Selling That Pen

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As part of my career coaching, I meet and interact with many young professionals who are trying to figure out the next career move for themselves.

Rahul is one such client and as he told me what happened in his last interview, I realized that this one question, for some reason, has been around for decades.

Read the article to find out more.

During his third coaching session, Rahul mentioned that he was interviewed by a leading FMCG company for a position of a field manager. Among many questions, he was asked, “can you sell this pen to me”?

Most (if not all) salespeople have faced this question some time in their career.

What beats me is that all these who are asked this question, when they grow up to be successful managers or trainers, teach others how important it is to know the context of the customer, the likes, dislikes, ask questions, etc; and yet when they interview, “can you sell this pen to me”?!

Most interviewees fall into the trap and jump at talking about how great a simple plastic pen is.

I asked Rahul how he responded and that led to an interesting conversation. I was taken back in time to the days I was selling and, in few minutes, all my experience of 28 years flashed across. I can now succinctly say what selling is and what makes a successful salesperson.

And being a stickler for simplifying things, I have the following to offer. Selling is about two things:


There are different kinds of sales processes you will find on the internet and each of them has merit in some specific situations and depends on the product or service one is selling. Broadly, these are:

Prospecting gives you business. It is critical for any sales that you have a source of potential customers.

Process makes your sales sustainable. One needs to follow a certain method of selling and depending on the product or service, some aspects are critical. For example, for life insurance one must understand the financial situation of the prospect; for selling cars it is important to know what kind of car s/he uses, the aspiration and the usage; for pharmaceuticals it is about the type of patients, therapy and needs. The salesperson must identify these and then sell the relevant benefits. Benefits are what your product or service will give the customer.

Referrals keep you in business. Depending on the product or service, one should deploy different techniques to get referrals. What is universal is that when satisfied customers refer, the next prospect is more likely to buy.


A skilled salesperson is one who gets into a conversation with the prospect and uncovers their needs, wants, and concerns. Asks questions and helps the prospect buy her / his product or service.

A simple question like, “what price range would you like to buy the pen?” is also a question. It starts a conversation and tells the salesperson if s/he has the right product for the prospect.

So, the next time someone asks you to sell that pen, don’t jump! Instead, ask questions. Do watch this short video before you go; and share your thoughts in the comments section.