“I’m a huckster.” Is that so bad?

A huckster? Never.

Architects have traditionally looked down on promoting their services like a huckster. Especially in (shudder) advertising. As a result, they have hidden their light under a bushel, failed to be discovered and suffered economically. Some continue resisting promotion to this day.

I was reminded of this yesterday when Ari Melber, MSNBC commentator, interviewed James Carville, the noted political consultant credited with a major role in the election of Pres. Bill Clinton. “With tremendous popular support for his Build Back Better Program,” he asked, “why is Pres. Biden having so much trouble winning enough votes to pass it?” The answer lay in Carville’s modest self-description, using an old-fashioned term for a door-to-door salesman or an ad man who supported such campaigns and provided the promotional media.

Photo: Office of James Carville, political consultant
“I’m a huckster,” says James Carville, Political Consultant.
Photo: Office of James Carville (Wikipedia)

“I am a huckster,” he said. “My mother was a successful door-to-door salesperson for the World Book encyclopedia.” She used to take him along on her calls, where he watched her frame the issue, set up the question and close the sale with her irrefutable arguments. “She called the encyclopedias ‘educational materials,’ a more positive phrase for the item she was selling.

Legislators resist being hucksters

“The answer is simple,” Carville explained in his down-home style. “Very few people know what’s in Biden’s program.” All the hype and elegant arguments in Congress about the widely varying price tag on the bill are beside the point. These legislators feel, he said, that to go to directly their constituents and ask for the vote like a huckster would be beneath them.

He remembered one call in which his mother was meeting stiff resistance to her sales pitch. Her husband wandered over to the door and added his objections to his wife’s spending the money. His mother had commented as they approached the house on the large fishing boat sitting in the driveway. She said, “Well, sir, you seem to have no problem buying a fine bass boat. Why would you object to providing your children with the best educational materials?” With this crushing blow she closed the sale.

Architects: Be a huckster for success

I learned many secrets of success as an architect.Those annoying college classmates who were always promoting themselves and trying to get in the door to meet important people were smarter than I thought. They would someday be our employers, while the rest of us struggled daily to perfect and complete our designs. I realized the necessity to become a huckster and began seeking the next job while I worked to finish the present one.

My efforts began to pay off. First I attended seminars on how to find and win new business. They were taught by Dr. Stuart Rose, who pioneered the architectural marketing industry by teaching these skills to architects. In these sessions, I learned that my competitors were not the enemy. They were fellow professionals who could help me succeed, had knowledge of marketing skills and could collaborate with my firm to make strong, winning teams. They made our profession stronger by improving our common image and abilities. I reveal some of these secrets in my new book, Becoming an Architect: My Voyage of Discovery,

No shame in self-promotion

In concluding this television interview Carville said, “I would pit the skills of a door-to-door pot and pan huckster against the best political strategist any day.”

There is no shame in being a huckster, promoting our wonderful architectural talents to the world. In my second career as q writer, I found that many of them also disparaged promotion of their books as part of their job. To succeed, we must do it more.

Until next time, good words to you,

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