3 best ways to answer the ‘Sell me this pen.’ question in...

3 best ways to answer the ‘Sell me this pen.’ question in interviews!


.As a hiring manager, let me tell you why I’m asking you to sell me the pen:
When I ask someone to sell me an arbitrary thing, I am looking to see if they do discovery or not. I want to know if they are going to learn about my needs regarding the imaginary product, how I use it, what I liked about my last one, etc.

If I ask you to sell me a toaster and you immediately start telling me about features and benefits, how many slices it can toast, how it can burn in a picture of Darth Vader, you are not getting hired.

If you ask me how often I toast bread, how many slices I need to toast per hour, what I liked about my last toaster, etc. then you made it through the question.

If you get asked this question, start asking questions!

Mike Hillyer, (Professional Pre-Sales Professional and Certified Product Manager)


You could answer similar to the way that reportedly the best salesman in the world answered to Johnny Carson.

While the salesman was a guest on the show Johnny said, “I understand you sold more than any other salesman this year at your firm. How about you sell me something.”
The salesman said, “what would you want me to sell you?”
“I don’t know, how about this ashtray.” Johnny answered.
“Why would I sell you that ashtray?” the salesman replied.
“Well, it is a useful thing to have around, a lot of our guests use it, and it also matches the desk.” Johnny answered.
The salesman asked, “How much do you think that ashtray is worth?”
“I don’t know maybe $199” Johnny replied.
“Tell you what. You can have it for $50.”

Michael Gillam (Emergency Physician and Technologist)


The real answer is, before I’m even  going to sell a pen to anybody, I need to know about the person, I want  to know what their needs are, what kind of pens do they use, do they use  a pen? How often do they use a pen? Do they like to use a pen formally,  to sign things, or use it in their everyday life?

The first idea is  that when you say ‘Sell me this pen,’ I want to hear [the salesman] ask  me a question. ‘So tell me, how long have you been in the market for a  pen?’ I want them to turn it around on me and start asking me questions  to identify my needs, what I’m looking for. And if you do that, people  don’t know what to do. Next thing, he is answering, and now I’m  controlling the conversation, finding out exactly what he needs.

“Once  I have that, I say, ‘You know, Bill, based on what you’ve just said to  me, the pen I have here is the perfect fit. Let me tell you what it’s  about…’ Then you can tell them about what you have, because you’re  filling a need.

Most average or newbie salespeople think that they’re  supposed to sell you the pen, when a really seasoned salesperson will  actually turn it into a qualifying session to find out what you need.  That’s the truth of it. It’s like trying to sell someone a house and you  don’t know if they’re in the market for a house, what kind of house  they want, how many kids – so how can you sell someone a house? That’s  the point.

— Jordan Belfort (American author, Motivational speaker, and Former stockbroker who was played by Leonardo Di Caprio in The Wolf of the Wall Street)

Adapted from answers to this question on Quora.

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