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The Origins of the Famous "Sell Me This Pen" Prompt

If you've ever had to hire a salesperson, then chances are you're familiar with the classic prompt, "sell me this pen." It's become a staple of sales interviews, but where did it come from? Today, we'll explore the story behind this infamous quote and how it can be used to evaluate potential hires. 

The phrase first gained popularity in the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, where Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) uses it as a way to test potential stockbrokers. In the scene, Belfort challenges a young man to sell him a pen without any further information or context. The premise is that if the candidate can sell him something so ordinary and mundane as a pen, then they should be able to sell anything. 

It's important to note that this prompt isn't just about selling; it's also about listening. After all, anyone can rattle off some buzzwords and try to pitch their product. What Belfort is looking for is someone who can take cues from his body language and behavior and adjust their sales pitch accordingly. In other words, they need to be able to listen carefully and adjust on the fly in order to make an effective sale. 

Since its debut in The Wolf of Wall Street, “sell me this pen” has become a popular prompt used by many hiring managers during job interviews. It allows them to quickly assess how well candidates can think on their feet and adjust their approach depending on customer feedback. Of course, there are other ways of evaluating potential hires—but using this prompt is still an easy way to get an idea of whether or not someone has what it takes to succeed in sales. 

But there is more to it than that.

The origins of the "Sell Me This Pen" prompt can be traced back to Zig Ziglar, a well-known sales trainer and motivational speaker. Ziglar was known for using the prompt as a way to test the selling skills of his students, and it has since become a popular tool in sales training and interviews.

While the prompt may seem simple at first glance, it can be challenging for those who are not well-versed in the art of sales. Successfully selling a pen requires the salesperson to identify the needs and interests of the potential customer, and to craft a compelling argument for why the pen is the best solution to meet those needs. It also requires the salesperson to anticipate and overcome objections that the potential customer may have.

Mastering the "Sell Me This Pen" prompt can be a valuable skill for any salesperson, as it can help them hone their ability to persuade and sell in a variety of situations.

Zig Ziglar was a well-known sales trainer and motivational speaker who was born in 1926 in Alabama, United States. He is best known for his books, seminars, and motivational speeches, which focused on personal development, leadership, and salesmanship.

Ziglar began his career in sales in the 1950s, and quickly gained a reputation as one of the top salespeople in his field. He later turned to teaching and motivational speaking, and became a popular speaker on the corporate and motivational speaking circuit.

Ziglar's books and seminars focused on the principles of personal development and success, and he was known for his enthusiastic and engaging speaking style. His best-known works include "See You at the Top," "Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World," and "Born to Win: Find Your Success Code."

Ziglar passed away in 2012 at the age of 86, but his legacy as a sales trainer and motivational speaker lives on through his books, seminars, and the many sales professionals who were inspired by his teachings.

So now you know! Next time you hear someone ask you "sell me this pen," remember that there's more at play than meets the eye. This prompt isn't just about being able to deliver a clever spiel; it's about being able to listen carefully and adjust your approach based on customer feedback—a skill that all great salespeople possess! With that said, understanding where this phrase comes from can help hiring managers make better decisions when evaluating potential hires for sales positions

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