If you’ve previously worked in sales-related jobs, you’ve probably been asked many interview questions aimed at getting you to demonstrate your sales methods and qualifications. If this sounds like you, then you’ve certainly also heard the “sell me this pen” question.
Popularized by The Wolf of Wall Street, this question has been a favorite among recruiters, so you need to come prepared for it.
Keep reading to find out why recruiters ask this question and what sort of “sell me this pen” answers you can use to nail it in your next interview.
- When employers ask you to sell them a pen, they want to know if you’re quick-witted and how well you utilize your sales and communication skills.
- The actual meaning of the “sell me this pen” question has been elaborated by The Wolf of Wall Street movie and has since become a popular method for employers to test out how good you are at selling something.
- The three main ways of answering this question are the value-added, solution-based and problem-creation approaches. You should choose one based on your experience and confidence level.
Why Employers Ask “Sell Me This Pen” Question
Employers usually ask the “sell me this pen” question to test your sales skills and what techniques you usually use when you try to sell something.
Besides that, they also want to see how well you think on your feet while being in the spotlight and what kind of answer you’ll be able to come up with. A sales-representative should theoretically always have a decent response in the bag for most questions once they come face to face with the client.
Keep in mind that the question will definitely not always be about a “pen”. Sometimes it can be about an apple or a notebook instead. That’s not important, however, as your general approach should be the same for all situations.
If you’re hunting for a sales-related position, naturally, you’re very likely to hear this question at some point in your interview.
Some of the additional reasons employers ask these types of questions include:
- They want to see your approach. Mainly, employers want to hear how you approach answering the question. They use this to see how experienced you are with these types of questions..
- They want to see what soft skills you have. They want to know if you’re able to come up with something effective on the spot, since that’s basically one of the most valuable sales skills you can have. Besides that, they also want to evaluate your general communication skills. Being patient and open to discussion are skills that every sales representative should have.
- They want to see how well you perform under pressure. It’s important to show them your confidence and that you’re not afraid of these tricky questions. This will show the employer that you are made for the sales world.
How to Sell a Pen (Or Anything Else)
As mentioned before, the interviewer might also ask you to sell something else instead of the pen. They might ask you to sell an apple, a laptop, a notebook, or even a product that their company offers.
The main thing to remember here is that your approach should remain the same for all products. In order to sell a pen properly, try to follow these steps:
- Do some research on the company. This will also help you understand the buyer better and allow you to tailor the answer based on their needs.
- Understand their needs. Try to ask the interviewer about any of their daily activities and what products they use on a daily basis. This will help you get an idea of what they need and how you can alter your answer so that they will need the pen as well. If you’re talking to a manager, you can say that they should purchase your pen since it comes with a variety of ink colors and might help the recruiter differentiate between documents easier.
- More listening rather than talking. The main thing you should always focus on is trying to get as much information from the employer as possible. Before you start your sales pitch, you need to listen to get a gist of what the company does, what the interviewer does, and why they might need to purchase this pen from you. Once you’ve grasped their needs, you can begin building your sales pitch.
Keep in mind that you can also find various “sell me this pen” scripts online for answering this question.
“Sell Me This Pen” Sample Answers
Like in The Wolf of Wall Street movie, it’s best to avoid starting your answer with: “Oh, this pen is absolutely amazing, and you definitely need one!”. In the movie, Belfort dismisses everyone who starts their answers in this fashion.
There are three most commonly used approaches to answering this question. Each of them represents a specific selling style used by the majority of salespeople.
Let’s take a look at how you can master them.
#1. Value-Added Approach
The first selling style is the value-added approach. The key here is to spark interest in the recruiter by highlighting the pen’s features.
Some example answers for this method include:
- “This pen comes with unlimited refillable ink, which means that you will never have to buy another one.”
- “Have a feel of this pen. Its texture is super smooth which means you will take pleasure in holding it comfortably for long working hours.”
- “The color of this pen is red—this would position you as a person who is passionate about their job.”
People who haven’t perfected their selling skills yet often resort to this method. It’s considered the most straightforward answering method, but that doesn’t mean it’s not used by experienced professionals as well.
The main issue with this method is that you’re not necessarily selling them something that they really need.
#2. Solution-Based Approach
The next method is referred to as the “solution-based approach”. You first need to ask the recruiter what they might be looking for in a pen and whether they need a new one. Once you establish that, you can begin your sales pitch by mentioning how your pen will solve the recruiter’s problems.
Some questions you can try to ask for this approach are:
- “What is something you look for when you purchase a new pen?”
- “What are some attributes that you like about the pen that you’re using right now?”
- “What is your favorite pen color?”
- “What bothers you about the pen you’re using at the moment?”
This method is more commonly used by people who have an enterprise sales background. However, the main issue with this approach is that the recruiter may not be interested in answering your questions.
That’s why employers prefer the last approach.
#3. Problem-Creation Approach
The last method, and the one that every employer wants to hear you use, is the problem-creation approach.
This method is used to make the employer question their own needs by giving them reasons to be concerned. Basically, you use this approach to make them feel like they have problems that they didn’t have to begin with.
In most cases, if you use this type of approach properly, you will have the upper hand in the conversation. The employer will listen to you attentively because they are discovering a potential problem in their life, and now they need the solution to the problem.
However, since this method is the most preferred one, it also means that it is not easy to pull off. You can easily fail at convincing the recruiter that they have an additional problem that they didn’t know of.
Expert Tips to Master “Sell me This Pen” Question
Let’s look at some expert tips you can use to master the “sell me this pen” question:
Do Not Refuse to Answer the Question
You may be tempted to tell the recruiters that you don’t want to answer because you don’t sell pens, but that is not the point. The purpose is to test how well you use your sales skills. If you refuse to answer, it might cost you the job offer.
This is a tricky interview question, and it’s crucial that you answer it so the interviewer knows whether you’re comfortable in tough situations.
Be Friendly & Ask Questions
Just like with any other common interview question, it’s important that you stay friendly. The essential thing recruiters are looking for when it comes to sales-related jobs is that you’re able to always remain patient and friendly with customers.
Additionally, it’s important to know that, when you’re selling a pen, the first step is to figure out why a customer might need it. And to do so, you need to ask a lot of questions.
The most futile endeavor is trying to sell someone something that they viscerally know they don’t need. You shouldn’t try to force anyone to purchase your pen. Instead, you need to ask questions and find out in what situations they might need it.
Be Prepared For Refusals
Since the recruiter will act as if this is an actual sales opportunity, they might say no and that they’re not interested in purchasing the pen at all since they don’t need it.
If this happens, the main thing you need to focus on is not getting flustered by the rejection. It’s important that you stay confident and continue looking for the issue that they have that your pen can resolve. This helps them see your resolve and that you don’t give up easily.
Offer Free Things
However strange offering free things when trying to sell sounds to you, it’s actually a great sales and marketing technique. You’re in no way, shape, or form obligated to give anything away for free, but it’s a great way to boost your sales.
By the end of your pen sales pitch, try to give the recruiter a chance to try out the pen for a few days for free. Mention that once it’s time to give back the pen, they’ll just give you the money.
Close The Deal
Once you’ve finished all of the steps above and your sales pitch has gone well, don’t forget to close the deal. Try to end it with something along the lines of: “Would you like me to write up the bill and give you a case for the pen?”.
It’s crucial to close it as fast as possible. The way you decide to close the deal will also help the recruiters decide whether you’re right for the job.
“Sell Me This Pen” Bad Answers
Here are some bad “sell me this pen” example answers that you should avoid at all costs:
- “I’d rather not answer this question.” or “I’m not good at these types of things.”
The interviewer wants to know more about your skills and qualifications, and if you say that you don’t want to be part of the exercise, you will seem too self-conscious, which is a trait no salesman should have.
- “You’ve never seen such an amazing pen before, as this one has a candy dispenser.”
Although it’s important to show the qualities of the pen, it’s very important not to lie.
- “I can tell you’re a nobody just by looking at your pen. Where did you get that from? The “99 Cents Only” store? Check out this amazing pen and how wealthy it makes me look. Do you want this to be you?”
When you look at this in a conversation format, you’ll notice why this is a terrible approach:
Interviewer: Could you sell me this pen?
You: Wait, you’re still using a trash pen like that? Who even buys these types of cheap things anymore? You’re literally a manager and can’t even pick a pen. Well, check out this fabulous pen instead. You definitely need this if you want to look successful.
Interviewer: No thanks. I don’t wanna purchase anything from a person this arrogant.
As you can see, it’s never a good idea to insult the person you’re trying to sell an item to. If you offend them, they’re even less likely to be interested in hearing what you have to say.
Whether you have a long list of experiences in sales or not, you most likely have, or at least will at some point, come across the “sell me this pen” question.
Thanks to The Wolf of Wall Street, you’ll likely have to answer this question during your interview as well. Employers love to hear whether you can come up with something fresh or interesting on the spot and how well you can convince them that they need to buy a pen from you.
Try to practice a couple of sample answers beforehand and check out which sales method matches your personality the most. With that out of the way, you’re all set for your next interview. Good luck!