Sell Me This Pen

Sell Me This Pen

When I first came to the offices of Optimum RTS, I was under the impression I would be interviewing for your average, run of the mill, administrative position. As I’ve explained in previous posts, average or not, interviewees must go into their interviews fully prepared. Preparing for the unexpected can be difficult, for obvious reasons, however it’s important to do the best that you can – much like studying to be on Jeopardy, you should cover all areas. If you’d like more tips, click here to read a previous post on excellent ways to prepare for an interview.

I, however, did not accomplish this task prior to my interview with Optimum. Something I was certainly not prepared for was the popularly used approach of, “Sell me this pen.” This tactic is used up and down and across the board for a majority of placements, and now I know why – but we’ll get into that later…

Just a short eight months ago I sat down for an interview with John Dalton, Owner of Optimum RTS, a Recruiting, Training and Staffing Agency. I should have known this would be asked of me, but the bottom line is that I didn’t. I wasn’t prepared and I admittedly failed to provide the appropriate comeback. Thankfully, I showed qualities within my response that could prove to be useful in retraining my sales technique.

Like so many others, when John turned the floor over to me during my interview by saying, “Sell me this pen,” I immediately began to describe the “amazing” features of a pen I was literally just handed and knew nothing about. I went on and on about how fabulous and stylish the shade of green was, about how smooth it would write, I even mentioned how long lasting this particular pen would be; like I had a clue. All wrong.

John said three words to me and I hightailed off of my sales pitch and aimed a little clearer for the right track. He said, “Less is more.” It was then when I realized, I was nervous (obviously – interviews can be harsh, we all know that) and moving along rapidly without asking questions. And there it is – the key to sales. What does your consumer a) want and b) need.

Listening is the ultimate and most important factor within sales. Without first hearing what your potential purchaser has to say, you will have no idea whether or not they a) want or b) need what you are selling and you will also not have the advantage of fine tuning your “pitch” to fit the wants and needs which they’ve just described to you by having a conversation with them and asking them questions, not by selling.

Long story short, once I realized the mistakes I was making, I asked John a series of questions about what he does. “I wonder, John, now that I understand what you do on a day to day basis, if having a pen might aid you in your business operations,” I then asked. Although there are a multitude of different ways in which I could have approached this, John could see I was thinking analytically enough to continue to learn more about his business.

I started by saying you must be prepared for anything, and in my experience this is true. I went in to Optimum RTS to interview for an administrative position where sales tactics were used. The “Sell me this pen” technique is used in a multitude of interviewing situations. Why? Listening is not just important in sales, it is important in all things. You must listen to be a great business leader, you must listen to be a great customer service representative, you must listen to take down the correct order information at a fast food chain and you must listen to be a great family member, friend, significant other, business partner, etc.

Preparation is extremely important when you are interviewing, this is an undeniable fact. Listening, however, will always trump your preparation. It is actively listening that will enable you to really understand the questions being asked in order to properly formulate your answers. It is listening that will engage your interviewer, as well as others in your life. So, hone your listening skills – they are useful in every circumstance.

Written by: Melanie Scherr