HUCKSTERS ARE GOOD TEACHERS

Whenever I visit the State Fair or any kind of exposition such as the Flower and Patio Show, I always gravitate to the booths where the people we once knew as hucksters are giving demonstrations. I genuinely enjoy their sales pitches, and they provide some excellent reminders for my professional life.

What does someone selling a set of pots and pans, eyeglass cleaner, or a high-horsepower blender have to offer to a copywriter? Plenty.

When you pass by the booth, you don’t need what they’re selling. You probably didn’t choose to go to the Fair or other event to buy a set of pots and pans. Yet they manage to pique your attention and draw you in. Once they have your attention, they keep you captivated by delivered an interesting and highly practical sales pitch that’s applicable to your life.

They draw you into the pitch by asking questions. “Does this ever happen to you?” You’re hooked. “You get home late from work and need to make dinner, and suddenly you find out that a couple of friends are stopping by?” Yes, I can appreciate that. Your curiosity — whether it’s genuine or simply morbid — draws you in. By the time they’re ready to make the actual pitch, you’re convinced that the product was created just for you.

The best huckster I’ve ever seen appeared at the Housewares Show in Chicago during the 1980s. As I was wandering through a back corner of the show, I heard a very familiar voice talking about a product. I don’t remember the product, but I knew that voice well. As I rounded the corner, there was the one and only Ron Popeil demonstrating the product du jour. And had he been taking retail sales, I would have been a buyer.

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