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How to sell a pen

There is a classic sales interview question where the interview pushes a pen towards the interviewee and says “sell me this pen.”  You might have seen the question in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street.

How do you Sell a Pen?

Don’t start with the pen.

Start with the person in front of you.

  1. Do they need a pen?  “Are you in the market for a pen?”  If not: go find someone else who needs a pen.
  2. Can they afford the pen?  “What’s your price range?”  If not: go find someone else who needs a pen and can afford one.
  3. Can they make the decision now?  “Are you looking to leave today with a pen?”  If not: go find someone else who needs a pen, can afford one and has the authority to make the purchase.

Don’t push pens at people.  “This is a great pen”, “This lasts longer than other pens”, “This is a better colour than our competition”…  all nonsense if the person in front of you is not interested in a new pen.

How to sell a Pen

Find people who need pens, can afford them and can decide today.

Advanced Pen Selling – AKA “Rainmaking”

There are times when you need to “make a market” for your product or service. You cannot just address existing demand, perhaps because your product is new or the marketplace is uneducated.

There was once a famous sales person, let us call her Anna, who was invited in to speak to one of the most senior politicians in the UK government. The Lord said “I hear you are an expert in sales. Sell me this glass of water.”

Anna, our sales expert, smiles. She takes the trash can that is in the room and slowly starts filling it with paper. When it is stuffed full of paper, she sits back down.

She takes out a match. She lights the match.

She looks directly at the Lord as she drops the match into the paper-filled trash can.

She waits a few seconds for the paper to catch fire.

As the face of the Lord starts to show panic, she now asks “How much do you want this glass of water now?”

Establishing the Context of the Decision

An advanced sales person is able to shift the perspective of the decision maker.

However, the focus remains on the person, not on the pen nor on the glass of water.

Sales is always about the person you are engaging with. What are their joys and what are their struggles? What is quality of life for them? What pains have they just accepted as normal and you can show them that they don’t have to just continue to suffer?

P.S. If you liked this post you might also like Fish where the Fish are and The 3 biggest Objections to overcome when Selling.

One response to “How to sell a pen”

  1. Thanks for thought provoking viewpoint. Especially as I am trying to improve selling myself. I read recently that you have to focus on the question “why would this person want to buy a pen from me?” and also that it is important to focus on ‘want’ not ‘need’ as many people do not know they need!

    Would this suggest focusing on the problem a pen solves and then attaching a monetary value to the problem?… e.g. this pen differs from other pen’s in that it uses a special type of ink that never dries out and works even when wet. Remember last week’s thunderstorms, I was walking to a client meeting with my boss, rain crashing down, umbrellas in hand… he took a phone call from an important customer he had been working with and had to write down a message. His pen wouldn’t work, mine did and he still mentions it helped him win a €2m order’

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