“We vacuum salesmen are rarely welcomed so warmly, “David Oreck says, smiling in response to the loud “Howdy!” that filled the room he shared with expectant MBA students in October.

Oreck is the face of a personalized selling philosophy that has made his lightweight vacuum a household name since 1963. That he still calls himself a simple salesman is evidence of his strategy in business and in life.

You’ve seen him on commercials and late-night TV infomercials, bright red bowling ball suspended above his head and held aloft only by the suction power of his 8-pound Oreck XL. You’ve probably locked eyes with the gracefully aging man as he explained the Oreck challenge that gives you a guaranteed out if you don’t love his vacuum cleaner.

“There is such a namelessness and facelessness in business,” Oreck said. “You have to look at a TV ad like you’re talking to one person, eyeball to eyeball. Everybody makes claims, but who do you believe? You’ve got to give them that person to believe in.”

In what Oreck told Mays MBA students is the “age of the marketer,” he warned students that the strength of their marketing is the strength of their product. Holding aloft on one arm a Timex that tells time just as well as his snazzier Rolex, Oreck — the 2003 American Marketing Association’s Marketer of the Year — told students they must never forget that brand, quality and customer loyalty are the only items that set products apart.

His premium yet lightweight vacuum models, first introduced in hotels, gained a niche despite expert warning that they weren’t heavy enough to clean properly. It turns out consumers wanted to take the hard work out of housework, he said.

“As you sit here rip-roaring to go, filled with energy, I’ll tell you as a business man to keep the fundamental things in mind,” he said. “You have to offer the customer a benefit, a reason to buy. And mind you, friendliness still goes a long way.”