Gary Ng | Awakening Entrepreneur

Need to hire a Sales Superstar? You need to know about the “Pen Test”

I have dealt with too many questions about how do I find out whether a candidate is potentially good salesperson. My answer is I let them do the ‘pen test’. If you are familiar with personality profiling, you understand that nobody is 100% in every category. The ‘pen test’ allows me to learn much about a person. Is he the type of person who is quick in taking action or is he the type of person who is more diligent and takes time to assess the situation before taking action. Get yourself ‘pen test’ ready.


Hey guys! Sales is a critical element of any business. And to get sales, you need good sales people, unless you’re selling directly online. So let’s look at how do you employ the best sales people? I’ve got the perfect test for you. But to do that, I’m gonna bring in someone live to do the experiment on:

Gary: Viv?
Viv: Yes?
Gary: Do you mind if you come in and help me for a sec?
Viv: Not at all.
Gary: So today we’re going to run a fun experiment. Well, actually it’s a test. It’s called the pen test. So have you heard of a pen test before?
Viv: Nope.
Gary: Hold the pen. So what I wanna get you to do is have a look at the pen, have a feel of it. Think of yourself in a scenario where you work in a stationary store and your challenge today is to sell as many of these pens as possible. Think of myself as a possible walk-in customer, and when you’re ready, when you are comfortable with how to sell the pen, let me know and we’ll begin this test.
Viv: Okay.
Viv: “Hi! how are you doing?”
Gary: Hi! I’m great.
Viv: Hi! So we got a special today with our pens. I just want to let you know. You’re probably doing everything in the internet now, don’t you? And you probably don’t use a pen anymore ’cause you do everything on the net.
Gary: Yeah, I don’t use them much.
Viv: Just for signing checks.
Gary: I don’t even sign checks these days.
Viv: You don’t sign checks these days? Okay, well here’s the deal. If you buy a box of these pens, right? I’ll shout you lunch, and you give me a pen so I can sign the check for it.
Gary: Nah, I’m not interested.
Viv: (Shows gesture that she concedes and smiles) Bad sales girl.

Viv in this example, she didn’t spend a lot of time to look at the pen. And so, she could be a quick mover and she doesn’t over analyse things. So that could be a strong point and that could be a weak point. The second element is, when she started articulating the benefit of the pen-how well does someone articulate the benefits.? Did she get you to hold the pen? Did she talk about the service of it, the functionality? Or you can also look at it at how well are they a good talker, a smooth talker? Did they stumble a lot? Or are they quick to react? Another part of it to look at is when they face rejection, what do they do? There are some people that I encounter, when I say no, they didn’t even notice it. They just keep going:

“Oh, okay. Well, what are you interested in?”
“No, no, no, no, no.”
-and they come back with something else.
“Okay, why don’t you try this?”

You can tell that they don’t even slow down at all. Those are really good sales people. As sales people, you need to take rejection. And most of them cannot take rejection so they hate being in sales.

Another important element that I want to share with you is typically how often do these people think outside of the box, The person you’re talking to is not whether I will say yes to buying the pen or no, but when you say no, how soon do they give up? For Viv in the example, it didn’t take long before she gave up. That showed me that for this case study, she wasn’t that interested in winning it, in winning the opportunity. But if a sales person is very tenacious-doesn’t give up, doesn’t slow down, and just kept going and kept going and kept thinking of new ideas on how to actually sell this pen, that’s the person that you want. That’s the kind of person that will help your company succeed and grow your business.

So you know what? We’re gonna have some fun. We’re gonna do the pen test. I’m gonna ask my friend Anders to come over.

Gary: Anders?
Anders: Hi Gary! How are you doing?
Gary: Good. So today we’re going to do a pen test. Have you done a pen test before?
Anders: I haven’t. We’ll, yeah kind of. I listened to Viv trying to sell a pen.
Gary: Fantastic. And I heard that you’ve worked from a stockbroking room, like ‘Wolf of Wall street’ style. Well I have come up with my own pen test 15 years ago, before the movie came out. So I wanna see how do you actually sell me the pen.
Anders: Okay
Gary: So take a minute. Think about how are you going to sell the pen, and just let me know when you’re ready.
Anders: Hey, how’s it going?
Gary: Great!
Anders : What’s you-what’s your name?
Gary: Gary.
Anders: Gary. Gary, can I ask you a question? I’m wondering uhm what are you looking for today?
Gary: Uhm, I was just gonna get some paper for my photocopier.
Adnes: Do you uhm, what type of paper are you after?
Gary: Oh, just an A4 paper.
Anders: A4? Normal-white paper? Do you have pens at home that you can write notes on the paper?
Gary: Yeah, we have plenty of pens.
Anders: Well, Gary, I have this special pen here today and I promise you, you will be impressed by this pen. So what this pen does is it’s really nice and smooth and it runs along the paper. It’s really really nice, and I guarantee you would want this pen.
Gary: Oh, okay.
Anders: Would you be interested in this pen?
Gary: Uh, not really. I’ve got plenty of pens there back home and in the office.
Anders: You have plenty of pens but I guarantee you that this pen is much better that every single other pen that you have at home. If you try this pen and you don’t like it, I will give your full money back. How about that?
Gary: Yeah, but I have plenty of pens that are pretty much alike.
Anders: But you haven’t tried this pen. You wouldn’t know.
Gary. Oh, well. I can give it a try (hold the pen and tests it out)
Anders: I guarantee you would not be unimpressed with this pen…what do you think?
Gary: Hmmm. it’s good.
Anders: It’s good?
Gary: Yeah, but I’ve got pens.
Anders: Alright, well I think that’s all I got.
Gary: Fantastic. That’s great!

Anders did a really really great job at selling the pen. He articulated the benefit of the pen, and he was focused, eye contact was strong, he showed he had confident, and even though initially stumbled a few times, but overall, he was very confident and he knew what he was doing. Where this person could improve on is looking at thinking outside of the box. So if this person doesn’t want a pen, what does he want? If my product is really good, then there must be a demand on it out there. So maybe his family can benefit from it or maybe his office team or maybe he could get it as a gift. So there must be someone that he can serve. So just keep digging and digging. But he did really well in the test. This test tells you how confident, how quick someone would react to it or maybe they don’t.

Okay, so now I’m gonna show you how it’s really done:

Gary: Viv, Anders? Can you guys come back? Okay, I’m gonna show you how to sell the pen. You guys ready? … Hey! Hi guys! How are you guys doing?
Viv: Hi! How are you?
Anders: Good. Good.
Gary: Are you guys having a great day?
Anders: It’s been alright.
Viv: Yeah, it’s alright.
Gary: What are you guys looking for today… at the store?
Viv: Uh, I’m looking for a charger for my camera.
Gary: Okay, a charger. And you? Are you looking for anything in particular?
Anders: I kinda really want a stapler. I don’t really have that many staplers at home.
Gary: Fantastic. I’m gonna sought you guys out. I’ll look for it and I’ll guide you to exactly where you need to go. We’ve got the perfect item, perfect price just for you. Can I get your help for just two-two minutes?
Viv: Yeah.
Anders: Okay.
Gary: So, I’ve been assigned to sell this pen today. Uhm, it’s a fantastic pen. And I’m new at this, it’s my first day here. And they say, if I do really well in this, I might actually get a job. They’re gonna keep me employed here. But first, let me tell you about the pen. The pen right now is a fantastic pen. It’s one of the best pen I’ve used. Do you wanna give it a try? Write something with it.
Gary: It’s a fantastic pen and it’s actually only about $5.95. It’s a fantastic pen, you can use it for signing contracts, writing a love note, whatever you do with a pen. Uhm, and you can see that it’s metallic right? And how much does this pen look like?
Viv: $20-25?
Gary: Yeah, it feels exclusive-like a high-end Parker pen, right? And you can actually engrave your name on it as well.
Viv: Alright.
Gary: So it would be really good as a present for your family or as a corporate gift. Can you think of a friend who is having a birthday soon?
Viv: Yeah, we have Beau.
Anders: Yeah, yeah. But Gary, let me ask you a question? Why would someone want a pen for her birthday?
Gary: Well, a pen. Because it’s just one of the things you can do in life is you can write the names of the people who are important to you, the parodies in life, there’s so much you can do with your pen. Write down your goals, and this could be a special pen. You can anchor it to a special occasion. You can say, “Beau, I’m getting you a present. I don’t want you to use this pen for just anything. But, when it comes to something important, this is the pen for you to use.” You can remember, this is a new station of your life. How old is Beau turning?
Viv: 20
Gary: 20. So he’s turning from 19 to 20. That’s a big 2-0. This is the big change in life. You are stepping into adulthood right now. And I’m giving you a pen. This is not some cheap pen. It’s an exclusive pen and that’s how important I think of you. And, it’s a symbolic gesture of this person is not just writing with some plastic pen, or some pen they get for free at the hotel. It’s a really important pen as a status symbol. People don’t buy pen just for the sake of writing with a pen, but how good that makes them feel. When you’re holding that pen, how does that make you feel?
Anders: Yeah, but I have something like it at home.
Gary: Yeah? Why not think of someone you can think of who can benefit from it? Do you agree that $5.95 is a really good price?
Anders: Well, I can get ten for $5.95.
Gary: Where can you get that from?
Anders: Officeworks
Gary: Officeworks, really? Not that I am fan of a pen like that before-
Anders: A lot of pen like this but I guess the cool thing about this pen is you can have it engraved.
Viv: They’re kind of nice. But about that $5.95 for a box of ten, you can’t refill it.
Gary: Yeah, but you don’t get refillers for that price.
Viv: Is this one the long life one?
Gary: Yeah long life, refillers-it’s good use. I’ve really like the pen that I’ve got. But when I touched this one, I said ‘wow’! I’m putting it on my pocket. Showing it off to work.
Viv: So am I will also gonna get you a job to buy this?
Gary: Definitely. It would make me happy. You like making people happy?
Anders: Yeah it’s good.
Viv: Alright, $5.95. I’ll buy it.
Gary: Thank you. I appreciate it guys! Bye!
Viv: You hang in there.

So guys, it’s not a matter of whether I sell a pen or not, but whether I keep my energy up, whether I really love the customer. Don’t really ask and get them what they want, what they need, or am I just pushing, pushing and pushing, and then really care about them. And when they see that I really cared about them and at the end of the day, if they didn’t really like the product but they’re doing it for a favour to me, that’s cool too.

Guys, did you see that? I may stuff up. And that’s what a lot of sales people do. They overpromise and under deliver just to get the sale. You don’t want that.

Gary: Hi, how are you today?
Viv: I’m good thank you.
Gary: Would you like to buy this pen?
Viv: No.

So, what did you just see there? Low energy. I didn’t even believe in the product. I’m not even excited about it. Who’s gonna buy the pen?

Gary: Hi. We’ve got a pen and it’s a really nice pen-
Viv: No.
Gary: Great. Did you just notice that? No eye contact. I wasn’t interested. I wasn’t confident. That’s gonna screw up your sales.

Gary: Okay. Do you wanna buy this pen? It’s a great pen.
Viv: Well, I kinda got a lot of pens already.
Gary: It doesn’t matter. You can have 5 more.
Viv: Yeah, but I think I’ve got enough pens.
Gary: I don’t care. You gotta have more.

Did you see what’s wrong with that? Many sales people do not hear their objection. They try to steam roll across the person they want to make a sale to. That’s why people don’t like sales people. But you really need to listen to what the person wants.

Gary: Hello.
Viv: Hello.
Gary: Hi! Would you like to buy this pen?
Viv: Uh, no.

Did you guys catch that? There are just people who don’t take rejections very well and they freeze when there is rejection. They take it personally. Good sales people don’t see an objection as the end game. They see and they expect it to happen. They don’t even slow down for it.

Gary: Hi!
Viv: Hi.
Gary: Would you like to buy this pen?
Viv: I don’t really need it.
Gary: Why not?
Viv: Because I got a lot of pens at home. I even go to computer these days. I don’t use pens.
Gary: Okay. But you need to use this pen. ‘Cause I use the computer and I still use pen.
Viv: Well that’s good for you.

You see what happened there? I tried to apply my own story, my own assumption to this situation. Never assume. Always understand where the other person comes from. Ask question and not just tell.

Gary: Hello, how’s your day?
Viv: Actually it’s pretty good today. I had a fun day today.
Gary: That’s fantastic! What do you do?
Viv: I had my day off that’s why I’m in here shopping today.
Gary: What are you looking for? How can I help you?
Viv: I’m looking for some printing paper.
Gary: Oh, wow! We got plenty of those. Are you looking at white, coloured-
Viv: Yeah, white. Just white.
Gary: A4? I know exactly what to get you.
Viv: Do you?
Gary: Yeah, and I’ll point you right there.
Viv: Thank you.
Gary: In the meantime, can I trouble you for just one minute? Maybe one to two minutes. Can you help me with something?
Viv: Uh, I told you it’s my day off-
Gary: (Shows gesture of kneeling) Please?!
Viv: Alright, alright, I told you it was my day off.
Gary: So we got a promotion going on for this pen right now. It’s a fantastic pen. And I really fell love it. I’ve got plenty of pens at home. Do you have plenty of pens?
Viv: Tons.
Gary: Yeah. And I thought why do I need an extra pen? But when I touched this pen, I really fell in love with it. Do you wanna hold it? Give it a feel, Do you see how smooth it is?
Viv: (Agreeing)
Gary: Do you see the gold arrow?
Viv: Yeah.
Gary: That makes it look really prestigious. In fact it, it kinda looks like a Pocket Pen – one of the most exclusive pen there is.
Viv: Yeah. I thought it was a Pocket Pen.
Gary: It’s as close to it.
Viv: Oh, wow.
Gary: And you can get refills as well. You know a lot of pens now, they come and go. You get engraving too.
Viv: Funny, I was on an airplane in a flight, and I bought one on the in flight because they had the refills but then I put the refills in, that didn’t work.
Gary: Oh wow. We got a guarantee on the refill. If it doesn’t work, just take it back, and we’ll sort it out. And I’m always here. I can even give you my mobile number.
Viv: But when I got boarded on the plane, I couldn’t take it back.
Gary: Well, that’s the problem. Duly free is a phase, a brochure you brought off. If you have an issue, you have my mobile number, you can call me anytime. Even if it’s 10 o’clock on a Saturday night. If you’re not happy, I’m not happy. But this pen, from the look of it. If you have to guess, how much do you think it’s worth?
Viv: Probably 25, 24, 24.95.
Gary: I would have guessed the same. How do you guess that?
Viv: Someone told me once I’m a psychic.
Gary: You’re good. but this pen today, we’re only selling it for 6.95. That’s a bargain price.
Viv: Good. That’s really good. But I’m in a little bit on a rush so I got to go now and get my paper cause I know it’s my day off but I have to go home and actually doing some work from home.
Gary: Okay. If you’re going to get this pen from me today, and buy from me, this mean the whole world to me today. I don’t want to offer you this pen if I don’t believe this is worth the value, you can give it as a gift to your friends, to your family, or corporate gift. There’s so many use of it. But this 6.95 is actually, you’re doing me a big favor. Cause I’m on trial today, I’m trying to sell you this pen.
Viv: Aw really? Okay, alright, I’ll buy it.
Gary: And you seem to be a super nice person.
Viv: Aw definitely. You’ve got me.
Gary: Thank you. I really appreciate it. I’ll give you my mobile number so if you need anything you’ll call me.
Viv: And it’s a really nice pen. I’ll call you 10 o’clock tonight when I’m writing that love letter and that’s not working out.
Gary: Thank you.
Viv: See you.

See guys? You need to come in great energy. You can’t mess that up. You need to know about the product and service that you are selling. You need to connect back to the consumer. You need to ask questions, probing to find out what they want, you need to get them to appeal to what drives them. So for some people, buying the pen may not really matter, but will they be able to connect with me, which is what they want, in this particular scenario, so always be flexible in your approach. So enjoy, use this in your interview, and you’re gonna get great results, and you’ll find the quality star in the sales person that you are looking for. Bye.