Aceing the sales interview

When ever I was interviewing sales people to join our organisation, I had a simple skill test that I utilised with much success to identify those who claimed to have sales skills.

Quite simply I would ask the candidate to “sell me this pen”

even if its a BIC imagine you are selling THIS pen
even if its a BIC imagine you are selling THIS pen

If you are interviewing for a sales role OR interviewing a salesperson, its a handy technique to know. And to avoid panic, you should know exactly how to deal with this simple question

The point is less the buying and selling of a pen, but as inquire whether the candidate has the right sales framework to respond perfectly every time. The technique also appeared in the recent film, Wolf of Wall Street, and if you start to describe how smooth the pen feels and how shiny the pen looks, you probably won’t get the job.

The purpose is simple. It illustrates how good you are at actually selling product.

There are exactly four sales skills the interviewer is looking to see when you answer:

1. how you gather information
2. how you respond to information
3. how you deliver information
4. how you ask for something

So let’s go through exactly what you can say to address each sales skill.

Find out how they last used a pen (gather information) “May I ask how you used a pen the last time you wrote with one? Do you remember what pen it was?”

Emphasize the importance of the activity they last used a pen (respond to information) “So, you signed the supply contract with your new supplier with a hotel pen, I’m sure the quality and reliability of the pen gave the supplier important information about you, and your organisation. Wouldn’t you say signing those new customer contracts is an important event for the business? ( Interviewer nods head) Then shouldn’t it be treated like one? What I mean by that is, here you are signing new customer contracts, an important and memorable event. All while using a very unmemorable pen. We grew up, our entire lives, using cheap BIC pens because they get the job done for grocery lists and directions. But we never gave it much thought to learn what’s best for more important events.This here, is the pen for those more important events. This is the tool you use to get deals done. Think of it as a symbol for taking your company to the next level. Because when you begin using the right tool, you are in a more productive state of mind, and you begin to sign more new-customer contracts.”

Sell something bigger than a pen, like a state of mind (deliver information) “you know this pen is similar to the pen used to Sign the UN charter, its used by Presidents to sign legislation, and I believe Warren Buffet used this make of pen to buy his last company”

Ask for the order (closing) “Unfortunately, this is my last pen today (reach across to hand pen back to CEO). So, may I suggest that its an ideal opportunity for you to own this one. Try it out. If you’re not happy with it, I will personally come back next week to pick it up. And it won’t cost you a cent.”

Remember, it’s not about actually selling a pen. It’s about showing how well you can sell a product and that you have a clear understanding of the sales process. So whether you are interviewing for the job, or being the interviewer you now know why you are asking this important test question.

And there are many many ways of answering this, it’s easy to memorize a simple formula for your interview. If you can think on your feet you could even tailor it to the company.

Take 15 minutes today to practice the script above. I promise you will benefit.