Sell Me This Pen
A Lesson in Closing Sales
I was watching the Shark Tank as a presenter tried to sell his sales training course, which was accessed completely through digital devices. I didn’t think it was effective but since I do sales training, I listened closely to the opinions of the shark-buyers.
Out of nowhere Daymond John asked the presenter, “sell me this pen.” The presenter looked surprised, even a little stunned from the beads of sweat on his upper lip. But took the opportunity to jump into his sales pitch. That was a big mistake. He jumped into selling features and benefits without really understanding why Daymond asked the question.
A moment earlier, Mark Cuban made an offer and gave him an opportunity to close the sale, but he missed the window. Mark went on to give him a lesson on closing sales. But the presenter was so busy trying to determine the other sharks’ offers, he failed to take the deal from Mark.
Something as simple as “sell me this pen” can put you on the spot, test your sales process, and your ability to sell. I wondered, how would I answer the question? It’s a question asked by many sales managers during the interview process. Remember the scene when Leonardo DiCaprio asked the same question in The Wolf of Wall Street?
What Did Daymond Want to Learn?
At first, I thought it was a silly question, but then I started to realize the benefits of hearing his response. You see, when you become good at answering this question, you can sell anything because in answering the question you need to think through a sales process. So now I see why sales managers ask this question in interviews. It really shows your sales process for thinking through the situation. It also helps the interviewer to evaluate four key skill sets we teach in our training that are used by world-class sales organizations:
Knowledge. How do you gather missing information? When a sales person prepares for a new meeting, he or she must gather information from the buyer to better understand their situation and to ultimately connect their solution to the buyer’s problem or issue. This is all about understanding the situation, what problems it presents and the implications.
Understanding. The interviewer (or prospect) wants to see how you respond to the information he gives you. Do you really understand what has just been said and did you clarify the information? We do a little exercise in our training called “green words.” When a prospect says, “I want the pen to be of high quality,” the salesperson has already assumed what he means. A good salesperson asks: “Can you define what high quality is for you?” The interviewer wants to see if you probe deeper to truly understand his situation before you pitch your product.
Delivery. The interviewer is also looking to see your process for delivering information. Any sales call will be about gathering missing information and about delivering information. Giving information involves describing and demonstrating your product or service, but only in relationship to the needs of the individual customer.
It means giving him the information he needs to make a sound buying decision. It’s giving information that goes beyond the features and benefits of your product, and that will effectively differentiate you from other information givers who are pushing their products.
The presenter on the Shark Tank just jumped into pitching the features and benefits of the pen before he understood Daymond’s concept or vision for owning a pen. This mistake is made by even good sales people—selling too fast.
Closing. And finally, the interviewer wants to see how you ask for something to move the sales process along or close the sale.
So if your interviewing salespeople or your out on interviews yourself, don’t be surprised if the “sell me this pen” topic pops up. You need to be prepared and have the above process in your mind. Get the frame work down and it will become second nature. At your next sales meeting, do the pen test. See how many will pass the grade.
If I had I been the presenter, this is my response. In fairness to the presenter, like any sales interview, I did my homework and I am prepared for the question. That is why meeting plans are so important in sales. With more informed buyers, you just can’t wing it.
My Response to Daymond
So there I am, under the bright lights in front of the sharks, and Daymond pops the ”sell me this pen” request. First, if Mark made me the offer, near what I wanted, I would have stopped talking, taken the offer, and closed the sale. But let’s pretend it didn’t happen this way, and there I stand with a temporary brain freeze.
Daymond: “Do me a favor, sell me this pen” (he leans over and hands me the pen).
Me. (Thinking about any good sales process, I need to first find the need or pain. I must understand what he is trying to fix, accomplish or avoid and I need to build a concept or vision for the solution that is going to connect with the pen I want to sell.) So I respond, “Damen tell me a little bit about your business as it relates to using a pen. What is the main reason you use it to write?”
Daymond: “To sign customer contracts.”
Me: “I assume signing customer contracts is an important part of producing revenue for your organization. Is that fair to say?”
Me: “Since signing those contracts is such an important part of your business, I am sure your customer also sees this as a memorable event. Then you just grab any pen and sign with what is an ordinary pen.
We grew up our entire lives, using cheap BIC pens because they get the job done for school, work or preparing a grocery list. But we never gave it much thought to learn what’s best for more important events.
This pen is for more important events. This is the tool you use to get deals done. Think of it as a symbol for taking your company to the next level. Because when you begin using the right tool, you are in a more productive state of mind, and you begin to sign more new contracts. You send the right message to your customer that this is a major event for both of you, and that he’s valued. Does that make sense?”
Me: “Actually. You know what? Just this week I shipped ten new boxes of these pens to a number of organizations where signing contracts is regarded as an important event.
Unfortunately, this is my last pen today (with that I would hand the pen to Daymond). So, I suggest you take this one. Try it out. If you’re not happy with it, I will personally come back next week to pick it up. And it won’t cost you a penny.“
Daymond: “Sounds like a good deal.”
Remember, you need to start by understanding the customer’s concept or vision for the pen. In this case, it was about understanding his experience with pens, and to understand how and why he was using them.
Next you need to emphasize the importance of the activity by asking more questions. In this case, he was signing important contracts, so focusing on this activity focuses on something bigger than the pen. We’re focusing on his state of mind and the prestige of using a high-quality pen when signing customer contracts, and it goes beyond the ink on the page. It sets the image of his company in the mind of his customer; it shows that this activity is taken seriously and is important. And finally ask them to buy by matching your solution to the customer’s vision or concept.
Of course, it’s not about selling a pen. It’s about how well you can sell your product or service. It’s not how I sold the pen; it’s about the process of understanding the customer’s concept first and, then tying your solution to it. Take a minute and give me a response of how you would present the pen.
Here are some examples, right or wrong. You be the judge.
See you on the upside,
For more information on how to simplify the complex sale, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700