Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street

Sell Me This Pen!

How To Be A Badass Salesperson!

In the marketing world, that statement has gone on to be legendary. It was of course from the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who portrays the real life of Jordan Belfort a Master Salesman. In the movie, Leonardo asks a room full of salespeople to sell him a pen (you can watch the scene here).

The first salesperson begins with “It’s an amazing pen”

The second salesperson continues “it’s a nice pen, you can write down thoughts from your life” In other words, this salesperson describes the pen’s features.

Leonardo is obviously not impressed by the answers given.

Backtrack to an earlier scene in the movie when Leonardo first started out with his day one sales team which he personally had to groom into badass salesmen. He asked his guys the same question. (See that scene here

The first response was actually damn hilarious. One of the guys Leonardo was grooming to be a salesman brags he can sell anything. Well, Leonardo hands him a pen and says “Sell me this pen”, the guy begins to fidget and asks if he can finish his hamburger before responding as to how to sell the pen begins to describe the pen. 

Next, Leonardo gives the pen to one of the guys Leonardo insists “can sell anything,” implying that this salesman was actually dope. The man grabs the pen and asks Leonardo to write his name. When Leonardo responds that he can’t write his name because he doesn’t have a pen, the man hands the pen back to Belfort and replies, “Exactly, supply and demand.”

Image result for sell me this pen meme

Before I continue with this post, I want you to stop reading for just one second. I want you to ask yourself this simple but legendary business question… 

How would you sell a pen?

My main passions throughout my growing business career have been: 1. Marketing, and 2. Sales.

Marketing and sales are two of the hardest skills to hire and the most important for a small business. Graciously, I enjoy doing both and would say I’m pretty good at both. (Blow your own trumpet!)

Almost on a daily basis, I engage in conversations with salespeople of different ranks and experience. In my candid opinion, the best salespeople I know are the ones who know how to sell the pen. (Take that figuratively, the PEN here can refer to any product or service that is sold). And frankly speaking, very few salespeople do.

I am not quoting any stats here but if you ask me, I think that not too many salespeople understand the art of sales, oh yes, because just as marketing is an art, so is sales.

What do I mean in clear terms when I say that salesmanship is an art?

Accounting, for the most part, is a science. There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way. Either the numbers balance, or they don’t.

I have taken a number of sales courses and training. Here’s a story from one notable training I attended in 2017. 

I was in a conference hall that sat at least 300 salespeople in Abuja, all listening to the presenter discuss, in as specific detail as he could, the steps to bring a sale to a close. 

 The presenter approached sales as a science. He suggested that in order to sell, you had to follow a series of simple steps, and in the end, when you’re ready to close the sale, you ask the customer the question, “Do you prefer this or that?”

I knew, fundamentally, that most of the people in the room who would follow the presenter’s tactics might never truly master the art of sales.

So what is the right answer to the challenge, “Sell me the pen”?

You sell the pen by not selling the pen. Yes, you heard me.

Literally, the last thing you do when trying to sell the pen (remember the pen can be any product or service) is to start by explaining how fantastic the pen is, stop making the pen the object of your sale! Nobody cares how awesome your product is, rather it’s about the amount of value it can bring for them!

So what is the first step to selling the pen?

You first need to understand who your customer, as a person, is. What are their likes and dislikes? What fascinates them? How did they get to the position they are in?

Then, you need to understand their needs, how often they use a pen, what kind of pens they use, whether they use a pen every day or occasionally.

If you begin your conversation with selling the pen to your prospective customer, the chances are that you’re more likely to lose the sale than close it.


eddie murphy GIF

Nobody really likes to be sold to. However, many people are looking for stuff to buy. Does that sound paradoxical? Well, that’s something you learn in mastering the art of sales. 

For example, In a sales call, you need to spend more time listening than actually speaking.

Like the Holy Bible says in James 1:19 Be quick to listen and slow to speak. 

I guess that’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard to master the art of sales, because most people like to feel in charge, and they feel compelled to sell the customer something. They feel compelled to begin the sale right away and lead the conversation.

In my opinion and experience, you can lead the conversation without talking too much. You can lead the conversation by listening more. I mean if you don’t listen, how do you find your prospective customer’s pain points?

You ask questions, and you listen. You let the customer speak, and you listen some more.

Most salespeople don’t get that. 

The ones that do, the people that understand that you don’t just “sell the pen,” but rather you get to know your customer by being interested in who they are—their wants and desires—those are the ones that master the art of sales.

Bonus Tip: 

Sometimes, especially for personal brands or service businesses what you’re selling when you sell the prospective customer the pen isn’t the pen, you’re selling yourself.

You sell yourself by making yourself likable, let them see you understand where they are coming from.

When you’re likable, you already have a good audience with your prospective customer.

Selling the value and benefits the pen brings your prospective customer is a sniper shot at breaking whatever defenses they may hitherto have had to buy from you!

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14 thoughts on “Sell Me This Pen!”

  1. Nice piece bruh,.. “No one likes to be sold to”. As a buyer I definitely will respond to your approach here especially in these times in which most people feel entitled to whatever. If we continue with the traditional marketing models that make introverts look unfit to market, we might unconsciously make people feel like we’re bullying them into buying from us. I really love this approach of listening you speak about because in so doing you get the customers unique perspective on what they want which helps you find a way of fitting your product into that perspective. Marketing indeed is ART. Thanks a lot,.. There’s always something rich and fat to learn from you.

    1. Thanks for the feedback bro. Indeed sales and marketing are arts. The beautiful thing about an art is that it can be learned! Cheers Victor.

  2. Very well put piece on sales and marketing. You were able to break down the “complex-like” shroud that surrounds sales and marketing and make it look easy and very relatable. Well done Kenney, amazing!!

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