Home > How to answer common questions > Sell me the pen!




One of the things an interviewer is going to want to know about applicants for sales, marketing, and related jobs is whether they can sell, and what sales strategies and techniques they use.  


To get a sense of your sales skills and selling style interviewers may ask you to demonstrate your approach to selling a product as part of the interview. It could be any product. An apple or a pen are traditional picks, although interviewers may also request that you sell something their company makes. 


As a SalesXtra graduate you will dazzle the interviewer with your response. 


Now that you have completed your New Business Skills Development program the task in selling a simple object such as a pen and the “sell me this pen” role play scenario seems easy, and you might ask yourself why an interviewer would ask you such a thing.  




The resume and interview do a fine job of giving interviewers your background, but interviewers ask you to ”sell me this pen” so they can actually actually see you in action and to witness your approach to selling.  

This also gives interviewers a glimpse as to how you think on your feet and to meet objections so it’s important to not take this task lightly and to deliver with excellence.  


How NOT to answer the question 



The vast majority of salespeople struggle with this question, firstly because they haven’t prepared for it and secondly the don’t have your skills in using questions to respond to the challenge of “Sell Me the Pen”. 


Most candidates will do one of two things: 


1. Make an excuse not to complete the exercise. 

They say things like “I don’t know anything about the product” or “This is not a real situation” or any number of combinations. Those who do this automatically raise red flags in their ability to think on their feet or improvise or even just relax in stressful situations. 


2. The most common response is to launch into TELL mode. 


Tell mode goes like this: Feature – Function – Benefit. 

This pen has a rubber surround and a clip. This makes it easier for the user to hold and to clip into their pocket. This is the “show up and throw up” syndrome and it automatically gets downgraded. 


The candidate gets kudos for playing the game, but no-one is impressed, and the candidate is back in the pack with the others.  


How TO answer the question 

The correct way to sell the pen is not to sell the pen!


Let the customer

BUY the pen.

The key is in the three solution selling guidelines below. 


Guideline 1: Listen to what the customer wants. 

Guideline 2: Give the customer what they need. 

Guideline 3: Let them think it was their idea. 


Let’s go back to the TELL mode scenario. If the salesperson is the one doing all the telling, how much des that person know about the issues the customer may have. If you said nothing because there has been an assumption of whet the customer wants you would be correct. 


You can only discover what the customer wants by asking questions. 

During the skills development section of the Graduates course you learnt how to use 7 questions to control any sales situation and this is the time to introduce your differentiators. 


Click on the play button to view the video


Control the Situation. 

From the moment the interviewer says something like “what I’d like to do now is to gain an insight into how you like to sell. What I want you to do is sell me this pen”, you need to enthusiastically take control. 


Say something like “Certainly. This is obviously a false situation and no matter what I do you’re not going to buy the pen. I think we both understand. Let’s set the scene, I’m a salesperson for XYZ pens and you are a theoretical buyer. Agreed”. Wait for confirmation. “Ok, I’ll behave like the salesperson and to make it real, I’m assuming that you will behave just like a normal buyer” 


When the interviewer agrees, you now have control. Take the pen and put it out of sight and say the interviewer, “we won’t need this yet”. 

Now start your 7-question sequence and watch interviewer enjoy participating in the role play. 


Question 1: What do you have now? 

Question 2: What do you like most about the current system? 

Question 3: What would you alter or improve? 

Question 4: Why did you choose that option as your biggest concern? 

Question 5: What would happen if you couldn’t ……? 

Question 6: What would be the benefits if you could…?  

Question 7: If there was a solution that provided those benefits, would you want to take advantage of it? 


To refresh your skills, return to the skills section and review and practice every stage in the 7-question challenge. 


You will now be able to totally differentiate yourself from the pack. 


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