As a quick recap, there’s a scene in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street where Jordan Belfort, who is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, wants to demonstrate how good one of his sales reps is. He pulls a pen from his pocket, hands the pen to his rep, and asks his rep to “sell me this pen.”
I’ve written a couple of articles on selling the pen.
My first article was to demonstrate how I would sell the pen. You can read it here. Sell Me This Pen. I Tackle the Wolf of Wall Street Sales Riddle. Do You Know the Right Way to Sell the Pen?
I then wrote a follow-up post where I did an informal survey of 20 people and asked them to sell me the pen, which you can read here. Sell Me This Pen Answer: I Tested 20 People, Here Are The Results
I’ve been in sales for almost 30 years. Over the course of my career, I’ve come across some extremely polished sales individuals who understand the art of sales. So I was curious about how these salespeople would sell the pen. I narrowed down the list to three of the best salespeople I have come across during my 30-year career.
These are salespeople who you would be proud to have represent your organization. These individuals understand that selling something doesn’t just mean pushing product or talking about features. These seasoned sales individuals understand that in order to be successful, you have to establish a trust relationship with the client.
You can read their responses below (and they have been presented in no particular order)
3 Experienced Sales People Provide Their Response to Sell Me This Pen
Prospect: “Sell me this pen.”
Me: “Why do you want a new pen?”
For me, it’s never really about the pen. The heart of selling is understanding what the customer’s needs are and why they want something new or improved.
I have sold jeans, servers, data storage, telephones, internet connectivity, commodity products, software solutions, and recently a new-to-market security solution that the customers didn’t even know they needed or wanted.
Let’s start with the commodity items. In many ways, these are the easiest to sell, and in some ways the hardest. It’s easy because many times the customer is familiar with what you are selling and, in most cases, is going to make a purchase. It’s the hardest because now you have to convince the customer that your organization is going to provide better service and support than any of the other competitors selling the same commodity.
When selling commodity items, you are usually there because their existing products are failing, broken, old, or no longer can scale to the customer’s business. But it is still the rep’s responsibility to uncover the reasons why. Why do you think you need something new? What is happening today with your current solution that is faltering and no longer meeting your needs? What does an ideal state look like for you? What would you want to improve to make your business more successful?
Solutions and software are harder to sell, as many times they are not tangible. You need to sell the “what can be achieved” by your solutions/software and not the features and benefits of the product. At the end of the day, you still need to fill a void and understand what is important for the customer. Each customer is going to be a little different than the other, and each sale needs to be tailored to what success looks like for the customer.
So how do I sell you this pen? I want to know what you use the pen for, what would happen if you didn’t have the pen, how important a pen is to you, and then make sure that my pen solution meets and exceeds each of your requirements. And guess what, if it didn’t, I wouldn’t sell it to you. My pen is not for everyone, just as what you’re selling is not for everyone. Find your best target markets and customers, and make sure you know how to improve your customer’s business with your wares.
If I’m a pen salesman, I can safely assume that I have a lot of competition. So like all sales calls, I will need to sound and feel different than everyone else.
It’s all about them. The prospect needs to feel that I am genuinely interested in solving their problems. My first goal would be to get them talking, and I would start with a calibrated, open-ended question. “It sounds like you’re a busy person and you have a lot of note-taking to do during your meetings. Can you tell me how you currently take notes?”
I would actively listen to understand and uncover a real problem that is costing them money. My pen needs to either save them money or make them money, so a small problem that is just a minor nuisance in their day will likely not be enough for them to open their wallets. If I am listening to understand, versus waiting to talk, then I can really put myself in their shoes to get an idea of what they are going through.
Knowing very well that people take notes on tablets, laptops, and phones, I would address the obvious. “You’re probably annoyed with people trying to sell you pens. You probably carry your smartphone or tablet with you everywhere, why would you want to go backward in time and buy a pen?” By stating the obvious, it will do one of two things. Either they tell me that I am right and end the meeting (and I save my time). Or more than likely, they laugh and start to tell me more about why the tablet and phone aren’t so good to take notes on.
Once a problem is presented, it’s time to dig deeper with a well-thought-out question. “How is this affecting your work?” or “What does the rest of your day look like if you can’t take proper notes?” I would then start to shift towards what the customer perceives as a solution to their problem. Is buying a pen even an option for them? I might ask, “What does a better solution look like to you?”
The best way to sound and feel different than everyone else is by demonstrating genuine empathy. You will connect with your prospect on a different level, and they will quickly start to trust you. You cannot force a sale, so be sure to take the role of the guide in your prospect’s buying journey. Instead of confusing them with too much information, ask the right questions to get them to the conclusion that your product is a good fit and you’re the right person to purchase it from.
One of the best sales books I read this year was Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. You can learn more about calibrated questions, tactical empathy, and so many other tricks to help you feel and sound different.
There are many acronyms to selling. PPP, BANT, and the tried-and-true sales cycle of “qualify, present, handle objections, trial close, close, follow up.” One of the best salespeople I have ever known had a different take on it: “Qualify, qualify, qualify, qualify, close.”
There’s a lot of truth in this – it is truly about qualifying. Before I can sell you anything, I need to know there’s a need. I need to know why there’s a need, what you use now, why mine is better. I need to know what you like about what you use now, what you don’t like about what you use now, why you might want to change what you use now, features you may want to have in your new item: wants and desires you have around your prospective new purchase.
Simply, this is all qualifying. How much do you want to spend on your new pen? No point in presenting a gold-filled, top-quality writing instrument when your budget is ten dollars. Again, qualifying. When you have properly qualified your client, you have no more questions and there are no red flags to wave when I ask you for the order. When I am ready to present my solution, I know your needs, budget, timeline. I know the product I am presenting suits your needs, meets your desires, fits your budget.
In over 30 years of business-to-consumer and business-to-business sales, proper qualifying has been critical to my success. My background includes retail to the public and, for the past 20 years, business-to-business in telecom and related products.
You need to intimately KNOW your products. After qualifying, my next goal is to match my solution to everything I have learned about my client. EVERYTHING, no stone unturned. The item is a real solution for my client’s needs. It will do everything the client wants, within the allowable budget and timeframe. I also know my competitors’ products and how to speak about my solution in a way to show my product is the clear choice over the competition. Finally, I always find something extra. An additional feature the client would like that they haven’t asked for. The icing on the cake.
When everything is right – the trust bridge is there, the solution sound, the budget in place, time is right – there’s only one answer when you ask for the order: the answer you are looking for. YES.
Equating all this to the pen…I need to know the intimate details of your wants and desires, your budget, how you use your pen most often. The touch and feel and level of elegance you want. Size and weight, ink color. When I present the writing instrument that is truly YOU, you’ll buy it.
After having read these responses, hopefully you now better understand how to sell the pen.
Since posting this post, I now have three articles written on the fun sales question: Sell Me This Pen. You can read all of them here: Sell Me This Pen Riddle.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy this one: 9 Steps to Build a Sales Team From The Ground Up
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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.