Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Glenford Smith | The secret of a good salesperson

Published:Wednesday | March 7, 2018 | 12:00 AM

QUESTION: I recently went to a job interview and was in for a surprise. I have heard of this question, and I just did what I thought would be adequate to answer, but seriously did not expect the question, quite honestly. The interviewer wanted me to sell him something on the desk: "If you were asked to sell a product, show how you would go about it. Sell me this particular pen on the desk". Can you please give me some tips on formulating a good response?

- Garfield

CAREERS: Thank you for your question. You have fallen into the trap that many unwitting job candidates do; and you have had to learn the hard way. You never, ever want to go in a job interview not adequately rehearsed and prepared for whatever question you may get. Anyway, you've learnt from the experience.

Now you have to demonstrate the attitude, confidence and expertise of a salesman. You must call to mind something every great salesperson lives by. It is that a good salesperson finds out what people want then show them how to get it. That is the most important secret of any salesperson.

Most employers, or their interviewers, and their aggressive and ambitious executives have a big belief in the effect of salesmanship. They will therefore look for this trait in their sales staff at the interview. If you are interviewing for a job such as this, look forward to be tested; expect to be practically asked to demonstrate the sales process. I say this, so it is something you expect; it shouldn't be a surprise.

Let us focus on the question, to sell the particular pen to the interviewer. You will demonstrate this ability in a very skilful manner. Copy the procedure as shown below.

"A good salesperson must be knowledgeable about his product - the pen - but he needs to survey the prospect - the interviewer. A good salesperson knows that he must only sell what the buyer is interested in, not what he likes. So I would find out as much of the benefits, features and advantages, but before that I would be interested in what you might find interesting about the pen and why."

Then I would proceed to ask some simple questions.

"I'm interested in what makes you favour a pen, out of curiosity." Then wait for an answer. "What do you like about your current pen? What do you wish for in a pen?" Then wait for an answer. And then add: "And in addition to that? Anything else?"

While doing this it is important that the candidate allow the prospect to answer fully. It is the tendency of the candidate to be set to answer questions, but this is the time listen. This takes a bit of discipline. Remember, the prospect has the knowledge of what he wants, you don't. You should listen.

When you have asked these information-getting questions, make your presentation citing all the features, advantage and benefits the prospect has just finished telling he wants.

Finally ask him: "What is a reasonable price for a pen like this?" - and recite the problems the pen would solve for him? When he answers, say: "We have a deal!"

If you're dealing with someone who is knowledgeable and excited about sales, you would get a very high grade. I wish you all the best.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'. Email: