This is now a standard interview question for candidates applying for a sales job. In the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, stockbroker Jordan Belfort teaches his sales team their first lesson by pulling out a pen and saying, “sell me this pen.” After a few attempts, one character takes the pen and asks Belfort to write his name on a napkin. Belfort doesn’t have anything to write with and has to ask for a pen. Supply and Demand. Boom. He made the sale.

 

In sales, you have to recognise a need and you have to create a sense of urgency before you can convince someone else your product is the answer. Even if you know your product is superior, it’s difficult to make the sale without first exposing a need, as well as the consequences of not making the purchase to the potential buyer.

Screening sales managers through video interviewing is a perfect to ask candidates to recreate a short ‘sales pitch’. You can see how they react, and you can enforce a time limit – so they must get the message across concisely. Think elevator pitch.

“Most interviewers are screening for confidence and cogency,” says Brett Cenkus, a Texas-based business consultant and lawyer who has trained sales professionals. In general, interviewers use this type of question to get a feel for your sales style and experience.

However, there are a few things to bear in mind: An effective and top performing sales person will ask questions to determine a need and pain point. When setting up your video interview, think about setting scenario information to give the candidate the information that they would ask.

You’ll very quickly see whether they respond to this and focus on your need, or just rattle though all the wonderful features that the pen – or more realistically your own product – can offer.

You’ll be looking for:

  • How a candidate responds to information
  • How they deliver information
  • Closing skills

And remember. It’s a clichéd question – it’s not actually about the pen at all.