See this pen? Can you sell it to me?

  | James Innes

     

See this pen? Can you sell it to me?

Alternative and related questions:

See this pen/pencil/paperclip/computer/desk/mobile phone/shoe…

The meaning behind the question:

You might think this question is only likely to be asked if you work in sales – but you’d be wrong. It can be asked of almost anyone, regardless of whether sales skills are important to their job. It’s a question which forces a candidate to think on their feet while under pressure – and this can tell an interviewer a lot about a candidate, not least how clearly they are able to think and to communicate. It’s a classic question – some might say cliché – but it nonetheless regularly features in interviews.

Your answer:

There are two possible ways of answering this question – depending on your line of work. If you do work in sales then you shouldn’t need too much advice from me as to how to handle the question. You simply need to demonstrate your standard sales patter and techniques to the interviewer, inventing pricing, discount offers, payment terms, etc. as you go. The precise details are not important; it’s the methods you employ which count – identifying the customer’s needs and matching those to the specific benefits of the product, etc.

If, on the other hand, you don’t work in sales (which is the majority of us) then this question is going to be a little trickier to handle. Don’t let yourself be panicked though; the interviewer knows full well that you are not used to selling and they won’t be expecting you to have a whole arsenal of sales techniques at your disposal. And don’t take yourself too seriously; good people are always light-hearted and friendly.

Concentrate on:

  • Talking the interviewer into expressing a need – or needs
  • Describing the object, including both its features and, more importantly, its benefits
  • Discussing pricing (which you will invent off the top of your head)
  • Asking them directly for the sale

Example:

I’m sure you’ll agree with me that a pen is vital to your day-to-day work and it’s therefore important to make sure you’ve got just the right one? This pen is solidly constructed so as to be durable for everyday use – even if it rolls off your desk onto the floor. It has a plentiful ink reserve so there’s less chance of the pen running dry at a critical moment. It fits comfortably into the hand and even has a clip so you can safely attach it to your jacket pocket when you’re on the move. I can offer you this pen at the very reasonable price of 20 pence. However, if you were to take three – I’m sure your colleagues would also be interested – then I could offer you a 20% discount making a total of just 48 pence. How many would you like?

Word of warning: This is a question where (unless you work in sales) it is particularly important to convince the interviewer that your answer is not rehearsed. If they can clearly identify that you have planned, prepared and rehearsed for this question then it’s going to take a whole lot of impact out of your answer.

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