You’re in an interview for a sales job and the interviewer says, “sell me this pen”. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will eventually. To avoid getting flustered, you should practice a structured response. It should be thought out and persuasive, because if you start to describe “how smooth the pen feels” and how “shiny the pen looks” (just like you saw in the Wolf of Wall Street), you probably won’t get the job.
Why does the pen question matter?
Before you craft your response, it’s important to understand why you’re being asked the question. Sure it seems silly, but when you become good at handling this question, you evolve into a competent salesperson in any situation. It shows your creativity, versatility and persuasion skills.
There are four sales competencies the interviewer is evaluating as you answer:
- how you gather information
- how you respond to information
- how you deliver information
- how you ask for something
Practicing your response is imperative because just “winging it” will not suffice in a real situation. Understanding the structure of the answer will lay the foundation for all of your future sales pitches. We will now go through exactly what you can say to demonstrate each sales skill, and get your prospect to say yes. Here’s exactly how to respond:
Interviewer: Okay, sell me this pen. (hands me the pen)
Me: (I hold the pen in my fingers) When was the last time you used a pen?
Interviewer: I used one this morning.
Me: Do you remember what kind of pen you used?
Interviewer: No, I don’t.
Me: Do you remember why you were using it?
Interviewer: Yes. I was signing some new contracts.
Me: How often do you sign contracts?
Interviewer: A few times per week.
Me: Well that’s a pretty good use for a pen (we both laugh).
Would you say signing those new contracts is an important event for the business?
Interviewer: (nods head) Sure.
Me: Then shouldn’t it be treated like one? What I mean by that is, here you are signing new contracts, an important and memorable event, all while using a very unmemorable pen.
For our entire lives, we’ve been using cheap BIC pens because they work for everyday tasks like grocery lists and directions. But we never gave much thought to learning what’s best for more important events. This is the pen for those important events; the tool you use to get deals done. Think of it as a symbol for taking your business to the next level. That’s what you’re striving for, right?
Interviewer: Yes, of course.
Me: When you start using the right tool, you are in a more productive state of mind, and you begin to sign more new contracts. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about the pen drying out, since it lasts much longer than the average pen. Just this week I shipped one hundred new boxes of these pens to Jeff Bezos’ office. Jeff is signing a lot of new contracts these days, just like you.
(We both laugh)
Unfortunately (Interviewer name), this is my last pen today.
(I reach across to hand pen back to interviewer).
So, why don’t you take this one and try it out. If you don’t like it, I will come back next week to pick it up, free of charge. What do you say?
Interviewer: Sure, that sounds good.
- Gather info: Find out how they last used a pen, and how frequently they use one.
- Respond to info: Emphasize the importance of the activity they last used a pen.
- Deliver a solution: Sell something bigger than a pen, like a state of mind.
- Close: Ask for the buy.
This format will help you sell more than just pens!
– Your Big Bro