The ‘hard sell” died on TV many years ago. At least it was supposed to have died. There are still hosts and vendors who use hard sell tactics. Most of these are on what I call the “Dinosaur Channels,” the smaller satellite-only shopping channels that still play games with the prices and literally threaten imminent sellout of every product.

However, there are also some on the two largest shopping channels, QVC and HSN. Easy to spot these people. Most still address the audience as “ladies and gentlemen.” In any type of TV or radio broadcasting, you are always supposed to be speaking to one person. The minute you address the crowd and not the individual, you lose any intimacy. I have asked a few of these hosts about the tactic and they told me they did it because they wanted to. Hello, Eric Cartman of South Park.

Recently, the Talent Manager of HSN sent a rather nasty email to many of their vendors, chastising them for all manner of hard sell infractions. While his intentions were good, we all know where the road to good intentions leads. The bottom line is that he pissed off a lot of vendors, resulting in a quick email apology from HSN’s President.

First of all, this “Talent Manager” is, in my opinion, a very inexperienced people manager, at least when it comes to TV Shopping Hosts. Apparently, he sent the memo out without using BCC, so all the vendors could see who else he was “yelling at.” HSN’s President was right to issue an apology. There’s a way to get people to do something for you and lots of ways to piss them off and make them your enemy. The Talent Manager chose one of the latter ways.

If you want to read the emails from the Talent Manager, a pissed off vendor and the HSN President, check out the excellent blog on TV Shopping, Linda Moss, The Homeshoppingista right here on WordPress. Here’s the URL.

I was faced with the hard sell problem at Shop-at-Home. Before Scripps bought them, the hosts and guests were allowed to run free. On my first day as Vice President of Talent and Programming, I heard one host and guest say, “This is gonna sell out,” 18 times in 3 minutes. I was so shocked at the hard sell, I timed it.

Getting them to create relationships with the customers was like pulling teeth without anesthesia. I never sent out a memo like this, opting for private meetings and personal, positive memos. It is a testimonial to my easy-going nature that I didn’t punch several of them square in the nose. They had been doing it “their way” for so long that my idea of doing it in a friendlier manner was like asking President Trump to stop tweeting.

I never called out the group or publicly humiliated them like this guy did. I was still viewed as the corporate ogre who was out to destroy them. It took over a year of gentle persuasion to get them halfway home. We had a “Coin Day,” where I had the top sales of the day by not allowing the vendor to “threaten” the customers that every item was going to sell out and they were throwing their future financial security away (he really did this). That event helped many of the hosts and guests to calm down.

I almost want to go back to the business I helped to create, along with many talented people, and train the hosts and guests at HSN. I surely wouldn’t send out any memos like this one. Customers need to feel like they’re special. It’s not that difficult to do. The hosts and guests must feel like valued team members, which they are. This does not bode well for HSN’s future since they were recently bought by rival QVC. Staff consolidations are already taking place.

At Shop-at-Home, making hosts and guests feel like they were a team was the crucial element. Like most things, it’s a process and takes time. I know several folks at HSN. They’re really good people and I hope they can emerge from this. Getting rid of the current Talent Manager would probably go a long way toward accomplishing this. Going to take a lot of back peddling and hand holding to make this right with the hosts and the vendors.

Recently, one of HSN’s top vendors actually lowered the price of item during a presentation, shades of 1986! Instead of issuing a memo to all hosts and vendors, breaches of trust like this need to be dealt with personally with the vendor. I understand this vendor is on the corporate board so it would be difficult, but not impossible. Fix the obvious leaks immediately and take effective steps to right the ship, to use nautical metaphors.

Epilogue: If you want to see coins sold properly, watch Don Davis do the coin shows on AVC. Don is a long time (but still young) professional in the DRTV business. He gets it.

I’m sure HSN is taking measures to make sure this never happens again. I wish them the best!

© 2018 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and posted on any online site or read aloud on any audio or video media without the express permission of the author.

TV Shopping Host and Coach, Musician, Author, Teacher.

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