Why The Wolf Of Wall Street Is Dead Wrong About "Sell Me This Pen"

by Chris Young
Martin Scorsese's 2013 black comedy, "The Wolf of Wall Street", featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as the infamous stock-broker and salesman, Jordan Belfort, contains a classic "Sell me this pen" sales lesson scenario.

I often hear a sales manager brag about asking this question and the responses they get during sales hiring.

Unfortunately the ability to rehearse and answer this popular sales interview question makes it a poor indicator of future selling success.
Sell me this pen does not accurately measure true selling potential.

"Sell me this pen," does NOT accurately measure true selling potential.

  1. The ability for astute sales candidates to prepare for this interview question calls into serious question the predictability of selling skills potential.  
  2. The question does not represent a typical sales scenario
  3. Asking, "Sell me this pen," is more about a power trip for the questioner than identifying future sales ability.

I get it. The point of "sell me this pen" is to ascertain how a sales candidate will sell the pen - are they consultative or not. And if this scenario was not so painfully popular, it could be brilliant, sometimes.  

Tweet: Stop selling me this pen. http://bit.ly/2p7pnEw #sales #saleswolves @therainmaker Stop selling me this pen. 

CAUTION: Video contains crude language.

"Sell me this pen" is predictable.

All this question tells you is how well the candidate knows how to prepare for an interview.  Smart sales candidates, regardless of their true selling potential, will prepare themselves to answer it effectively. They will study dozens of blog posts, articles, book chapters, and they will wow you at their interview, but the ability to memorize how to answer sales interview questions does not equal selling potential.

If a low potential sales candidate answers this question "correctly", they will receive a job they hate; if a high potential sales candidate bombs this question, they may be removed from future consideration and you'll be missing out.Tweet: Don't miss out on high potential sales candidates http://bit.ly/2p7pnEw #sales @therainmaker

A far more accurate and objective measurement of the true selling potential of a sales candidate is a multi-science sales personality and aptitude test with validity backed by brain research.  



"Sell me this pen," does not represent a typical sales scenario.

I love a good pen.  The pens I use run $5-10 each because while I like nicer things, I lose pens.  Is selling a pen a decent selling example?  It is if you are selling pens.  We do not have any Clients who have a typical transaction size of $5 to $10.  

The smaller the transaction size - the shorter the sales cycle...  

And for those of you who may say, "You don't get it, Chris...  "Sell me this pen," is about identifying if a sales candidate is consultative in their questioning," I say that it is far more important to know if the sales candidate has the POTENTIAL to effectively engage a Prospect in the first place.  

Sales Personality Aptitude Test Sample Assessment

"Sell me this pen," is more about a power trip than asking a strong sales job interview question.

Sell me this pen is a power trip sales interview question.Imagine a sales manager sitting behind a big desk or table.  They clawed their way to the top. They have a story of struggle and sacrifice to tell.  They love the power.  They have dreamed about one day turning the table and asking the tough questions they were subjected to.  

They have wanted to ask the very question that struck fear in their own heart years ago.  

Does this sound like you?

The sales interview begins.  The sales manager locks eyes with the  nervous candidate, reaches into their shirt pocket, pulls out a pen and dryly dares the sales candidate...  "Sell.  Me.  This.  Pen."  They slam the pen on the table for effect.  The sales candidate flinches.  

And in the end, this question adds little or no value other than being an ego boost.  

"Sell me this pen," as an interview question lacks imagination.Tweet:



You know what most people do after reading an article like this? Absolutely nothing. They continue down the same road that lead them to this point. Maybe they change "sell me this pen" to "sell me this chair". Maybe.  

I will leap over tall buildings to get to a "sales wolf" with zero skill in answering this bullshit question if they have the raw potential to outsell the posers who have zero ability but have mastered the art of memorization.  

If you are still using "sell me this pen," in your sales job interview process, at least combine it with a multi-science sales personality and aptitude test with validity backed by brain research.