High Trust Selling

Sylvia Keyes (Professor, School of Management, Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 June 2004




Keyes, S. (2004), "High Trust Selling", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 287-289. https://doi.org/10.1108/07363760410542237



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Mr Todd Duncan, at the end of his book, High Trust Selling, acknowledges his readers by saying:

We've spent several hours together discussing what it takes to become a person worthy of your prospects' and clients' high Trust (p. 246).

Personally, and probably, my own task of writing a review of this book compelled me to read slowly and deliberately. Thus I took many more hours than “several” to earn the right to talk about this book with you, the readers of The Journal of Consumer Marketing. Ultimately, the hours I spent were well worth the time.

In between my own reading, I did something different from the independent reading I've done for previous book reviews: I loaned the book to a person actively involved in personal selling to get a second opinion. She too found the book was not something a reader can breeze through quickly and, although it was a “slow read” for her, she did complete the book with a similar positive appraisal to mine.

As we thought about the reading time, we reviewed the innovative ways Mr Duncan offers of thinking about the value of time in his sixth law – or chapter – called, “The law of the hourglass”. While most authors in the field of sales cover this subject, we found Duncan to provide added value.

Todd Duncan cleverly presents a compendium of the many dicta that occur repeatedly in almost all sales textbooks and in training materials on audio‐ and videotapes. He does include some of them, both reinforcing and negating them, within the 14 “laws” of the system he has created. His system is credible and, throughout much of the book, he practices selling what he promotes: his own high trust selling seminars. In fact, as mentioned above, his addressing the time we spent together implemented a part of the follow up he recommends in his final law, “The law of the encore” (Chapter 14).

At first, I anticipated the book would become the platform for an entire “sales pitch” of Duncan's seminars and materials. While there are advertisements for his materials and writings at the end of the book, a continuing sales pitch was not the case. The book presented his system and did pique my interest in possibly referring people to attend his workshops. Instead, the over‐riding theme of trust builds and contains practices for sales professionals to believe in and then to heed.

Each of Duncan's laws has an imaginative title, such as the “Law of the broom”, the final law. Here he suggests that to implement the system he presents, merely following the steps is insufficient. It is necessary to “clean up every act”. Each chapter/law has a sub‐title that gives a hint as to what the law involves; i.e. the subtitle under “The law of the broom” is “To build your business up, you must first clean it up”. He seems consciously to divide each chapter into two parts, with the first part providing the background for the law and the second part providing the “how to's” of carrying out suggestions he offers.

While there are some lists of processes, Duncan does not overdo them. One valuable list he includes in “The law of the shareholder” provides questions to answers concerning the readers' sales jobs. To be specific, one bulleted item here, on p. 35, reads:

Are you more concerned with your effort or your effectiveness? A business owner measures effectiveness first – sprinting on a treadmill gets one nowhere.

On the other hand, Duncan's avoidance of many lists to memorize is in contrast with the many textbooks, which provide so many lists that readers can get lost in the lists. He does highlight his own key points briefly in horizontally‐boxed spaces within pages. For example, while discussing “The law of leverage”, he encases the following caution in a box in the center of the page, saying: “Thinking about your dreams is rarely enough to create the habits necessary to follow through” (pp. 72‐3). In this section Duncan is talking about eliminating excuses, and he further states:

While most salespeople are ambitious, we also tend to be very creative when it comes to making excuses. Think of the lines you've spun to potential clients to try and satisfy them. And if you do it with others, chances are very good that you'll wax just as poetic to yourself.

Avoiding excuses is a challenging lesson to teach college students and people new to the workplace. They learn ducking from their role models! So, Duncan's words here are something I have begun to quote already. And one more boxed bit of advice on the importance of promoting a competitive advantage, on p. 159, says:

If nothing sets you apart from your competition, your clients will always remain someone else's prospect.

Each chapter or law ends with a vertical box containing applications, or his final tips on the subject. For example, at the end of the fifth law, “The law of leverage,” his dictum, on p. 77, states:

One of the most important roles that you play in the lives of your salespeople is that of a mentor and accountability partner. However, such relationships will not be as effective if you do not have someone who is pouring into you. Accountability is most effective in an organization when, from the top down, each leader has both a mentor investing in him and a “mentoree”, a pupil, in whom he is investing.

However, that is not to say this conclusion in the vertical boxes ends the topic. Admirably, Duncan helps readers recall prior ideas and relates them to examples in later chapters. For example, on p. 115, he begins with a question: “Remember earlier when I shared with you my first experience with Tom Hopkins?”

It is not unusual for the author to decry some of the long‐time, accepted selling precepts, such as “keep trying” or “always be closing”. He believes people should not have to live up to their quotas by being persistent and calling on many people over and over; he does believe they should be building high trust with the “vital few of the trivial many”. And, yes, he does provide, on p. 87, this quotation in his brief discussion of Pareto's principle. A planned, and usually a small number, of high trust relations, if developed as Duncan suggests, should bring much more success than constantly trying to sell to all people. He does agree there must be some cold calling, but it should be limited. As for trial closings and then the big closing, his claim is that, by the time the salesperson fully develops the relationship, knows the client and his/her needs, and builds that all‐important trust, there should be no trial closes nor, in fact, any close. The sale should be automatic and close itself.

Whether you are in the profession of selling, aspiring to the profession of selling, performing research or an academic in the class‐room, reading this book at your own pace is bound to provide you with new ways of thinking systematically in sales. Remember one final admonition from Todd Duncan in the “Law of the hook”, p. 200:

… (Note that integrity is important here – don't write a script that expresses something you cannot or will not do).

I trust that Todd Duncan does do everything he recommends in his writing.

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