Best Interview Answers for “Sell Me This Pen”

Tips for Answering "Sell Me This" Interview Questions

Hand pointing with pen on table
••• Shannon Fagan / Getty Images

One of the things an interviewer is going to want to know about applicants for sales, marketing, and related jobs is whether they can sell, and what sales strategies and techniques they use. To get a sense of your sales skillsinterviewers for sales jobs and other marketing positions may ask you to demonstrate your approach to selling a product as part of the interview.

It could be any product. An apple or a pen are traditional picks, although interviewers may also request that you sell something their company makes. The interviewer's goal is to find how well you can sell.

If you're interviewing for a sales- or marketing-focused position, you should be prepared to pitch a product or service.  

How to Answer "Sell Me This" at a Job Interview

You might be asked to sell the interviewer a pen, a pencil, a stapler, an apple, or some other everyday object. As with other hypothetical questions, there will be no right answer, but the employer will be interested in the sales process that you follow, your verbal communication skills, and your enthusiasm and creativity.

Illustration by Melissa Ling. © The Balance, 2018

Be Positive and Enthusiastic

Make sure that you are positive and excited about the product as you introduce it. You might say something like, "I am so excited to tell you about how this pen can help you to write in a legible, attractive, and efficient manner." 

The nonverbal elements of your presentation will be as critical as your words, so make sure you pitch the product with an enthusiastic voice and facial expressions. Animation can help you to convey excitement and underscore your confidence about the value of the product.

Emphasize the Features the Interviewer Will Value

An important phase of the selling process is getting to know your customer, so you might try asking the interviewer for some clarification about his or her potential uses of the product.

For example, you might say, "To help me to understand better how my product might help you, I would love to learn more about how you use a pen during your daily routine. When do you rely most on a pen during the day? When was the last time you used a pen? What was satisfying about the experience? What was lacking or frustrating?"

Don't be afraid to ask a few questions. The more you know about your interviewer's needs, the better your pitch will be. Play off the interviewer's responses to emphasize some features of your pen that might help them with their activities. For example, if your interviewer mentions taking notes at meetings as a priority, then you might mention in response that your pen has a fine point and non-smearing ink which would enable her to take legible notes. If your interviewer was frustrated by pens that didn't write on certain surfaces or easily ran out of ink, you could emphasize how freely the ink flows from your pen and the large capacity of ink available.

Asking questions will allow you to personalize your pitch, and go beyond just listing out features of the pen. 

Be Ready to Sell

Some interviewers may not play along with your effort to assess their preferences. So be ready to sell the product without their input. Emphasize features of the product and benefits that the customer will derive from owning and using it. Think about your own experience with the product and the likely experience of other users.

For example, "My customers are finding that our apples make an excellent healthy snack for families on the run or to pack with your children's school lunch. Our apples are fresh and crisp since we source them weekly from local orchards. We only sell apples that are grown organically without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Our apples are loaded with beneficial fiber, vitamins, and nutrients so, in addition to being sweet and tasty, they are great for your health.”

Probe for Reservations About the Product or Service

Eliciting and overcoming objections to a product is a critical element of the sales process. After making some statements about the benefit of the product, check back with the interviewer to determine if they have any concerns that would stand in the way of a purchase. 

You could ask, "After hearing my pitch, is there anything that would stand in the way of you purchasing this pen?" If the interviewer mentions something like the cost, then counter with a statement such as, "I have been authorized to provide you with a 20% discount if you order three cases or more of our pens. We also have a money-back satisfaction guarantee."

You can also talk about the competition. For instance, you might say, "I know you mentioned that oranges are another favorite snack. Comparatively, apples are easier to eat, without causing sticky hands from juice or needing to be peeled. Apples are the perfect on-the-go snack." 

Make an Attempt to Close

Salespeople who are willing and effective closers are in the highest demand. Don't hesitate to ask the interviewer for her business at the end of your presentation. Make an enthusiastic final statement that includes a request to serve the customer.

For example, "I would love to be your preferred provider for the highest quality pens. I will work hard to justify the confidence that you would place in me and our product and make sure you are thoroughly satisfied with the product. Can we move forward with your first order?" Here's how to close a job interview

Don't Be Afraid to Employ Some Creativity

Interviewers won't expect you to be 100% factually correct when coming up with an answer on the spot, so feel free to be creative with your response as long as your assertions are plausible and delivered convincingly. Remember that confidence about the quality of your product is fundamental to effective sales.