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Selling the sound of silence


During lockdown, I got to know my next door neighbour pretty well.


On a warm weekday evening, he invited me over for a barbecue.


Over a beer and a burger, we got talking about his work.


He’s a self-employed carpenter.


I asked him how he was dealing with life in lockdown, and whether it had affected his business.


He shrugged, and told me that like everyone else, he was bored. But he wasn’t concerned about finding work.


That’s because he had recently secured a job to build a large, fully-insulated, custom-built summer house with all the bells and whistles. 


Roughly £30,000 worth of business, apparently.


In marketing, that’s what we call a high involvement purchase – a high price, high risk transaction. The kind of purchase you only make every once in a while.


“How did you sell it to him, then?” I asked.


“It wasn’t easy. I was convincing him for the best part of an hour,” he replied.


“First, I measured up the plot of land and recommended how to position the summer house to get the most amount of light”.


“Then, I started talking about the intricacies of pressure-treated timber, the lifespan of the high-quality materials, that kind of thing”.


After talking about the project at length, they went inside to discuss the finer details.


“That’s when I dropped the price tag,” he said.


The room went silent.


The client looked apprehensive. Deep in thought.

"I'll have to think about it," he said.


At this point, he could tell that the price was the only roadblock to closing the deal.


But he didn’t want to offer a discount.


So instead of trying to persuade him, he wrote a detailed quote and told his client to get in touch once he’d given it some thought.


Then, by chance, something fortuitous happened.


As he was leaving, he heard a rumbling sound coming from an upstairs bedroom.

Someone was playing a drum kit.


“You didn’t mention you had a musician in the family,” he said.


“That’s our son. He’s obsessed with his drums. There’s no such thing as peace and quiet in this house”.


This was his moment.


“Well, the insulation of the summer house means you won’t hear a thing,” he replied.


The client tilted his head, raised his eyebrow and said “sh*t, I never thought of that”.


And that’s when it clicked. The watershed moment. The one line that changed everything.


The following day, the client called to confirm the job for the full asking price.


Without even knowing it, he took a feature of the summer house (insulation) and turned it into a contextual benefit (soundproofing).


He literally sold the sound of silence. For thirty grand.