Sell Me This Pen: How a Stupid Interview Question Changed My Sales Approach Forever

Sell me this pen. If you saw the movie Wolf of Wall Street you observed how hard-charging, cold calling, boiler room type operations use this question to determine if someone will be a successful salesperson in their company.  The theory is, if you can sell a pen to the interviewer under pressure, you can sell anything.

That’s total crap.

Selling a pen is evidence that you can sell a pen, at that time, under those conditions, and nothing more.

Let’s say you were hiring a salesperson to help you enroll affluent people into your new country club. Would the guy who sold you the pen, in the office, be the right fit? Maybe. Maybe not.

How about selling new aircraft to fleet managers for a large multinational company? Can the woman who is a pen selling machine sell jets?  Who knows?

Answering the question: “Can you sell me this pen?” Is a demonstration of a salesperson’s ability to complete a transaction. It offers no indication about his/her ability to develop a relationship.

Convincing someone to buy a pen is where sales was in the PAST. Sales has changed and everything from pen sales, to private jet sales, to country club membership sales, to anything you can think of is now based upon the relationship between the person with economic authority – the buyer and the person providing the product or service – the seller.

These days, if you walk into an interview and someone says: “Sell me this pen.” You can (and you should) answer it by talking about the relationship you will develop with them over the long term. You may even want to offer them the pen to use for a period of time, before they buy it, as a way to demonstrate trust.

Is this unconventional? If you believe the horrible advice you see on the internet, yes, it is.

Sales has changed.

Today we focus on developing relationships and delivering value.  Sales is the process of developing a relationship, and then delivering value in exchange for financial compensation.

Can you sell me this pen? Yes, but I’d rather sell you millions of pens over the next twenty years.

If you’re looking for the proper way to answer this question, based on today’s relationship-based sales environment, watch this video.

I’ve always been a relationship-based salesperson. It is in my DNA.

If you read my book The 60 Second Sale: The Ultimate System for Building Lifelong Client Relationships in the Blink of an Eye, you will see the story of Mr. Ralph, an office supply salesperson. My Ralph focused on helping people by delivering value first and then selling them pens, paper and desk accessories afterward. He made a great living with that approach.

Mr. Ralph was my grandfather and that lesson – about delivering value and focusing on building relationships was imparted upon me at an early age.  It has served me well in selling to affluent customers as well as focusing on high-ticket business to business sales.

Cold calling and pushing your way into an office or living room no longer works the way it used to. Today, relationships are the key to sales success.

If you’re interested in other great videos like the one in this article, be sure and head over to my YouTube channel. I post a new video on sales each day. Follow this link: Dave Lorenzo on YouTube