Interviewing

How to Answer, ‘Sell Me This Pen’ Interview Question

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During an interview, you may find that the interviewer asks you to sell them a pen or maybe one of their products to get an understanding of your sales skills and the strategies you choose to apply to your pitch. You can use this question to demonstrate your persuasion and customer empathy abilities as well. This article explains how to prepare an effective answer when an interviewer says, ‘Sell me this pen.’

Why employers ask, ‘Sell me this pen’

Hiring managers ask you to sell them a pen, particularly for marketing and sales-related roles, because they want to establish your ability to sell and what techniques you use. Asking a candidate to pitch a product, particularly something as ordinary as a pen, is an ideal way of identifying those core skills. In addition to demonstrating your sales capabilities, an interviewer wants to see how quickly and persuasively you respond.

Surprising ways employers ask, ‘Sell me this pen’

Here are some different ways an interviewer might say, ‘Sell me this pen’:

  • ‘How would you promote our latest product?’
  • ‘Demonstrate some of your best sales techniques’
  • ‘What was your most challenging sale, and what skills did you use to close it?’
  • ‘Sell me this [everyday object]’

Before an interview, it’s best to prepare for different ways a hiring manager might ask you to demonstrate your selling ability so you’re ready for this question no matter how it’s presented to you.

How to answer, ‘Sell me this pen’

Here are some steps to consider when answering ‘Sell me this pen’ during an interview: 

1. First, list only the most important and most applicable features

Listing the features of a product provides the customer with why the product is useful. However, not every feature is useful or applicable to the customer, so it’s best to discuss the ones that are. For example, describing the pen as having ‘rich blue colored ink’ may be irrelevant and counterproductive to your pitch if the customer wanted a pen with black ink. You could focus instead on the non-bleed properties of the ink as that feature is more universal.

2. Second, establish the interviewer’s wants and needs

Use qualifying questions to gather details about the interviewer as a customer, such as when and how often they use a pen and what qualities they look for. Asking these types of questions can help you tailor your pitch to their individual needs.

3. Third, create a useful link between their work and the pen

Using the information you gathered during the qualifying questions, highlight a particular feature of the pen and illustrate how that feature would benefit their tasks to demonstrate the product’s value to their work. For example, if the interviewer says they needed to sign documents regularly, then a pen that doesn’t smudge would add value to their work.

4. Fourth, tell them why they will love this pen

Without actually saying ‘you will love this pen because…’, focus on the emotional benefits they can gain by using the pen. Tell them a personal story, for example, about your lucky pen and why it’s lucky. Perhaps a family member gifted it to you on a special occasion like a milestone birthday or graduation, and suggest how the pen you’re selling would be an ideal present for a close friend, colleague or relative.

5. Fifth, let the customer get acquainted with the product

Close your pitch with the part that resonated with them the most. If they connected with the product mostly because of its practicality, then suggest they try the product. If they told you they recently lost their favorite pen, tell them this pen is very special and would make an excellent replacement.

6. Sixth, apply strategies you know can work

Use the techniques and selling skills that you would use if you were in a real selling situation to demonstrate the effectiveness you’re capable of.

7. Seventh, keep trying to make the sale

The interviewer may want to challenge you by being unreceptive to your qualifying questions or ignore your attempts to create an emotional appeal. Keep talking to them confidently and demonstrate how you would respond if a customer was resistant.

8. Lastly, remember to close the sale

Demonstrate your ability to actually get a sale, even if it’s only a pretend scenario. Offer a great deal that’s too good to pass up to help persuade the interviewer not to leave without a new pen.

If you are asked to sell something, whether its a pen, apple or one of the company’s products during an interview, they are asking hypothetically, so there isn’t one correct answer. Instead, the employer is interested in your sales process, the verbal and non-verbal techniques you use as well as your communication skills, enthusiasm and creativity.

Example answers to use in an interview

Here are some examples of good responses when asked by an interviewer to ‘Sell me this pen’:

Example 1: Asking qualifying questions

This first example establishes the customer’s needs with a few simple qualifying questions.

‘Would you tell me about how you would use a pen in your everyday routine so I can better understand your needs? How often do you use a pen? What did you like most about what it offered? How did you feel the pen let you down?’

Asking the interviewer questions near the start of your pitch to establish what they like as a customer, what they dislike and how they currently use a pen can help you tailor the rest of your proposal to their specific requirements. Discovering if a previous pen has let them down in function can also help you create useful links between the pen and the customer’s expectations of the product. Which qualifying questions you choose to ask may depend on their answers to the initial question. Be sure to listen closely to their answers, and use your problem-solving and empathy skills to select the next best question to gather the most applicable information for your pitch.

Example 2: Creating a useful link between their work and the pen

The second example demonstrates connecting the customer’s work and the pen’s value after noticing an opportunity where a customer may want to invest in a new pen.

‘I can see your pen has smudged on some important paperwork. That’s too bad. Try this one, it dries instantly so you won’t have to redo any work or worry about leaks on your clothes. If you find it as useful as I do, then I can offer you enough for all your staff and a 20% discount.’

The candidate recognizes an opportunity to sell a pen by offering a solution to a problem, allows the interviewer to test the pen before purchase and closes the sale by offering a discount. This demonstrates to the interviewer that you have confidence in your product and an eye for detail. This answer also showcases your techniques when closing a sale, which a hiring manager will want to identify when asking this question.