It’s been around for over 25 years, it’s the butt of many a spoof or joke… and it’s one of the most finely honed selling machines in existence.
What am I talking about? QVC, or course!
I know you’re probably wondering why in the world this Zebra Report would focus on QVC. Well, stay tuned – because I think QVC has a lot to teach us.
First, a little background about QVC, which stands for “Quality | Value | Convenience”. At its most basic level, everything about QVC’s message can be stripped down to one of these three issues … and while each host on QVC delivers the message a little differently, they’re all delivering a message about quality, value, and convenience.
QVC has been around since 1986, and is estimated to be the largest of the home shopping networks. The company claims to sell about 1,150 unique products per week. While they keep sales data pretty close to their chest, QVC did indicate that their record sales occurred on December 2nd of 2001 – when they took over $80 million in orders!
Broadcasting in five countries, QVC is estimated to reach over 200 million households. You can watch QVC 364 days a year (they take Christmas off!) on television; they also broadcast live at QVC.com, so even households without a television can find them online. About 96% of homes in America have access to QVC!
By anyone’s standards, the show is a huge success. But how has that happened?
In the same way that any business creates success – by arriving at a formula that works.
QVC has a finely calibrated sales process, based on a proven formula. Here’s the QVC formula – and it works brilliantly!
- A host acts as an emcee who manages the flow of the discussion with viewers (and with anyone else who is live on the segment). This person is responsible for building a relationship with consumers.
- An expert, or the creator or designer of the product, is often featured. Everyone loves an expert, and experts add credibility. Not only that, they can provide information beyond what an average host would be expected to know.
- Product discussions include data about the product, but extensive time is spent talking about the benefits of the product. Often this is tied to status enhancement or the wisdom of the purchase. Yes, the QVC hosts might talk about how many carats of jewelry are in a cocktail ring. But you’ll also hear them talk about how much better your life will be if only you can purchase the ring. “Imagine how envious your friends will be!” “Wouldn’t this look stunning on your hand?”
- Testimonials are provided by consumer peers. QVC uses their huge audience of viewers and purchasers to confirm the purchase decision. Viewers are asked to call in and share their experience – either with the product being sold, or with QVC in general. Hearing others validate a product lowers resistance to purchasing, and increases the odds that viewers will pick up the phone (or log in online) to make a purchase.
- Selling is both visual and auditory. You’ll never see hosts on QVC selling without having at least one – and often many versions – of the product available. Let’s imagine they’re selling purses. Their team is highly skilled at showing each and every compartment in the purse, showing you the pockets for sunglasses, the top-quality zipper, and discussing the strength of the shoulder straps. In fact, much of their air time is devoted to product shots, rather than focusing on the host and the guest.
- A sense of urgency is created for the viewer. Between a countdown clock showing how much time is left in the segment, and an inventory count showing rapid sales, QVC is a master at creating the feeling of, “Oh no – I had better hurry up and purchase… or else.”
- Proof of desirability – and reinforcement that you should “hop on the bandwagon” is shown with a count of remaining inventory. Not only does an inventory count show that your opportunities to get the deal are dwindling, it also reinforces the wisdom of the purchase. Viewers have proof that others have obviously seen the value of the product.
- “Warnings” are provided to show the consequence of waiting. Throughout the segment viewers are regularly reminded that they may miss out if they don’t take action.
- Hosts and guests connect with their audience. QVC works to provide a congenial atmosphere of camaraderie. Viewers are treated as old, treasured friends, and are talked about as part of the “QVC family”. Hosts and expert guests focus on how much they are like their viewers, facing the same challenges – and they talk about how viewers can experience the same benefits if only they could purchase the product.
- Hosts watch for cues, and adjust accordingly. Producers are watching QVC sales during segments, and are constantly relaying information to hosts. If the hosts says something and sales spike, producers prompt them to repeat the statement. If they don’t properly showcase merchandise, or forget to continue to a discussion that’s rich in benefits, the producers will continue to remind them to do so until sales trend up.
- The possibility of “missed opportunity” is repeated. It’s not simply mentioned once during the segment. In a number of ways – some overt, some not – QVC builds pressure and urgency to purchase right here, right now… before it’s “too late”.
- QVC “proves” value. Viewers are convinced that products are high quality, in scarce demand, and will enrich to their lives. That’s the trifecta for getting a consumer to say “yes”.
You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that QVC hosts train for many, many hours before they present products. They know that understanding their formula is critical to their success.
Of course, your business is not running a home shopping channel, but your business also requires a formula for success. Like the team at QVC, you have to rehearse the formula, perfect the formula, and stick to the formula (while watching for cues that you may need to make slight adjustments along the way). You can expect that if you vary from the formula, the level of your success will vary as well.
Please understand – I’m not suggesting you learn a series of robotic scripts that roll off your tongue. Scripts don’t work; systems and formulas do!
What is the formula in your business? Please share – I would love to hear what’s helping you build success!