How to approach the “Sell me this pen” sales interview question - Undergrad Success
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How to approach the “Sell me this pen” sales interview question

How to approach the “Sell me this pen” sales interview question
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Going for a sales job interview?

Let us consider this scenario.

It’s your turn.

“Come in please and have a seat” says your interviewer.

You are then handed a pen and the interviewer says “Sell me this pen”.

You collect the pen and take a look at its features such as color, length and so on.

Now you have analyzed the pen and you are about to describe how nice it looks, how well it writes and other benefits it has to the user.

This is typically how most people would want to approach the question.

However, it is important to understand that companies need to know the capability of the sales person they are about to hire in terms of personal selling as Barton Weitz reported in a study that this was a driving force in the sales volume of companies.

So, how do you answer this sales interview question correctly? You might ask.

Let me explain why a hiring manager would ask you that question in the first place.

When you are asked to sell me an arbitrary thing, the hiring manager wants to see if you use discovery approach or not.

They want to know if you are going to learn about the customers’ needs regarding the imaginary product, how they use it, what they liked about the last one they used and so on.

If you get asked the “sell me this pen” question, start asking questions!

Asking questions will prove that you know what selling is all about.

It will also put you in dominant position as you are doing the asking.

Here are steps to guide you through the process.

Step 1

Find out the need for the arbitrary item, in this case “the pen”.

With questions like:

  • Do you use a pen and what for?
  • How does a pen help you do your job?
  • How often do you use a pen?

The essence at this stage is to establish an actual need or desire for the product and to understand the person who uses the product.

Step 2

Find out the value and emotional attachment of the current arbitrary item in use

You can ask questions like

  • When was the last time you used a pen?
  • What kind of pen do you like to use?
  • How good is the pen you are currently using?
  • What is the favorite thing you like about your pen?

Here, you are tying the need for the pen to its availability.

You also get to know that there is need for a product that will have better features than the current one in use and hence creating a demand for your new product.

A match between your product and the need for the product will guarantee the sale of the product without seeming forceful.

Step 3

Acknowledge the importance of the pen

The aim at this stage is to create an emotional and personal attachment to the arbitrary item.

Example of questions you can ask includes:

  • What is the most important thing you have ever written with your pen?
  • What is the most memorable thing you have ever written?
  • Whom would you like to write to right now?
  • How does your current pen make your writing look?

This will sell them the emotional value of the product.

Using a story or creating a scenario can create the picture needed to get them thinking about the product.

For example, in response to “what is the most important thing you have ever written?” the interviewer will start thinking about things like “the first check he signed, “the first offer of appointment letter he signed”, “the first note written for their spouse” and so on.


Now the interviewer is lost in thought and you are in control of the conversation.

Step 4

Closing the deal

After you have established an emotional attachment to the product, it is time to close the deal.

Use the strongest emotion to which the interviewer related to.

Come up with a product feature that will match their need.

Create up to three variants of the product.

Offer the product and ask the interviewer to make a choice.

This creates a feeling of control for “the buyer” and you can wrap it up at this point.

The “sell me a pen” sales interview question is a test to evaluate your understanding of the psychology of selling and how you would approach the question.

It has nothing to do with an actual pen!

What sales job interview question have you been asked before? Share it with us in the comment.

Alta Chatterjee​ is a career coach, consultant and a published author, with over 25 years of coaching experience. You can grab a copy of her Free Case Study on​ ​“How To Get Promoted” Here​.


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