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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Disney

STOP Selling Me This Pen!!

It’s probably the most common interview technique used for sales people all over the world. Half way through the process the interviewer pulls out a pen, sticks it on the table and asks the candidate…

“Sell me this pen…..”

Most sales people will make the mistake of then trying to literally sell the pen describing all of its amazing features and benefits. They go into some desperate overdrive status where they feel the pressure of somehow trying to convince someone that they can sell anything.

“Well this is the best pen in the world, it can do everything you want, it’s made from solid plastic blah blah blah”!

The best response to this question is to ask them prospecting questions, identify their need, find their pain and then offer the pen as a solution for them. That’s how sales really works although a lot of people think it’s about “selling” something.

This was made famous by the one and only Jordan Belfort (Wolf of Wall Street) played by Leonardo Dicaprio. In the scene he asks his new sales team to sell him the pen with most doing the typical “features/benefits” approach to trying to sell it.

One of his friends takes then pen, asks Jordan to write his name down but without his pen, suddenly there is demand! It’s not about selling the pen but creating the opportunity to sell the pen. Whether it’s identifying demand, finding their pain, understanding their needs, if you do that first you stand a far greater chance of selling the pen as appose to trying to convince them why they should buy it.

Having seen this used countless times I’ve got to ask…..

Why are we still using this technique to recruit sales people????

Is it really relevant or helpful to do this activity? It either shows that they don’t understand it, or they have a basic understanding of sales. It’s puts them on the spot and in my personal opinion doesn’t provide much insight into their ability to be good sales people.

It’s more of a gimmick and my concern is if you’re judging someone on their ability to sell by how they react to that task, you may be missing an opportunity.

Here are my top 5 alternative interview techniques/questions to help you find the best TOP sales talent out there:

The “Opportunity” Task – Give them a typical customer description and ask them how they would approach that customer to create a sales opportunity. You’re looking for the details they identify, the questions they look to ask and how they approach the process to get to know the customer and identify opportunities.

The “Priorities” Task – Paint the picture of a typical day in sales where they have to juggle tasks to deliver a result. This could include prospecting, account management, booked meetings, sending quotes, chasing quotes, closing sales but then also include external factors like staff being off sick, management asking for something etc. You’ll want to see how they priorities work and what they put ahead of other tasks.

Find their motivation to sell – Don’t assume that all sales people are selling for money, ask the question. You’re looking to identify how much drive and passion is behind their motivation to sell. It has to be strong to push them through the high targets, high activity, rejections and objections.

The “Favourite TV Series” Task – Ask them what their favourite TV series is or favourite film, sports team, band etc. Then ask them to tell you about it, what they like about it, what makes it great, their favourite song/episode/match etc. What you’re looking for is their passion and ability to discuss something the should genuinely love and be passionate about. You can take this a step further after asking them to talk about it in a relaxed way to then get them to try and sell it to you and look at the difference in the way they talk about it.

How do they overcome objections – Bring a list of common objections found in your sales team and ask them how they would overcome them. This will show you how their solve problems and process the challenge but will also give them an introduction to those objections making them less challenging if they’re successful.

Whilst the “Sell me this pen” question is a bit of fun, and in a small way it can show you an insight into their ability to sell, I think there are much better ways to interview sales people to really see their potential.

What do you think? Do you like the “Sell me this pen” task? Has it worked for you? What questions have worked for you when hiring sales people? Please pop your thoughts and ideas into the comments box below!

About The Author:

Daniel Disney is one of the world's leading Sales, Social Selling and LinkedIn experts. With over 15 years sales experience, Daniel has mastered how to use social media to generate exceptional results, both in social engagement and in revenue generated. His brand new Online Social Selling Masterclass Course is helping salespeople all over the world generate MORE sales with LinkedIn and Social Selling.

Daniel is also a highly in-demand international keynote sales speaker, is the UK's leading sales blogger and is also the Founder and Owner of LinkedIn's most popular sales publication, The Daily Sales. With an audience of over 450,000+ followers and growing by thousands each week, his content reaches millions of salespeople far and wide.

To inquire about Daniel keynoting or speaking at your company or event, or to find out more about his 1-day and online LinkedIn/Social Selling Masterclass please email

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