There are three things which fill people with horror: death, public speaking, and job interviews. Everything about a job interview makes people very anxious. Knowing that the interviewers are watching your every move and scrutinizing your resume makes you feel like a bug under a magnifying glass. It can be so uncomfortable.

Now imagine yourself seated before your interviewers, a cold sweat running down your back due to all the anxiety, and then one of the interviewers takes out a pen and says, “Sell me this pen.”

This is a very common question in sales interviews, yet it almost always catches the interviewee flat footed. Your mind goes blank, your stomach fills with ice and your throat constricts.

A sweat starts forming on your forehead. What do you say? How do you handle this new development?

Fortunately, this question doesn’t have to be so disconcerting.

Today, we take a look at some of the best answers to this common interview question.


Like I mentioned, this question is often asked to applicants interviewing for jobs in sales and marketing. There is one main reason behind this question. Your interviewer wants to know whether you can sell.

The question puts you under pressure, because the implication here is you either convincingly sell the pen or lose the job opportunity.

One of the key qualities a good salesman should have is grace under pressure, which is why you want to ace this question.

Answering the question correctly will demonstrate your sales skills, your communication skills, your mindset, your level of enthusiasm, and your ability to get into your customer’s head.


Below are some things you should keep in mind when answering this question:

1. Show Your Enthusiasm

It’s understandable if you momentarily get knocked off your game when a question like that comes at you unexpectedly. However, you should keep in mind that any good salesman is always passionate and enthusiastic about their product. Therefore, even if your first instinct will be panic, control your panic and instead try to bring out your positivity.

In doing so, you transfer your positivity to the product, making it attractive. It also communicates your confidence and encourages the customer to trust you.

A good way to show positivity is to start by smiling. Talk highly of your product, but don’t oversell it. Watch your body language. Nod, laugh, maintain eye contact – anything that communicates your enthusiasm and shows the customer that he or she has your attention.

2. Customize Your Pitch

Keep in mind that you are not selling the pen to an unknown person. Your buyer (the interviewer) is right there in the room with you. Don’t use any crammed formula – customize your pitch for the specific audience. Ask her questions. Cultivate a rapport. Understand what she wants or needs, then use it to sell her the pen.

Use what the interviewer tells you to convince her that she needs this pen you are selling. Remember, getting her to buy the pen remains your top priority.

Empathize with whatever she says and use that to sell her your pen. By doing this, you show that you are aware that the customer is the most important aspect of any sale. The best salesman focuses on the customer’s needs and ignores his own ego.

What the customer wants is always at the top of his mind, and he uses that information to make his sale.

3. Always Bounce Back

Since this is a job interview and not a real buyer-seller situation, sometimes the interviewer will treat your pitch with hostility or refuse to play along.

When you try to ask him questions, he might brush you off. When you try to cultivate a rapport, he might tell you to get to the point or get lost.

Don’t let that throw you off your game because that’s exactly what he wants. Don’t get frustrated. Instead, you should remain focused on your goal – selling the pen.

Find a way to circle back to your pitch. Just take care not to come off as pestering the customer. Be genuinely affable and your tenacity will come off as good-natured and even inspiring.

4. Emotion is Key

There are two reasons why people buy things:

  • Because they need them.
  • Because buying these things gives them a feeling they crave.

The first option is for necessities. The second one is for everything else. If you have a car in your garage, you don’t need a Ferrari. You don’t need china plates when regular plates are available. Why do you keep buying things you don’t need? 

The answer to that question is the key to the entire advertising industry.

The interviewer probably owns several pens. This particular one is not a necessity. If you want them to buy your pen, find a way to get them emotionally attached to it. Find a way to make them feel that buying it will give them pleasure. They key to infusing your sale with emotion is to use stories.

Stories are reservoirs of emotion. A good story can make people weep, laugh, or feel pride. By using a story to create emotional value for the pen, you might even get the chance to sell it at a higher price than it’s worth. This is the definition of marketing.


Now that you know why interviewers ask this question and what you should include in your answer, let us take a look at how to actually answer the “Sell me this pen” interview questions.

Below are some real life examples of answers to this question by applicants who went on to get hired. 


Interviewer: [taking a pen from his pocket and handing it to you] now, sell me this pen.

[You take the pen, put it in your pocket. Take a piece of paper, hand it to the interviewer.]

You: Hello Chris, I’m a big fan of yours. I really loved your article on the effects of technology in the advertising industry. Can I get your autograph?

Interviewer: Sure [starts searching in their pocket for a pen]. Seems like I didn’t carry my pen.

You: [taking out the pen] Oh, I have a pen right here, but it will cost you a dollar.

Interviewer: Great, I’ll take it.

What you have done in this example is to create a need. It doesn’t have to be an autograph, you can think of anything that requires the interviewer to use a pen. By creating a need, you make the interviewer realize that she needs your product for a practical reason.

However, things might not always go as expected. The next example spices things up a little bit and shows how you can bounce back if things don’t go as you anticipated.


Interviewer: [taking a pen from his pocket and handing it to you] now, sell me this pen.

[You take the pen, put it in your pocket. Take a piece of paper, hand it to the interviewer.]

You: Hello Chris, I’m a big fan of yours. I really loved your article on the effects of technology in the advertising industry. Can I get your autograph?

Interviewer [taking out another pen]: Sure, I have a pen right here.

You: How long have you had that pen?

Interviewer: A month.

You: Look at it. It looks a little beat up. Don’t you think that a new month requires a new pen?

Interviewer: It’s just a pen.

You: Really? Just a pen? Think about it. All the things you do with your pen. All the important deals you sign. All the useful notes you jot down. It’s not just a pen. It’s a part of your life. It’s a key part of your success story.

Interviewer: What are you saying?

You: A new pen means a new mindset. It’s like a fresh start. With a new pen, you can attack the new month with vigor. Each new deal you sign will feel special. Every piece of information you jot down will feel like the best thing you have ever written down.

Interviewer: Interesting. I can’t go shopping for a new pen right now. I will get one on my way home this evening.

You: No worries. I have one with me right here. [You take out your pen]

Interviewer: Wow, looks like a lovely pen, how much is it?

You: Just a dollar.

Interviewer: Okay, I’ll take it.

Just because things don’t go according to plan doesn’t mean you should give up. Instead, you should find a way to take the conversation where you want it to go. Note how this example makes the interviewer aware that she needs a new pen by calling into question the value of her old one.

However, don’t say anything discourteous about what the client currently owns. Be very polite in opening the customer’s eyes to see why he or she needs an upgrade. Note how the example makes the sale by simply showing the emotional benefits the interviewer stands to gain from buying your pen. This is marketing – telling stories about your products.


Interviewer: [taking a pen from his pocket and handing it to you] now, sell me this pen.

You: Hi, my name is [your name].

Interviewer: Hello [your name].

You: This is a nice office you have here. You must be a very valuable member of this company.

Interviewer: Thank you. Can I help you with something?

You: I am from a pen manufacturing company and we are currently doing a poll. We want to find out what people hate or love about their pens. Not ours necessarily. A general poll. Any pens. Let’s start with what you hate about some of the pens you have used.

Interviewer: Well, some of them write too faintly. Some of them have tips that are too sharp and they tear up the page you are writing on. Some of them don’t last. Some of them have a tendency to leak.

You: And what do you love about the pens you do enjoy writing with.

Interviewer: They write cleanly and clearly. Their tips are soft against the paper. They are comfortable to hold. And they are durable.

You: What if I told you that I have a pen with me that is exactly like your description of your ideal pen?

Interviewer: I say I want to see for myself.

You [taking out your pen]: Here it is.

Interviewer [Taking the pen]: Can I test it?

You: Be my guest.

Interviewer: You are right. It’s a good pen.

You: Only two dollars, but for you I will make an exception and make it a dollar.

Interviewer: Sounds like a deal.

The first thing you have done in this scenario is introduce yourself. Being polite is critical to making a sale. It indicates that you are a positive human being who is at home in any situation. Politeness communicates self-mastery as well as good manners. It gets you in the door.

The next thing you have done is give the interviewer a compliment. For a compliment to work its magic, it has to be genuine. Don’t say something generic.

Pay attention to your surroundings and to your customer and find something about him you admire. Genuine compliments make people feel warm, pleasantly surprised, and genuinely appreciated for who they are. This is how you break their defenses.

The next thing you have done is tell the customer why you are there, and asked him a question that makes him introspect about the product. In doing this, you have made him think about what he likes and doesn’t like in pens. This allows you to present your pen as the solution to a problem he didn’t realize he had until you showed up.

The interviewer had probably never reflected on what he hates about terrible pens. Your clever question makes him realize he has a problem: bad pens. The solution: your pen. Note also that what you have delivered here is a pitch custom-made for this customer, and that’s what makes it a great sales technique.


Interviewer: You say you are a great salesman, sell me this pen.

You: Hi, my name is [your name].

Interviewer [somewhat rudely]: What do you want?

You: I work at a pen manufacturing company and –

Interviewer: We don’t need any pens here.

You: Can I compliment you on the beauty of your office?

Interviewer [grudgingly]: Thank you. Get to the point, will you?

You: Well, we are doing a survey. We want to find out what people love or hate about their pens.

Interviewer: What’s the big deal? They are just pens!

You: That may well be so, sir. But at [name of your fake pen company], we take pens very seriously. Pens are our whole life. When we sleep at night, we dream of pens. During the day, we are constantly thinking about how to make better pens. When we go about in public, we are observing our competitors’ pens and trying to think of how to make better pens than them.

Interviewer: So you love pens, huh?

You: If we can make better pens, we believe we can make a small dent in the universe. It might be small but it’s there nonetheless. When pens work perfectly, you are filled with a sense of well-being right?

Interviewer: I don’t know if I would call it that.

You: When your pen breaks easily because it’s made of brittle material, or scratches the page you are writing on, or leaks, or writes too faintly, how does that make you feel?

Interviewer: It makes me very angry.

You: So it destroys your equilibrium?

Interviewer: You could say that.

You: Which means that a good pen  puts you in a good mood?

Interviewer: I suppose.

You: How would you love to use a good pen to write and sign your important documents?

Interviewer: That would be great.

You: Here is a great pen [taking out the pen]. Just one dollar. You can go ahead and test it.

Interviewer: Well done.

The main lesson from this example is persistence. Polite, respectful persistence. Note how you melt the interviewer’s hostility with a simple compliment. The conversation goes from “I don’t want to listen to you” to “hurry up and tell me what you are here to say”. This is what it means to always maintain your enthusiasm.

After the interviewer expresses his contempt of your attempt to cultivate a meaningful debate about pens, you don’t quit. Instead of giving up, you pivot from your intention of asking him about his likes and dislikes to expressing your own passion for pens. This is a technique you use when the customer is uncooperative.

When the customer does not want to show interest in your product and even refuses to answer your questions, it is up to you to supply the conversation. Just ensure whatever you say circles back to your main objective: making the sale

You should also take note of how this example uses logic to break down the interviewer’s walls. Step by step, you demonstrate the importance of good pens, making him realize that he needs a good pen, that it will add value to his life. That’s how you convert an uncooperative prospect into a satisfied customer – through persistence, tact, positivity, and a quick-thinking mind.


Interviewer: If you want the job, sell me this pen.

You: Hi, my name is [your name].

Interviewer: Hi [Your name]. That’s a nice name. Where are you from?

You: I grew up in [your home]. And do you know what I miss the most about my childhood?

Interviewer: No. What?

You: Writing in my diary. I had this gorgeous pen. I loved it. I haven’t been able to find one quite like it – until very recently.

Interviewer: Why? What happened recently? Did you find that pen?

You: No. Better. I actually found a pen I like better. A pen I can create new golden memories with.

Interviewer: Are you trying to sell me a pen? Are you a salesman?

You: Yes. But this is more than a pitch. I have sold many products in my life. But now and then, a product comes along that alters your worldview. It blows every single product you used before it out of the water.

Interviewer: I have to do some work. Do you mind? [Turning on her laptop, ignoring you]

You: I am quite sorry for disturbing you. But before I leave, can I show you something?

Interviewer: Okay.

You [taking out the pen and handing it to her]: I liked your name. Write it on this piece of paper.

Interviewer [writing]: The pen writes very nicely.

You: Like I told you. It’s a great pen. And it only costs one dollar.

Interviewer: Well done.

This script is another good example of persistence and the ability to bounce back. When the interviewer asks you about where you come from, you find a way of bringing the conversation back to your goal.

You are here to sell the pen and that’s all that matters. Next you captivate the interviewer with a story that captures her on an emotional level. She is intrigued by the story of your childhood pen. It makes her think of her own childhood.

When she shows disgust for your sales tactics after she figures out all you want to do is sell her a pen, you find a way to make your quest look noble. You do not deny that you are a sales professional, but embrace it instead.

As you do so, you express why this particular product is so special. Next she tries to ignore you, and that’s when you decide to go for the kill since she has become uncooperative. Respectfully, you ask if you can show her something. The sense of mystery intrigues her. Next you compliment her name and ask her to write it down for you, accomplishing two things at the same time: you get to make her feel good about herself and also to test your product.

By finding a way to always bounce back in spite of the customer’s attempts to ignore you, discourage you, or make you digress, you end up making the sale. Being a good salesperson is about keeping your eye on the prize and using any means at your disposal to make the sale. Use what the client gives you.

And if the client refuses to give you anything, use the surroundings. If the surroundings are not useful, come up with something off the fly. Anything to make the sale.


The next time you find yourself having to answer this question in an interview, you can easily answer it by following the steps below.

  • Ask questions to gain information: Asking questions helps you to learn more about the customer (interviewer), therefore allowing you to customize your pitch to the customer. Asking questions also helps you uncover any needs or objections the customer might have.
  • Create a need: The next step is to come up something to make the customer realize that they need the pen, or any other product you might be asked to sell. You don’t have to explicitly ask the interviewer to do something that requires them to use the pen at that moment. The aim here is to make them realize why they need a pen.
  • Appeal to emotion: Find a way to create an emotional connection to the pen or whatever you are told to sell. Instead of talking about the features of the pen, talk about the benefits of these features, as well as how using the pen will make the interviewer feel.
  • Get the interviewer thinking positively about your product: Find a way to get the interviewer to share what they like and dislike about products in the same category (for instance, pens in general) and then tie the features they like to what you are selling.
  • Circle back to your main objective: Even if the interviewer finds ways to deflect your sales attempt, find ways to circle back to your main objective of selling him the pen.


Being a salesman is a bit like being a samurai. Like a samurai, you are loyal to a master: your company. Your mission (selling your company’s product) is your obsession. You should be ready to do whatever it takes to make your sale. This is what the interviewer is trying to find out when they ask you this question. Do you have what it takes to sell?

The examples shown above give you real life word by word scripts you can use to answer this question, as well as insights into what makes them good answers to this question.

Therefore, next time an interviewer asks you this question, instead of getting caught unawares, you should have some great ideas on how to wow the interviewer with your sales skills.

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