Chapter 10. How to Sell a Pencil—and Your Product or Service

Mike Brooks

Mr. Inside Sales

If I gave you a pencil and asked you to sell it, how would you go about it? Better yet, if you gave your sales team this test and went around the room asking each rep to sell you the pencil, how do you think they would do at it?

This is one of the most basic ways of assessing the sales skills of your reps, and the answers you'll get will reveal a lot about their previous training, their understanding of the sales process, and ultimately about where the work for you is in terms of turning underperformers into competent sales producers.

So, you may be wondering, what is the most effective way to sell a pencil? Well, first let's look at how most sales reps go about doing it. Whenever I'm working with a new sales team (or interviewing sales reps—a great way to assess previous training!), I automatically use this technique. After letting a rep tell me what a good closer they are, I pull out a pencil, hand it to them, and tell them to sell it to me. And off they go!

If you do this with your sales team, I'll bet that 80 percent of them will start the same way: They'll start pitching. "This pencil is brand new, never used. It has grade 2 lead and a bright yellow color, so it's easy to find. It comes with a built-in eraser," and so forth.

You'll be surprised and dismayed to see that some of your sales reps can (and do!) talk about it for five minutes or more before they even think to ask a question or ask ...

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