IN a classic scene from the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, stockbroker Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), takes a pen out of his pocket and challenges top sales executives to sell him that pen.
It’s a both an easy and tough test, depends on who you are talking to, and one that separates a real salesperson from those who are unlikely to hit their targets. For example, if your prospective employee doesn’t know the answer, then he probably doesn’t know the basics of selling.
On the other hand, if the sales person starts asking questions instead of talking about how good the pen is, it means that he knows what he’s doing. It all boils down to one simple trick — you have to know the buyer.
In his article The Best Response to “Sell Me This Pen” published in Inc.com, writer Joel Comm shared some powerful insights on this two-step sales trick, which he claimed will help you sell anything to anybody, once you get it.
Belfort, who is now a motivational speaker said: “If you want to sell the pen, you must ask the buyer questions. You ask him how long he’s been looking for a pen, why he wants a pen, what owning a pen means to him.”
This is not a new trick. There’s a story about American author, salesman, and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar being interviewed by Johnny Carson, American television talk show host and comedian, who pointed at an ashtray on the desk and asked Ziglar: “They say you’re the world’s greatest salesman. So sell me this ashtray.’
Ziglar thought for a second and replied: “Before I can do that, I’d have to know why you want the ashtray.”
Carson looked at the ashtray. “I guess it’s well-made, it looks nice, and it’s a good ashtray.”
“OK,” said Ziglar, “but you’d have to tell me what you think it’s worth to you.”
“I don’t know,” said Carson. “I guess $20 would be about right.”
Ziglar smiled and said: “Sold”!
In practice, pitches rarely go that easily, and when you’re selling, you’ll need to do a bit more work.
So the next step after asking enough questions is to build an emotional attachment with the buyer. You can do that with a story. For example, you can talk about the history of the pen, what it stands for, and its historic value.
Remember, at the end of the day, you are not just selling a pen, but the story and memories that come with it.
Joel Comm summed it up nicely: “It doesn’t matter what you’re selling; you have to know the buyer, and you have to give him a story that builds an emotional attachment to the product. It’s not a big trick, and today’s sales channels have made it easier than ever to meet the challenge… even if all you are selling is a ball pen.”
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