How Best to Answer "Sell Me This Pen" at Interview

Updated 16 October 2019

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“Sell me this pen” is a tricky interview question that might come up in a sales job interview.

It aims to assess your sales skills and how you perform under pressure.

This article covers why this type of question is asked, gives five examples, and offers a range of tips on how to produce a winning answer.

Contents

  1. Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?
  2. How to Respond to This Question
  3. Make the Sale: Five Examples
  4. Top Tips for Success
  5. Final Thoughts
  6. Further Reading

Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?

If you’re interviewing for a sales position, this question, or something similar to it, could come up.

Employers ask this question because it shows them several key competencies that they are likely looking for in a job candidate:

  • Your ability to sell the pen (or any item) shows the interviewer what kind of sales skills you have and whether you can think on your feet.

  • How you converse with the interviewer reveals your communication skills.

  • The interviewer also wants to see if you have enthusiasm for the challenge, or whether you shy away.

Ultimately, it shows the interviewer whether or not you are someone who can genuinely sell.

How to Respond to This Question

There is no right answer to this question. There are many different ways to sell a product and what works for one person may not work for another.

How you respond will also depend on the answers your interviewer is giving you. So listen and be prepared to change it up. You may find you need to change tactics half-way through your spiel, but it’s important to keep trying no matter what.

Below are some key tips for how to respond to “Sell me this pen”.

Show Some Enthusiasm

Don’t let your interviewer see you sweat. Any good salesperson is enthusiastic about their product, believes in their product and makes their customers believe in it too. 

A smile goes a long way towards putting both you and your customer more at ease. Maintain eye contact and show your customer that you are listening and are interested in what they have to say.

Be positive and polite. Nod, laugh and make them feel comfortable and as enthusiastic for your product as you are.

Find out Your Customer’s Needs

Ultimately, any sale depends on knowing your buyer. If your buyer doesn’t need or want what you’re selling, your deal is over. So, why should they buy your pen?

Start by asking questions to understand your customer’s needs. What kinds of pen have they used before? What do they like to use pens for? How could their pens improve?

Open-ended questions are best, since they give your customer a chance to provide lots of information.

Use whatever information the customer gives you to try and make a sale, even if they seem negative. Find out why and adjust your sales pitch to show them why this pen is different.

Identify the Features of the Pen That Meets The Customer’s Needs

Once you have a better understanding of your customer’s needs, you can begin to point out the features of your pen that might appeal to them.

Maybe it holds extra ink so it lasts longer. Maybe it has an anti-slide grip so you don’t drop it. Maybe it comes in different colours, so you don’t always have to use blue or black.

Whatever features you can think of that your customer might appreciate: use them.

Appeal to Your Customer’s Emotions

People don’t always buy things because they need them, but rather because they want them. 

Your customer likely has many pens and doesn’t need another one. To hook your customer, find a way to make them feel emotionally attached.

Maybe they used to help their mother make grocery lists with a pen. Maybe they used to keep a diary that they wrote in with a special pen. Or maybe they still hold on to the pen they used to sign their marriage certificate.

Try to make your customer want the pen you’re selling, by evoking any emotions they may have that relate to pens.

Overcome Objections

Because your interviewer is going to want to treat this as a real sales experience, they may not be receptive to all of your sales attempts. They may consistently tell you no, they don’t like pens, they don’t want pens and they have no use for them.

The most important thing is not to appear flustered or thrown off balance. Focus on your goal of selling the pen and try to find a way to move the conversation back in that direction.

Make the Sale: Five Examples

Now that we’ve given you some tips on how to get your customer to this point, here are a few examples of how to make the sale.

Example 1

Interviewer: “Please sell me this pen.

You: “Sure, if you could just quickly sign this refund slip, I can go about getting your back your money on then pen you bought last.

Interviewer: (pats pockets) “I’m sorry, I don’t seem to have anything to sign with...

You: (brings out the pen) “Oh, I happen to have a pen right here, I could sell it to you for, say, one pound. That way you can sign your slip and get all that money back.

Interviewer: “Sold!

What you have done here is create a need that is greater than the customer’s desire to say no to buying a pen. They had a need, you had the product. A simple sale.

Example 2

Interviewer: “Please sell me this pen.

You: “Hello, I am here from the Pretty Pen Company and would love to tell you about our pens.

Interviewer: “I’m not interested. I have so many pens, I’ve been through a lot.

You: “Oh, may I ask why you go through so many?

Interviewer: “Well, I’m an editor, I mark up pages all day long. I find that I’m always having to get a new pen because mine has run out of ink.

You: “Well, what if I were to tell you that our new pens have an extra big reservoir of ink and can last twice as long?

Interviewer: “Really?! Well, OK, I will give them a try.

This sale depended on using some questions to find out what the customer’s negative issue was with their current pen. Once you got past that, you can easily sell them a pen that is going to improve their position.

Example 3

Interviewer: “Please sell me this pen.

You: “Hello, I’m visiting from the Pretty Pen Company and would love to tell you about our pens.

Interviewer: “I’m not interested, we already have a pen supplier and we don’t need any more.

You: “Oh, so you’re completely satisfied with your pens?

Interviewer: “Yes, I am.

You: “OK, because right now we have a great sale on where we are putting company logos on the pens free of charge. In fact, your competitor down the street just took advantage of this offer.

Interviewer: (looks interested) “Really?

You: “Yes, and not only are they great for you and your staff to use, but they are also great to hand out to clients.

Interviewer: “Sold.

This sales tactic appealed more to the customer’s wants rather than their needs. Clearly, they did not need a new pen, but upon hearing that a competitor had agreed to buy the pens, and better ones than theirs, they quickly changed their mind.

Suggesting that the pens can also be used as corporate gifts gives you an edge, as the pen now has increased value.

Example 4

Interviewer: “Please sell me this pen.

You: “Hi, my name is [your name] what a lovely home you have.

Interviewer: “Thank you, I don’t have a lot of time, so I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to cut this short.

You: “I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful stationery on your desk, do you write?

Interviewer: “I used to quite a bit, but then I guess I just stopped doing it.

You: “So, it’s a pastime that you really enjoyed?

Interviewer: “It was, I have to admit, and I do miss it.

You: “Well, what would you say if I told you I have the perfect pen to go with that stationery to make some new memories?

Interviewer: “I would say I’m sold.

This sales tactic plays on the emotions of the buyer. The buyer has been reminded of how much they loved to write letters, and they now associate that feeling with a new pen.

Example 5

Interviewer: “Please sell me this pen.

You: “Hi, my name is [your name] let me show you what I have in pens!

Interviewer: “I don’t care, I’m not interested.

You: “Even though my pens have long-lasting ink?

Interviewer: “Sorry, no, not interested.

You: “Well, our new design is leak-proof, so you don’t have to worry about ruining any clothes or smudging.

Interviewer: “Look, I’m sorry, I really don’t care.

You: “Well, maybe our new padded grip would entice you? No more finger marks from holding your pen too tightly…

Interviewer: (Cuts you off) “I’m sorry, I’m really not interested, you should probably leave. I still have another pile of tests to mark and it’s taking me quite a while.

You: “Oh, I’m sorry, what seems to be taking so long?

Interviewer: “Well, there are essay questions and I like to mark different mistakes in different colours. Grammar mistakes in red, punctuation in green… It means changing pens often.

You: “Ah, but what if I had a pen that could write in many different colours?

Interviewer: “Well, I would be very interested!

It’s important not to give up at the first no. By persevering, you have found out that although some of the pens’ features didn’t appeal, there was one that did, resulting in the sale.

Top Tips for Success

  • Plan ahead. If you’re interviewing for a sales position, it’s likely that this type of question is going to be asked. Make sure you have some answers prepared.

  • Ask questions. Remember that your customer’s needs and wants are key. If you can find out what they are, you can make the sale.

  • Don’t give up. The one thing you shouldn’t do is back down. At least give it your best effort and you may surprise yourself. Don’t be negative or unwilling to take part.

Final Thoughts

Remember that staying positive, keeping calm, not quitting at the first no and finding out as much information as possible will help you land your sale.

If you believe in your product and do everything you can to transfer that belief to your customer, you’ve made the sale.

Further Reading

You might be interested in these other WikiJob articles:

A Career In Sales: Advice For Graduates

Tricky Interview Questions & Answers

Brain Teaser Questions

Funny Interview Questions