How to Answer “Sell me this Pen”

Preparing for sales job interviews can sometimes be overwhelming. Your mind keeps wondering about the type of questions you might be asked and even if you spend hours upon hours practicing, when it comes to it, you still might not be able to answer all the interview questions you’ll be asked. However a popular question that could come up, which you should make sure to prepare for, is the ‘Sell me this pen’, popular in sales interviews conducted everywhere now. When preparing for a sales interview, it is important to have an active imagination. You also need to work on your interpersonal and persuasion skills. But you still need to prepare for the ‘sell me this pen’ question as it could be a tricky one.

See AlsoHow to Answer the Most Difficult Interview Questions

Let me explain why a hiring manager would ask you that question in the first place. When you are asked to ‘sell me’ an arbitrary thing, the hiring manager wants to see if you use discovery approach or not. They want to know if you are going to learn about the customers’ needs regarding the imaginary product, how they use the one they own now one, what they liked about the last one they used and so on.

If you get asked the ‘sell me this pen’ question, start asking questions! Asking questions will prove that you know what selling is all about. It will also put you in a dominant position as you are doing the asking. Let us consider this scenario.

After your interviewer goes through your CV and any other questions he has in mind, he puts you up to the challenge of selling him his pen. Your first move will be to collect the pen and take a look at its features such as color, length and so on. After you have analyzed the pen, you’ll attempt to describe how nice it looks, how well it writes and other potential benefits that it has to the user as well as what they can do with the pen.

Most people do not approach this question in the right manner and they usually end up with statements like: you should buy this pen because it is beautiful, you should buy this pen because it has a pointed tip and it would make your writing look neat or buy this pen for your colleague or boss because they’ll love it. However, it is important to understand that companies need to know the capability of the sales person they are about to hire in terms of personal selling, as Barton Weitz reported in a study that this is the driving force in the sales volume of companies.

Here are the steps you should follow throughout the process.

1. Discover the Need for the Pen

People often have a mental list of things they need. As a sales person, you need to be able to tap into that inner voice of a potential customer and make them realize that they should attend to the request being made by their inner voice. This can be achieved by asking questions. A great place to start is by asking if the customer uses a pen and if yes, what does he use it for? How does the pen ease his job? Or how often does he use a pen? The essence at this stage is to establish an actual need or desire for the product and to understand the person who uses the product.

By asking your interviewer these questions, you will show him that you have a good understanding of the demand and supply theory and that you can apply it to any potential product. Once you are able to do this then you are properly armed to proceed to the next stage.

2. Discover the Value and Emotional Attachment of the Client to his Current Pen

The next step is to establish a link between your product and the need for the product. This will guarantee the sale of the product and you will not come across to the potential customer as someone trying to sell forcefully.

To do this, you can ask questions like

  • When was the last time you used a pen?
  • What kind of pen do you like to use?
  • How good is the pen you are currently using?
  • What do you like about your pen?

By doing these questions you’ll be acknowledging the availability of other pens but you’ll also be establishing that your pen has better features than the one that the client is currently using and thus you’ll be creating demand for your new product.

3. Acknowledge the Importance of the Pen

The aim at this stage is to remind the client of his emotional and personal attachment to the pen. Examples of questions you can ask include:

  • What is the most memorable thing you have ever written with your pen?
  • How does your current pen make your writing look?

These questions will bring out the emotional value of the product. Using a story or creating a scenario can paint the picture needed to get them thinking about the product.

For example, in response to ‘What is the most important thing you have ever written?’ the interviewer will be reminded of activities he carried out using a pen, like ‘The first check he signed’ or ‘The first offer of appointment letter he signed’ or perhaps ‘The first note written for their spouse’ and so on.

The good thing about this line of questions is that the interviewer is lost in thought and you are in control of the conversation. All that is required is for you is to be creative and to think outside the box. During this process, your analytical skill also comes under scrutiny. Your approach to the question will showcase how well you grasp and analyze sales related issues.

4. Maximize the Sales Opportunity

While you and your client are on the same page, you can immediately look for more opportunity. During this process, you can take advantage of the situation by providing an irresistible offer to the potential customer via value. 

For example, ask your customer if they need more than one pen to use as branded souvenirs for marketing purposes; offer discounts on bulk purchase (you can ask if they are willing to buy up to 100 dozens instead of 20 for a 5% discount), or you can ask for other items they use together with the pen such as office supplies, as well as the quantity they consume yearly.

These are possible scenarios that you can use to prove that you can maximize the sales opportunity given to you.

5. Closing the Deal

After you have established an emotional attachment to the product, it is time to close the deal. Use the strongest emotion to which the interviewer related to and come up with a product feature that will match that need. Create up to three variants of the product and offer the product to the interviewer/client to choose which one suits him best. This creates a feeling of control for ‘the buyer’ and you can wrap it up at this point. You must however, be very careful and avoid coming across to the examiner as being pushy. Just like any other customer, the examiner must have the feeling that the decision to purchase the pen from you was his or hers. Act natural and make them feel relaxed and you will scale through seamlessly and professionally.

The ‘sell me a pen’ sales interview question is a test to evaluate your understanding of the psychology of selling and how you would approach the question. It has nothing to do with an actual pen!

What sales job interview question have you been asked before? Share it with us in the comment section below.