“SELL ME THIS PEN!”
Nearly every sales blog or business magazine has a pen-selling process for the question “How to Sell A Pen”. Asking salespeople how to sell the pen is a beloved screening task for interviewers. And thanks to “Wolf of Wall Street” even non-sales guys think they know how to sell a pen.[#Z]
The Wolf of Wall Street Pen Selling Scene
Here’s the famous pen selling scene of the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Yes, it’s a cool scene. But god forgive, this guy will never ever in his life sell a pen like this.
Everyone Knows How to Sell a Pen
If you ask sales professionals about how they’d do it, you’ll usually receive three different methods to tackle the problem:
1. “If they told me to sell a pen during an interview, I’d take the pen and leave.”
Ask how to sell a pen on Reddit or Quora and you’ll likely see this answer upvoted. I totally understand how one might think the sole purpose of this task is to torture someone, especially if they think selling a pen is a highly irrelevant skill for future jobs. But that’s not an acceptable answer. Because when you do the above, you’ve sold nothing!
2. “You have to be really excited about the pen, explain the benefits of the pen, and enthusiastically pitch it to the customer!”
This CAN work. If you push the reward or explain how the pen fixes an important problem for the customer, then the customer will eventually buy it. This is a pitching process. It’s selling, but not in the best way. Hard-selling like this will often result in buyer’s remorse, cancelled orders, or unhappy customers.
3. “Do a lot of research first. Ask questions like, ‘When was the last time you used a pen? What was satisfying about it? What was lacking?’ or ‘What’s the most important thing to you when buying a pen?’”
Most blogs, coaches, and experts will tell you this is the correct approach to sell a pen. Even inc.com has an article promoting this approach. Well, I disagree.
I wouldn’t ever buy a pen after being asked these questions. A pen is just a pen; there’s nothing exciting about it. I couldn’t care either way — and neither will most people.
If a customer comes into a store looking to buy a pen then yes, this is the correct approach. But that’s because he already has the desire to buy it. In situations like this, the case above can be valid.[#Z]
Transform The Pen to Sell it!
If you want to actually sell a commodity like a pen, you must transform it into something way more valuable. That’s the reason people (including myself) buy pens from Montblanc for ridiculous amounts of money.
These pens are a symbol of something more. For me, this particular pen represents things I’ve achieved in the past. It reminds me that I can conquer all of my goals.
Sure it’s a luxury item. You might say this approach won’t work with a 10 cent pen from Walmart. Well, you my friend, are wrong. It works exactly the same way. You just need to find something of emotional value for your customer and connect it to your product.
I was once interviewed for a sales job by a really well known dot-com startup. My future boss gave me his pen and instructed me to sell it to him.
It went something like this…
Me: “Look, I will sell you this pen. But before I do, I have a question for you. Fair enough?”
Him: “Sure. What’s the question?”
Me: “What was your New Year’s resolution?”
Him: “Uhm.. I wanted to quit smoking.”
Me: “For the first time?”
Him: “Hell no! This is my New Year’s resolution for years.”
Me: “I see… Why is it important for you to quit smokin’?”
Him: “I know it’s not good for my body.”
Me: “How so?”
Him: “Well, my family has a high chance of getting cancer and I don’t want to increase my risk of becoming sick.”
Me: “I understand… What would be the worst thing for you if you had cancer?”
Him: “I asked you to sell me my pen not give me a therapy session.”
Me: “Sure. How much have you paid for this particular pen?”
Him: “Dominic, how is this relevant? It’s a roleplay, it’s your pen.”
Me: “No, it’s not. I’ve been selling you this pen since the beginning.”
Him “What? All you’ve done is continuously ask me about my New Year’s resolutions.”
Me: “Please answer my last question and you will see why. How much have you paid for this particular pen?”
Him: “I dunno. Maybe five bucks.”
Me: “Okay look, here’s the deal. You have two options: Option number one, I give you your pen back for free. Option number two: You pay me 100 bucks for it. In cash. Today!”
Him: “…why would I pay you 100 bucks if it’s MY pen and it’s only worth five?!”
Me: “Because this is not a pen anymore. It’s the missing ingredient for you to finally quit smoking. You will throw the cigarettes away and drastically decrease your risk of becoming sick. This means you will have a much brighter future and will live longer.
When you pay me 100 bucks for your own cheap noname pen — which is only worth five — you will remember to quit smoking every time you use it. How idiotic would it be if you bought your own pen back for more money without getting anything in exchange? You’d look like a fool. But if you buy this pen and decide to finally quit smoking TODAY then this pen will have tremendous value to you. Much more than all the Montblanc pens combined. Plus. it’s a great story to tell if you show someone this plastic pen and tell them it has the price tag of a hundred bucks. You can even use it as an opener to sell other pens. But I need an answer now. But realize, if you say no, you are not saying no to me. You are saying no to yourself…”
BOOM! Sold baby!
And you can do it too.
Think about how you could add extra value to your existing product or services. If you’re selling B2B products, what does your customer (not the company, but the actual buyer) stand for?
Ask him, “Besides the product and business stuff, what is important to you in life? What do you value? Why?”
This will bring you…
- On a personal level with him and
- Gives you some useful insights about what you can bring to the table (that your competitor can’t)
If you’re struggling to apply this pen selling idea to your product, comment below and I’ll help you out!
Now unleash your inner sales beast and go get ’em!
(By the way, I share even more thoughts and tips about this sales tactic with my subscribers!