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The Sales Evangelist

You’ve likely heard the scenario before where an interviewer asks a seller to “Sell me this pen,” but how much value does this approach offer??
This scenario will likely throw your prospective sellers into a nervous panic because you’re asking them to sell something they know nothing about. So how much will it really tell you about your seller?

Features and benefits

Sellers who don’t know much about the product they are selling or the audience they are selling to usually revert to features and benefits. They sell the aspects of the product that they can see.
“It’s comfortable.” “It has a good grip.” “It has a clicky thing and even a laser pointer. That’s great for folks who do presentations.”
“It writes smoothly and it isn’t too expensive. In fact, it’s cheaper than many of the pens on the market. And if you buy it today, I can throw in a notepad and a pocket protector.”
Why would people even do this test in the first place?

Quick thinking

People often conduct this test to see how well you think on your feet and how you perform under pressure. And though I can understand those motivations, this test won’t truly work unless you’re selling something that might be a consumer sale.
Typically, sellers aren’t selling simple products like pens. Rather they are selling something like a software solution that is much more expensive and has a much longer sales cycle. In those cases, it won’t matter as much how good you are with your words. You won’t be able to persuade someone within one minute to buy your expensive product.
If you’re selling inexpensive trinkets on the side of the road, it might just work. But if you’re selling something with a significant price value, it won’t.


This idea to “Sell me this pen,” might have provided a good judge of a seller’s abilities in the 80s and 90s, but today’s buyers rely on reviews.
So as a sales leader, what if you stopped using this unrealistic test and offered a better one? What if you gave your sellers a scenario and ask them to prepare for it?
Test your sellers to see whether they can find true problems or interesting facts, figures, or statistics that will help you win the deal. Determine whether the sellers will try to “wing it” instead of coming prepared.

Sales scenario

You want a sales rep who is prepared, so use your interview opportunity to determine their ability to prepare. Ask your receptionist to send a scenario to the interviewees. Let them know they will be asked to role play a selling scenario like this.
Present a scenario in which a particular business owner has a certain set of challenges. He is already working with a particular vendor. The sellers’ job is to show up prepared to understand the product and services and have a meaningful conversation selling this service to the business owner.
If the sales rep shows up with information about the company in-hand and prepared to have a meaningful discussion, you’ve likely found a good seller. If the seller shows up with the intention to “wing it,” you’ll know what you’re up against.

Selling pens

The secret to successful selling lies with asking appropriate questions, even in the case of selling a pen. If you do use the pen test, expect your sellers to begin by finding out whether the buyer even needs a pen.It doesn’t matter how much ink it will hold or how great the cap is if the seller doesn’t need it.
Instead of spending the time pressuring the buyer to spend money on a pen, expect your sellers to begin by asking questions.
Meaningful questions about the buyer’s situation will either qualify or disqualify the buyer. It will also communicate that the seller understands the buyer’s actual situation. The seller will demonstrate a desire to identify the pain point and solve the problem.
Maybe the customer needs a computer more than a pen. Don’t waste your time pitching a product the customer doesn’t need.


Seek sellers who will serve as consultants rather than those who will try to trick the customers. Help the buyer feel like he is making a buying decision rather than being sold to.
Jeffrey Gitomer said that people love to buy but they hate to be sold to. Help your customers understand the true pain that exists and then help them solve it. If you do this, they’ll evangelize about you and ultimately help you get more business.
Empower your sales reps to sell on their own. Teach them to become consultants who ask meaningful questions to identify challenges that the buyers may not even realize they have.
He’ll be successful and he’ll have great clients who love him.
If you create a meaningful scenario for your interviews, you’ll have more meaningful discussions and dialogues and both parties will enjoy the process more.
Besides, we probably already have enough pens.

“Sell me this pen” episode resources

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About the Author The Sales Evangelist

Donald is the host of the popular sales podcast,"The Sales Evangelist". He is the founder of The Sales Evangelist Consulting Firm where he helps small companies develop killer sales process to scale their business and increase growth.

Donald is also an award-winning speaker, sales trainer, and coach. He's a big fan of traveling, South Florida staycations and high-quality family time. Donald has a belief that “anyone” can sell if they have the desire and receives the proper training.

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