Trust-based Selling in the Real World: Bruce Abbott

Judy and I were in San Francisco a few months ago and ducked into a shop in Ghirardelli Square full of gorgeous wood carvings—One of a Kind. I’d been there before; beautifully turned bowls, unique tables—if you love wood, you’d love this store.

We noticed a unique sculpture—a Balinese statue of a woman, 5 feet tall, nearly Giacommetti-thin, carved from a single piece of wood. We quickly realized it was the piece we’d been looking for to fill an important empty corner at home.

The price was surprisingly reasonable. We bought it.

Bruce Abbott, the proprietor, took complete responsibility for the packaging and shipping, saying he’d personally supervise the packing, advising us on insurance, etc. Incredibly busy, he nonetheless managed to serve us impeccably and with great conversation (ask him about Bill Clinton asking to use the bathroom on a recent visit.)

The piece looks great at home. And I sent Bruce a note complimenting him on running a good set of business processes and an obviously successful business. Here’s his response (excerpted):

"People rarely appreciate all the details and "process" involved in a business like this, which starts at the "roots" and gets refined into pieces such as the one you received. I spend time in the woods selecting woods for my production and take care of pretty much everything else. I have help in my own production in the shop and also buy from several others, several of whom receive the wood they need from me.

"The store, at the moment, is full and very beautiful. I no longer worry so much about the cash flow but just try to produce and keep the store at higher and higher levels of fine woodworking and yet affordable. We have many things under $30, $20 and under $10.00, all of which are still cool pieces. I just make it difficult for people to walk in and not find something they’d like to have even if they cannot buy at the moment."

“I just make it difficult for people to walk in and not find something they’d like to have even if they cannot buy at the moment.”

Think about that as a trust-based philosophy of doing business. He’s saying:

• I’ll carry inventory that’s not likely to sell just now
• I don’t sell, I just make it easy to buy
• I focus on customer needs, not cash flow
• I’m building a store for your next visit, and the one after that.

The essence of trust-based selling is a paradox. If you stop trying to make the sale, and instead focus on helping the customer get what they want, you will end up getting more sales.

I won’t get into the psychology of it now; just enjoy clicking through pictures of some beautiful pieces at One Of a Kind .

If you go there, say hey to Bruce for me, and tell him I’ll be back again.