4 Tips for responding to 'Sell me a product' in an interview

What kind of questions are asked at sales job interviews? What to expect in an interview for a sales job? How will you sell a product at a sales interview? Get useful tips on how to make a sales pitch in a mock sale, at a sales job interview.

You are interviewing for a sales position and in the middle of the interview, one of the interviewers asks you to demonstrate your selling skills. He picks up a pencil, and says, 'sell me this pencil'.

That's quite a challenge, right; considering you've to now think on your feet and think practically because your future depends on how well you play the part of the seller. Combine that with your high running nerves and you'd probably be left wondering at what just happened – is this for real!

Fortunately, a little groundwork and practice are all you need to impress the panel with your selling skills. The toughest job interview questions can be answered with a flair that makes you stand out if you prepare and practice well.

How do you respond to a 'sell me something' request? This article covers all the details that you would require to ace the interview.

What is the relevance of this request?

Why do interviewers ask prospective employees to demonstrate their selling skills? Is it to stump them and put them in a tight spot? Well, it does seem so, and for good reason. You see being in sales is not an easy job, you deal with different types of customers, it's a stressful job, and the best way to gauge a candidates' skillsets is to see him put up a pitch. Interviewers want to see how the candidate handles the pressure, and whether they are the right fit for the job.

Sales jobs are not like other routine jobs, the situation changes with each new pitch you make. Therefore, interviewers pose this little request to see how you react and whether you are cut to work under pressure that the job entails.

Tips for a solid sales spiel

The first thing to know here is that those on the interview panel will not be interested in what you say, their focus will be more on your general demeanour. They will look for body language, are you jittery and nervous or brimming with confidence.

So, let's get you started on tips to make the right impression while answering this very common sales interview question.

Wear confidence on your sleeves

A sales job will have you working with people, you will always be right in the middle of all the action, not sitting in some back office behind a stack of files or the computer. And that you have to be confident at all time, goes without saying.

The request the interviewers make is a test to gauge your poise and astuteness, two qualities most desired in a good salesperson. It is also a method to check how well you respond under pressure. You may be taken off-guard by the sudden request to sell a pencil, and you may not come up with a flawless sales spiel at the spur of the moment, but do your best to exhibit a certain degree of poise as you tackle the situation.

The interviewer now is a prospective client and you have to sell him that pencil, by hook or by crook. Go for it.

Sit right up in the chair, ready for action. That one move of yours will not go unnoticed. Smile and make eye contact. Remember, nonverbal cues are indicative of confidence. And when you begin to talk, speak in a clear, well-measured, convincing tone. Your sales spiel, regardless of what you actually say, must centre around this basic formula.

Accentuate a requirement

It is easier to see sell a product to someone who does not have what you have to offer. So, create a need. Show them that they need the product and illustrate the special features of the product and all that they can do with it. That should be your tactic.

You are asked to sell a pencil, so as a first step begin by asking questions rather than stating that you have a pencil to sell. A good salesperson understands what the customer is looking for before starting on a sales pitch. That way they can tailor the sales pitch to match the need of the shopper.

To ascertain that you need to ask the prospective customer a few 'why' and 'what' questions. The responses will give you a lot of material to go for the final kill, as it were.

Let's demonstrate it through an example –
  • Interviewer: Sell me this pencil
  • Candidate: Sure sir, why do you need a pencil?
  • I need one for jotting down notes
  • What kind of pencil do you have in mind, sir? I have an HB with an eraser fitted. You can check how smoothly it writes
  • Interviewer: Sure
  • Candidate: It's made from biodegradable material sir, we are concerned about the environment
  • Interviewer: That's nice
  • Candidate: I'll make you a special offer, if you buy two
  • Interviewer: I don't need two pencils
  • Candidate: You can gift it to someone or keep one at home
  • Interviewer: How much are you asking for two pencils?
  • Candidate: Just Rs.6 sir. Do you prefer cash or card?

Stress on the features and benefits

Though it has been illustrated in the mock conversation, I cannot emphasise enough on the need to spell out the features and benefits of the product. Do it with whatever product you are selling. It gives you better leverage and you can push the deal towards a profitable conclusion. By emphasising about the features and benefits you provide an exclusive value proposition to the product.

For example:
  • It writes very smoothly and doesn't scratch the paper
  • It comes with an eraser
  • It is environmental friendly, no trees were chopped in its making
  • It has a graphite tip
  • The paint is non-toxic and safe for use by kids
  • It gets a sharp pointy tip each time
  • The company has been manufacturing pencils for decades and is the best brand in the market

Selling a product's exclusive qualities is a tactic that most salespeople use to get the customers interest. You are selling them a product which has some really special features, and that helps in this business.

Remember to close properly

Don't forget to close, especially when you are in an interview. The interviewer is testing your capabilities, but you are in a position to control how far that test stretches.

Did you notice how I illustrated closing the deal with a question about cash or card? That's one way of ending the conversation, but the interviewer might continue being indecisive about the purchase. To ensure that the conversation ends on a strong note that makes an impression, you must recap the main points, saying something like this – 'The pencil provides an excellent grip, as you would have noticed and it writes smoothly, ensuring that your fingers don't hurt. You'll really enjoy working with it. Should I make the bill sir?'

Final tips

When you are interviewing for a sales position, in any industry, you will be thrown a question on these lines. Be prepared to sell something to the interviewer, as part of the interview.

Don't be nervous about this whole mock sales pitch thing. It is routine and features in almost all sales jobs interviews. What you need to remember is that the interviewers are not looking for that perfect candidate who makes the perfect sales pitch. Their job is to discern how well you react to difficult situations. Do you have the ability to think quickly and react to events and are you cut out for this line of work?

When you are asked to sell a product at the next interview, just sit up in your chair, take a deep breath, remain calm and remember you've got this. Just use the strategies illustrated here to pull together a great selling pitch. Strategies work, you just have to learn to use them correctly.


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