The first salesperson begins to describe the pen. “It’s an amazing pen …”
Belfort wasn’t satisfied with the answer, so he passes the pen to a second salesperson who describes the pen’s features.
So Belfort gives the pen to someone who Belfort insists “can sell anything,” implying that the salesperson was amazing. The man grabs the pen and asks Belfort to write his name. When Belfort responds that he can’t write his name because he doesn’t have a pen, the man hands the pen back to Belfort and replies, “Exactly, supply and demand.”
Before I continue with this post, I want you to stop reading for just one second. I want you to ask yourself … How would you sell a pen?
I’ve had two main passions throughout my business career: 1. Marketing, and 2. Sales.
Marketing and sales are the two hardest skills to hire and the most important for a small business. Fortunately, I enjoyed and was good at both.
I’ve had countless conversations with salespeople over the years, and the best salespeople I know are the ones who know how to sell the pen.
And very few do.
Very few salespeople understand the art of sales, and yes, just as marketing is an art, so is sales.
What do I mean when I say that sales is an art?
Accounting, for the most part, is a science. There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way. Either the numbers balance, or they don’t.
I took a sales course about 10 years ago. I was in a room packed with at least 500 salespeople, all listening to the presenter discuss, in as specific detail as he could, the steps to bring a sale to a close. The presenter approached sales as a science. He suggested that in order to sell, you had to follow a series of simple steps, and in the end, when you’re ready to close the sale, you ask the customer the question, “Do you prefer the red car or the black car?”
I knew, fundamentally, that most of the people in the room who followed the presenter’s drivel would never truly master the art of sales.
So what is the right answer to the challenge, “Sell me the pen”?
You sell the pen by not selling the pen.
Literally, the last thing you do when trying to sell the pen is start by explaining how fantastic the pen is.
So what is the first step to selling the pen?
You first need to understand who your customer, as a person, is. What are their likes and dislikes? What fascinates them? How did they get to the position they are in?
Then, you need to understand their needs, how often they use a pen, what kind of pens they use, whether they use a pen every day or occasionally.
If you do like Belfort suggested and begin the conversation by “selling the pen,” then you’ve likely lost the sale.
In a sales call, you need to spend more time listening than speaking. That’s why it’s so hard to master the art of sales … because most people like the sound of their own voice, and they feel compelled to sell the customer something. They feel compelled to begin the sale right away.
What you’re selling when you sell the customer the pen isn’t the pen, you’re selling yourself. And you sell yourself by making yourself likable.
You ask questions, and you listen. You let the customer speak, and you listen some more.
It’s a lot easier to be interested than interesting.
Most people don’t get that.
The ones that do, the people that understand that you don’t just “sell the pen,” but rather you get to know your customer by being interested in who they are—their wants and desires—those are the ones that master the art of sales.
Selling the “Wolf of Wall Street, Sell Me This Pen” in Four Steps:
- Understand who your customer, as a person, is. What are their likes and dislikes? What fascinates them? How did they get to the position they are in?
- Understand their needs, how often they use a pen, what kind of pens they use, whether they use a pen every day or occasionally.
- Spend more time listening than speaking.
- Remember, It’s a lot easier to be interested than interesting.
Figuring I was on to something with the Sell Me This Pen answer, I asked 3 superstar salespeople I know for their responses. You can read them here: Sell Me This Pen Interview: 3 Experienced Sales People Provide Their Response
And another here: Sell Me This Pen Answer: I Tested 20 People, Here Are The Results
You can watch the “sell me the pen” scene below.
If you liked this post, you might also like this one: My Response to an 18-Year-Old Who Wants to Become a Millionaire by the Time He’s 30.
And if you’re looking to build a sales team, there’s this post: 4 Essential Steps To Build a Successful Sales Team
You should also consider subscribing to my blog. I publish one article a week on small business and wealth creation. You can subscribe here.
** One of the most helpful business (sales) books I’ve read in my business career, and one that is most often given by sales managers to their staff, is The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon. It’s a few hours read that’s definitely worth the time if you want to take your sales skills to the next level.
Also, I published a book during the summer of 2018, “The Kickass Entrepreneur’s Guide to Investing, Three Simple Steps to Create Massive Wealth with Your Business’s Profits.” It was number 1 on Amazon in both the business and non-fiction sections. You can get a free copy here.