Sell me this pen
June 5, 2023
Selling is an art that is often misunderstood and rarely taught. Schools across the world dedicate hours to mathematics, history, and science, yet the art of selling, a crucial life skill, is often ignored. This isn't just about being a good salesperson in the traditional sense, but it's a skill that is applicable in every facet of our lives. From persuading your kids to eat their vegetables, to convincing your boss to approve your project proposal, selling is everywhere.
Just last week, I found myself in a sales training session, surrounded by some sales colleagues. One of the tasks we were given was to “sell” a running race in Sweden to a random person (from whom we didn't have any background whatsoever). We were separated into groups and we had to propose the best way to sell it. I was surprised my group started arguing on how good running is for health, how easy the race profile is or how nice the ambience was during the race.
Despite their fervor, it was evident that they were missing the key to successful selling. This reminded me of a scene from "The Wolf of Wall Street" where Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, hands a pen to a colleague and says, “sell me this pen.”
The common pitfall in the world of sales, which was evident during my meeting, is the focus on the features of the product - the pen, in Belfort's case. Many salespeople often emphasize how amazing their product is, how it is the best on the market, or how it possesses unique features. While product knowledge is essential, the mistake lies in believing that the product's features alone can secure a sale.
Selling is not about convincing someone how wonderful your product is, but rather about understanding your client's needs, values, and problems they are looking to solve. The pen might be the most technologically advanced writing tool on the market, but if your client doesn't need a pen, all your persuasive arguments are wasted.
The error here is in trying to "SELL" the pen, rather than understanding why the customer might need a pen. If your client has no need for a pen, then your efforts are better focused on a client who does. This is not a failure, but a recognition of where your energy is best spent.
The key to a successful sale, in my opinion, lies in asking open questions to uncover your client's needs. How long has your customer been in the market looking for a pen? What type of pens have they used in the past? How much money do they typically spend on a pen? These are the types of questions that can lead you to a clear win.
Once you have this information, you can begin to match your product to your customer's needs. If they've been using inexpensive, disposable pens and are looking for something more durable, you can highlight the long-lasting nature of your pen. If they've been struggling with pens that run out of ink quickly, you can emphasize its large ink capacity.
In essence, selling isn't about the product, it's about the customer. It's about understanding their needs and offering a solution that fits those needs. So, the next time you're asked to "sell me this pen", remember: it's not about the pen, it's about the person holding it. If you can understand them, you can sell them not just a pen, but anything they truly need.