How to sell a pen the right way in a job interview
“Sell me this pen” if you have been around sales or about to get into sales you will be asked this question at some time. You may even be asked “Can you sell me this pen”.
This inerview question is a part of being in sales. You really can’t get away from it and as time goes on this question will be asked in the future. Yes it may seem silly to be asked to do so but there are a few reasons for the question or any other variation of it.
Yes there are other ways to gauge the skills of a salesperson but for some managers they think this question is the best way to see if a salesperson has the skills they want.
Now there are all sorts of funny things you can do to get a chuckle out of the “seller” like bringing a check with you and filling the check out and then say “All you have to do is endorse this check and it is yours, don’t you wish you had a pen” to telling someone “I don’t sell that way because I am not a sales monkey”. When you take this stance you may get the “buyer” to see your way or you can lose out on the job. These are not the right way to answer the question even though it sounds like it might be the answer,
Wouldn’t it be nice to know the right way getting past this question?
In the movie The Wolf of Wall Street there is a scene where a pen needs to be sold. The interaction goes something like this:
Jordan Belfort: Sell me this pen
Friend: Hey I want you to write your name on the napkin
Jordan: I don’t have a pen
Friend: Its all about supply and demand
What you have to know and understand is that you are really being asked “do you know the fundamentals of sell and if so prove to me you do?”
When you break down the sales process it is easy to understand why this question would be asked.
All too often sales people will show up at a call and think they will be able to talk someone into buying their product and or service. The term “show up and throw up” comes to mind. The appointment starts and the salesperson goes on and on about how their widget or gizmo will help the buyer out. The appointment goes full throttle and the salesperson gets to the end and has to figure out how to hammer the potential client to get them to buy. It could be some sort of discount, begging or even manipulation to get the sale made.
“Sell me this pen” is your chance to show the manager, owner or sales leader you have the ability to go through the sales process the right way. This question or demand is really a challenge to see if you understand the sales process. All too often salespeople have no idea how to answer this question. This is not the time to play games or try and be cute about showing skills and or abilities. If you have one shot to make a first impression this would be the time to do it the right way.
Sales start with questions
You have to start the sales process with questions not assumptions . These questions should be well thought out and provoking to see what you can do for them as the salesperson. Guessing at this point would be a mistake. The questions you ask should be able to tell you if you are the right fit with your product or service as well if they are the right client for you. There will be some times where you as the seller don’t really match up with the buyer and conversely there will be time where the buyer isn’t really a match for you.
A common mistake salespeople make is they go into the appointment with a preconceived solution as to what will help their potential client. Many times this idea or solution is the one that pays the most commission. The buyer can feel this and there is tension created in the process.
Just remember it could be everything lines up perfectly in the initial visits with you and the buyer and they still go with someone else. This is all part of the game of sales. There is no fair or unfair only outworked or undersold.
What to do when challenged “Sell me this pen”
- 1. Demonstrate you know how to find out what they need by asking questions
Next when you are showing how to sell a pen you will want to show you can let the buyer talk without interrupting them. This means you will listen to what the buyer has to say once you ask them questions. This may be a good time to take notes and there may be times where you need to ask some clarifying questions. You will want to put the focus on the buyer and really pay attention to what they have to say. If you seem off and distant they will see something is off. Sales is conversational and takes people skills. A conversation means you are engaged and have a 2 way interaction. This is not the time to look at the job of sales as a monologue.
- 2. Listen and take notes
Now here is where you see if your product is a good fit. If you can’t help the buyer it is a good idea to let them know what you have to offer doesn’t fit in a polite way. Even if you have a bunch of time and energy wrapped up in the process its far better to let them know now it really cant work. By the way this would be the time to ask “Who else should I be talking to?” to see what type of referral you could get. Demonstrate you are a professional and you just may get a strong referral.
- 3. See if you are a good fit. If things don’t work out bow out gracefully.
Now here is where you take the time to ask your buying question. All too often in the sales process time speeds up and salespeople start talking faster and taking shortcuts because they may feel like the sale has been made. Take the time to go through your sales process the right way. Be patient and if there are questions to be answered take you time and answer them in a way that makes sense. Ask your selling question and then be quiet and wait for your answer.
- 4. Ask your closing question and be quiet
If everything was done right the chances of having an objection may be lowered. You may have to overcome something that really wasn’t addressed in the sales call. You may even hear a common objection you know how to answer already. Once again be patient and be professional.
- 5. Answer and or deal with the objections.
The right way of “how to sell” a pen or answer the selling challenge of “sell me this pen”:
Manager: sell me this pen (handing the pen to the salesperson)
Salesperson: Sure (take the pen and hand the pen back to the manager) what do you like about it?
Manager: I like that it has a firm grip, it looks like it writes nice and it has a good weight (the pen goes back to the salesperson).
Salesperson: Ok cool, what would you give me for it (handing it back to the manager)?
Manager: I would give you $1.00 (still holding onto the pen)
Salesperson: Sold (The manager still has the pen in his / her hand)
This process is really quick concise and easy. When you take this position it also shows you understand the sales process and follow the 5 steps outlined above.
You may get the answer:
Manager: I don’t know if I would buy it
Salesperson: If you were going to buy it how much would you give me for it?
Manager: I don’t know .50 cents
They key is to find out what they like and why they like it so you have to opportunity to help them buy it using their own criteria , thoughts and or words.
It’s a trap to try and sell without asking questions and trying to hard close at the end.
Take the time to work the process correctly.
The metaphor of sales
When you take a look at the symbolism of what the pen is in the sales process you will see that whoever is holding the pen is holding the pain. All of the emphasis is on them. When the manager has the pen he or she has to take a defensive position and the same goes for the salesperson. Figure out who has the pain and the process works the best. The only way you can get to the pain is by asking questions. There is a built in volley in the sales process you have to get used to.
One last note about selling a pen
When you go through the sales process with the manager or the entrepreneur it always goes faster than what you would think it would. Be patient as you get to the part where you say “sold” because it may come across as cocky and almost every time you will have a big grin on your face. There is a tendency to speed up as you know you are getting close to the sell. You will want to practice this interaction a few times before you have to do it in the real world.
When someone asks you to take the challenge of “Sell me this pen” you know the right way to answer the question the right way and demonstrate your selling capabilities. So go ahead ahow your sales skills and capabilties and laugh when someone asks you to demontrate your sales skills in a job interview or at a seminar.
Now go implement
Scott Sylvan Bell
A special thanks to Dr. Kevin Hogan for taking the time and interviewing me you can connect on his website.
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