How Would You “Sell Me This Pen”?

I wanted to jump in on the Sell Me This Pen bandwagon created by the movie Wolf of Wall Street. If you are a sales guy hiding in the Swiss Alps, you might not know about Martin Scorsese’s fact-based 2013 film about Jordan Belfort. In the 1990s, Mr. Belfort was a penny stock broker who went to prison on charges of fraud and stock market manipulation. In the movie, Leonardo DiCaprio (Jordan Belfort) asks the question “sell me this pen” to a room full of salesmen at a seminar. After a few failed attempts, one character takes the pen and asks him to write his name on a napkin. DiCaprio doesn’t have anything to write with and has to ask for a pen. Test over………….pen sold! How a person answers this question is a direct representation of how they sell. Asking this question in an interview is not to get the right answer (whatever that may actually be), but more for the person’s reaction and style in which they answer. Are you the FEATURE/BENEFIT sales person? If you are, you might answer the question describing the pen and it’s unique features all from a push standpoint. What I mean by a “push standpoint” is that you are trying to shove the feature set on a potential customer without ever knowing what they need. Then again, you might be the VALUE sales person that tries to establish how important the pen is and what a great price it is for that value. Again, this is pushing your agenda on your potential customer. Some sales people are all about annihilating their competition and sell against COMPETITION. This method is all about beating down the customer’s existing pen based on features, look, cost, performance, or any other mark they can use to degrade the competitor pen. All of the above sales styles fail in this interview question because none of them include the customer’s needs. They all simply “pitch” a product and try to force a sale. In the movie, although it was a quick interaction, the character uncovered a need of DiCaprio, and created a sense of urgency by the request of his signature and therefore sold him the pen. In sales, you have to recognize a need and create a sense of urgency before you can convince someone to buy. Even if you know your product is superior, it is difficult to make the sale without first exposing a need, as well as the consequences of not making the purchase to the potential buyer. Knowing your customer’s needs is key to success.


Keenan is A Sales Guy Inc’s CEO/President and Chief Antagonist. He’s been selling something to someone for his entire life. He’s been teaching and coaching almost as long. With over 20 years of sales experience, which he’ll tell you he doesn’t give a shit about, Keenan has been influencing, learning from and shaping the world of sales for a long time. Finder of the elephant in the room, Keenan calls it as he sees it and lets nothing or no one go unnoticed.