What's the most hated question in sales job interviews? Probably it's "Sell me this pen." And yet, it's the quintessential question. It's a role-playing exercise that's hugely popular with interviewers. Hiring managers can learn so much about you by how you answer it.

There are a lot of different opinions about this approach in the interview, but I will tell you that as a medical sales recruiter who uses it, I can determine what someone's skills are like (or if they're missing skills) using that exercise. It lets me see you in action. It shows me your sales style and your thought process. It's valuable to me and to hiring managers.

You should always expect that you might be asked to role play a sales scenario. Maybe it won't be a pen. Maybe it will be something that you sell currently, or something that they sell, or are considering selling. It doesn't matter really. You just need to use the same principles that you use with any sales process.

I, personally, am a big fan of SPIN Selling (check out the book by Neil Rackham--you'll learn a lot about sales styles and how they relate to sales cycles), so, if I were asked to sell the pen, I would start off with "What's the situation Mr. Hiring Manager? I see you're looking for a writing instrument."

See, I don't just start at the pen level. I'm saying: What do you want in a writing instrument? What's important to you with your writing instrument? What's not important? Perhaps a pencil isn't something that you can use because it can be erased, and none of your writing should be erased--something like that.

So, I want to understand your situation, I want to understand what problems that presents, and what implication that can have, and then I want to present my solution, the pen, as a solution for the problems that I identified, and the implications that could occur if he doesn't have the right writing instrument.

Right then, that hiring manager is going to see how I would approach selling his product. He can see how I would probably relate to his customers. He can determine my comfort level with the sales process, and probably make a good evaluation of how successful I might have been in the past. (If you're new to sales, this is a golden opportunity for you to show that you really do know what you're doing and can be successful.)

I know that it is a little uncomfortable to do role plays, but it is completely appropriate, and very valuable for the hiring manager to ask you to do that. So, prepare for, and take it in stride. They'll appreciate it and you'll probably do really well in your interview.

Author's Bio: 

Peggy McKee offers more job interview tips, tools, and techniques at http://careerconfidential.com/

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