in fact that Sears asked him to be a spokesperson and that killed his deal with PBS (his first network gig). Now Bob has "Home Again with Bob Vila", "Bob Vila’s Guide to Historic Homes" and others plus specials, books and tapes and even "Bob Vila’s Home Design" series on two CD’s (handsomely packaged, of course). They are recycling the first PBS shows and calling them "This Ol’ House Classics". Bob is a TV pitchman, too. He sells credit card debt reduction and every product Sears can come up with, plus a closet full of books and videos.

This didn’t happen by accident, but by clever design. The design element continues today, every time you see him on the tube. How did he do it? Simple, all he did was tell all the people on TV to call him by name, over and over. A lot like subliminal advertising. You don’t realize you are getting the message. A typical segment of any of his programs, past or present, might go like this:

Bob: Today on our show, Fred Murtz is going to show us how to cut a board with a handsaw. Welcome to our show Fred.

Fred: Thanks, Bob, glad to be here.

Bob: You’ve been cutting boards for a long time

Fred: I sure have Bob. I got my first hand saw at age seven, from my grandpa. I brought several saws to show you, Bob.

Bob: Show us how to use that saw (pointing)

Fred: That is a crosscut saw, Bob. It is the mainstay in most basic construction. Bob, this is the easiest of all saws to use. You hold it like this, Bob. And when you begin the movement up and down, you put your index finger along the side here, can you see that, Bob? That’s how you cut straighter Bob, with that little finger pointing the way.

(and so on.) catching on? Everyone Bob talks with uses his name repeatedly. If you look at it apart from the program, you can see that people don’t really talk that way. Could all his guests be instructed to use his name in every sentence possible? Bob never uses their name after the introduction until the end bit when he thanks the guest, by name.

So who’s name do we hear, hundreds of times in a program? Bob Vila! It didn’t take long for him to be recognized as consummate hammer and nails guru. Better yet, he doesn’t do any of the work on his shows, he just gets people to use his name while they do it all.

How does this relate to sales you ask? Easy, you can use the Bob Vila approach on your customers. Use their name at every opportunity. Practice until you can use it in every third sentence. It will create an instant rapport. The more you can use the customer’s name, the more you can build trust and confidence with that person.

Think about the many times you have watched Bob on TV and not noticed how the guests use his name over and over. The majority of people don’t see it until someone (like me in this article) points it out. Most folks never see the hidden meaning there, or recognize the unusual sentence structure. You can use name-infected sentences in any conversation, to your advantage, every time. They work, beautifully. And they never offend ("Hey, Fred, would you mind not using my name so much, I’m sorta sensitive!").

The next time you talk with a customer, remember what Bob Vila did and you, too, can be the most respected person in your field.

For another article about business, get "Voice Mail Can Be Your Buddy"

About the Author
©2005 BIG Mike McDaniel All Rights Reserved BIG Mike is a Professional Speaker and Small Business Consultant with over 30 years experience, (

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