“Sell me this pencil.”
If you’re interviewing for a sales position, chances are that your interviewer will hand you a pencil and ask you to sell it to him or her. How you respond to this challenge is crucial to determining your suitability for a sales job.
What not to do
Never make the mistake of immediately launching into a sales pitch of all the pencil’s great qualities. It could be a one of a kind pencil with the world’s most comfortable grip and an eraser that never runs out, but if you don’t know what your prospect is looking for, listing your product’s unique selling propositions is a waste of everyone’s time.
Determine the value to the prospect
Experienced sales professionals ask a lot of questions before they launch into a sales pitch. Similarly, you need to learn more about your prospect’s needs and pain points so you can determine whether your product can add value to his life. Ask questions like, “Do you like using pencils to write or draw? What qualities do you look for in a good pencil? What kind of pencils do you currently use? Why do you like them? Is there something you don’t like about them?” Write the answers down so you can refer to them later.
Creating a stellar sales pitch
Using the prospect’s answers, craft a customized sales pitch. For example, let’s say the prospect uses pencils to sketch. He likes pencils with a good grip and needs an eraser. You could talk about how your pencil responds to pressure, which is ideal for drawing. Moreover, you could highlight its perfect weight, smooth grip, and polymer eraser that doesn’t damage paper.
In his Inc. article “The Best Response to ‘Sell Me This Pen,’” Joel Comm points out that it’s important to create an emotional tie to the object you’re selling. So to create even more value, you could tell the prospect how you were given that pencil by a local artist who used it to draw an award-winning cartoon. Whatever you say, use the information your prospect gave you in your conversation to craft a pitch that appeals to both his practical and emotional side.
Don’t let a negative response throw you off
Sometimes, an interviewer imitates a disinterested customer to see how well you handle negative responses. Don’t get flustered. Instead, bow out gracefully and without pushing, as Caroline Zaayer Kaufman advises in the Monster article titled “How to answer the job interview question ‘Sell me this pencil.’” Ask if the prospect knows someone who might be interested in purchasing a pencil, thank him or her, and end the conversation.
When you put it all together, remember that an interviewer asking you to sell something in real time is an open door to showcase your skills for an exciting career—and one you can truly be passionate about.
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