Sell Me This Pen: Improve Your Chances Of Landing That Dream Sales Job


Contrary to popular belief Jordan Belfort didn’t invent the phrase, ‘sell me this pen’. However he is credited with popularizing it.

When I used to interview sales people, a few years before the movie The Wolf of Wall Street was released, I would often ask potential investment brokers to, ‘sell me this pen’ and various other deviations in between, usually based on what was on the table in front of me at the time. Sell me this phone or sell me this ashtray were two common ones.

We will come to the best possible answer to this challenge shortly however before we do let’s rewind to the movie that popularized the phrase.

In case you forgot the exchange here it is again. It’s a classic!

DiCaprio pulls out a pen and goes around the room, thrusts it in their faces, one by one, with the instruction to ‘Sell me this pen.’

As each one takes the pen from him, they fumble through an attempted sales pitch: ‘This is the best pen ever made…’This may be the last pen you ever have to buy…’

After each response, DiCaprio shakes his head and takes the pen back. Finally one member of his team grabs the pen from him and hands DiCaprio a piece of paper.

‘Write your name on this piece of paper,’ he tells DiCaprio.

When DiCaprio looks around for something to write with, the salesman replies:

‘Oh, you don’t have a pen anymore. Supply and demand, bro.’

For me, the most memorable response to ‘sell me this pen’ was delivered by a 16 year old who was still living with his mother. Upon being presented with the challenge he pushed his chair away from the table, stood up and started to pace the room. He didn’t even need to open his mouth. The kid had the job. They say motion breeds emotion and so it was with this 16 year old sales force. He turned out to be one of our best sales people. Earning over $15k a month, half of which he gave to his mother for safekeeping and the other half he blew on hookers, alcohol and a fast developing cocaine habit. He burnt out at age 18.

The common mistake when faced with this challenge is to automatically launch into the product’s features.

This is a beautiful pen;

The pen is unique;

The pen is comfortable to hold….

The first thing we must do in any pitch is establish a need, or in sales parlance, ‘qualify your prospect’. That must start with a question not a statement.

Here are two of my favorite responses to ‘sell me this pen’.

These words will leave your interviewer speechless and ready to offer you the job on the spot.

Let’s start with a shorter of the two responses.

As I said before, start with a question rather than a statement.

Salesperson: What was the most memorable thing you used your pen for today?

Interviewer: Signing customer agreements.

Salesperson: That’s great to hear! That is the kind of thing you want to do with a nice pen, one that feels great to hold and looks good, wouldn’t you agree?

Interviewer: Yes.

Salesperson: I think you would agree that this pen would meet those goals, don’t you agree?

Interviewer: Yes possibly, but I need to ask my wife first.

Salesperson: I’ll tell you what, there are only a few of these pens left. As you can imagine these are my best selling pens. How about I leave the pen with you for a week to try. If you don’t like the pen after a week we can both walk away. No obligations. How does that sound?

And here is a longer response…

Selling a generic ballpoint pen

Salesperson: So you are looking for a new pen?

Interviewer: Yes.

Salesperson: And what kind of pens are you looking at? Do you prefer a gel pen, fine liner, fountain pen, standard ballpoint pen, or something else?

Interviewer: I like a nice, simple, easy-to-use ballpoint pen.

Salesperson: And what do you use your pen for?

Interviewer: Well, the truth is I don’t write very much. I like to use a paper diary. I find I remember dates and events better by writing them down physically, so I only use my pen when I am adding an event that day, so only for a few minutes every day or two.

Salesperson: So you only need a simple, practical pen that performs functionally, but it doesn’t need to be fancy?

Interviewer: Yes.

Salesperson: However, you do need it to be reliable because you can’t afford to forget to write something down because your pen wasn’t working or sound unprofessional on the phone saying, “um, ah, let me find a pen that works.”

Interviewer: Correct.

Salesperson: This is the pen for you. It’s a quality, reliable ballpoint pen. Its simple construction means there’s nothing to break, and it will always be there when you need it. Do you just want the one or would you like a 10-pen value pack?

Cast your mind back to the end of the film Wolf of Wall Street when a reformed and reinvented Jordan asks individual members of the audience to ‘sell me this pen’. Each responds with the same generic answers, boring Jordan with the obvious features of the pen. If you had been asked that same question you would have been the star of the show. By removing the pen from Jordan’s hand, getting off your chair and asking him, ‘what is the most memorable thing you used your pen for today,’ Jordan would have gifted you his pen right there.

Banner Image: You got the job. Image Credit –  Aurélia


Harry Maximillian

Harry is an author, coach, entrepreneur, comedian and a convicted felon. Harry was sent to prison for a financial crime where he spent five long years. Prison allowed Harry to realize the error of his ways. He decided to use his time productively and mobilize his extraordinary determination, dedication, drive, motivation and desire to focus on writing and the art of self-improvement. Before Harry’s enforced vacation he was one of the most prolific deal makers in the City of London.

There are no comments yet

Why not be the first

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *