Sell me this pen
One of the timeless questions when it comes to hiring for Sales or Marketing related jobs. Your response to this question can definitely make a great impression as it is a classic question.
Not just ” Sell me this pen!”.
It can be selling a stapler or a pencil or anything that’s on the table. This question is more about how you approach the Sales situation than how much you know about the pen or pencil.
There is no right answer for this question but the interviewer is looking to understand how you go about in your Sales process, your creativity, your body language and enthusiasm.
What does a weak Sales Candidate do?
a) Talks about the features of the pen. This is plainly assuming that your customers are interested in the features only.
b) Does not ask the interviewer any questions.
c) Does not put himself in the shoes of the customer and think why would they need ‘that’ pen.
d) See / Speak in such a way that this is a one-time interaction or a single question that he has to tackle.
What does a great Sales Candidate do?
a) Features aren’t important for the customer but the benefit is. So start with the benefits part of using a pen. Even if you exaggerate a bit on the benefits part, you have their attention.
What you see as a feature, customers see it as a benefit
b) Great salesmen talk less but listen more. How do we get the interviewer to speak? Ask the right questions? Ask questions which will get answers that will drive the importance of the pen in their own words.
E.g: When was the last time they used a pen? How many people in their office use a pen on a daily basis? Tell me a situation from your past when you wished you had this pen but you did not have?
Answering a question diverts a prospect’s mind from being judgmental
Pro Tip: Never ask questions that can be answered with a single word. Frame your questions in a way you get more information so that you can build on from their experience.
c) Help him visualize the good things that can happen when he uses this pen. Paint a picture and tell a story on how you wrote handwritten notes using the pen to your family and friends and how they treasured it. You are connecting to the customer on an emotional level here.
d) Summarize your pitch with their answers, their thoughts about the pen and your promises. Based on the response from the interviewer, you can also add a hint of urgency to the equation by saying “ Fortunately for you, this is the last pen I am carrying to sell today “ (Say this without being salesy)
e) Some candidates see this as an opportunity to get creative as well. During the close of the sale, they check with the interviewer on what’s their favorite sport and tell them the most valuable player ( “insert name”) in their favorite sport uses this pen to sign his / her contracts. The more confident you are, the greater are your chances of pulling this off.
How to handle the interviewer’s responses
Selling is always a two-way street. It is highly dynamic and less you speak, the better. While you are trying to sell the pen, the interviewer will be trying to sell his thoughts on why he does not need the pen.
Let’s predict possible responses and see how we can handle them.
1. No Awareness about the Product
The Interviewer may play smart and say he is not aware of the product. This gives you a chance to become an educator here. Educate him on how this pen is going to solve his problem (You will only know his problems if you had asked him questions).
Note: You have an advantage here as you can paint a great picture on what the pen can do as the interviewer has honestly admitted ‘he is unaware of the pen’
2. Bad Experiences from the Past
One constant scenario in every sales situation is when the prospect has burnt their fingers earlier by using a similar product or service. Understand if the experience is because of the pen or the salesman who sold the pen.
Based on their response, help them understand how different it is from the past. Quote examples of your customers who had the same problem while signing up and how they are happy now.
3. Not interested right now
Understand the ‘why’ part of the equation. There might be a strong reason for the prospect to feel that way. If you feel his reasons are due to a market myth, you can break that with social proof.
If you feel his reasons are convincing, you can empathize and check with him if you can check again at a later point in time.
Note: Understanding when to walk away from a sale is as important as knowing how to close the sale. The interviewer is also looking at whether you are listening to respond or listening to understand.
If it’s the former, you will be perceived as pushy. If it’s the latter, you will be perceived as a more human and empathetic salesperson.
Why is this Question important?
“Sell me this pen” – Though this question can be one of the most cliched ones in a Sales interview or any customer facing role, the hiring managers have their reasons to stick with the same.
They want to see you in action doing the Sales with a prospective customer. They will be able to understand whether you like talking or making your prospects talk. They want to see how you relate to and come up with thoughts related to buyer’s problem or a story. Consultative selling is the order of the day when it is a big ticket product or a B2B product and this question helps them understand how you fare in that sales approach.
If you would like more about how to sell without selling, you can read it here.