When you are applying for a sales position, you may encounter the following question “Sell me this pen”. Remember, the pen is like a euphemism for any product. Other similar interview questions are “Can you sell me this water bottle?”, “How would you sell this phone?” OR Tell me, how would you sell this car?”
As Jordan Belfort explains, the reason why interviewers ask this question is to see if the applicant really understands what selling is all about. In actuality, there is only one rational option and that is to start asking questions. Down below you can find a great example answer to the “Sell me this pencil” narrative:
Interviewer: Sell me this pen.
Applicant: Can I assume that you are in the market for a pen?
Interviewer: That’s correct.
Applicant: For personal or business use?
Applicant: May I ask what kind of work you do?
Interviewer: I’m an account manager.
Applicant: Alright, so you probably use pencils to sign important documents like sales contracts, company checks and perhaps also employment contracts, is that correct?
Interviewer: In a nutshell, yes…
Applicant: These are significant moments that, in my opinion, require a quality pen that lasts a life-time.
Interviewer: Sorry, but I’m not going to buy a pen that costs $100 dollars when a $1 dollar pen does the job.
Applicant: I believe that a $1 dollar pencil doesn’t resemble your status. This quality pen is made of mahogany wood and stainless steel by a reputable brand. I’m sure some of your major clients will notice.
Interviewer: That’s a good point. In actuality, I don’t sign that many contracts, so it’s a bit over the top, don’t you think?
Applicant: Well, if you don’t use it very often, it’s still a great collectable item you can display on your desk or in a display cabinet, or perhaps you merely look after it for the next generation.
Interviewer: Haha, you are a good salesman!
Applicant: OR, it’s just a wonderful product! Imagine that your relatives inherit this authentic and classic pen that you’ve closed deals with.
Interviewer: I never thought about it like that…
Applicant: Do we have a deal?
Interviewer: We have a deal!
Interview Question Tips
- Don’t instantly highlight the functions, features and benefits of the pen. Show you understand that people don’t buy because of logic, people buy because of emotion and justify with logic.
- Do ask one of these questions right off the bat: “Can I assume that you are in the market for [Product XYZ]?”, “Do you actually need [Product XYZ]?” etc.
- Do follow up with questions that reveal the customer’s wants and needs: “How often do you use a pen?”, “What kind of pencils do you use?”, “Do you use them everyday or occasionally?” etc.
- Do come up with a story or narrative to evoke emotion. Remember, people seek (instant) gratification and have a strong desire to belong to something (family, social network etc.)