Sales Coach Christine Harrington

Sell Me This Pen. I Sold a Straw Instead.

Did you see the movie, Wolf of Wall Street? The true story of Jordan Belfort’s hard closing, hard selling boiler room type company. It was written by Jordan while he was in prison. At the end of the movie, you see Jordan at a seminar asking the audience “sell me this pen.” Supposedly, if you can sell someone a pen on the spot, you can sell anything.

The lesson is how to glamorize the pen by showing the value it will bring the person who buys the pen. You see this all the time in advertising. If you drink a certain beer, your life will be amazing!

It’s scary how often people fall for this stuff.

Jordan Belfort

Here’s what I’d rather do…I’d rather sell you thousands of pens over the next 15 years, than one pen right now. And that should be your goal too.

Which brings me to my story, I sold a straw instead.

My Story

The year was 2000 and I was an insurance agent for a small agency in Indianapolis. The agency manager decided to conduct a training exercise which included filming our sales presentations. I was floored when I saw my presentation played back to me. It was actually good. This was the first time I’d had seen myself in a “movie.” I never did the camcorder thing back in the day.

Seeing myself on film made me think. Perhaps I could audition for a QVC host position in Chicago. QVC had been advertising that they were looking to groom new show hosts and had launched a 5 city tour around the USA looking for fresh talent.

The Audition

3:00 am I left Indianapolis, to travel to Chicago for the audition arriving at the designated hotel around 6:00 am. I was one of the thousands of people that showed up. The QVC crew was amazingly efficient at handling the event. Standing in a line of people, my turn came up around 11:00 am.

I was escorted to a small room with a camera, lights, a table, and a chair. The producer directed me to sit down. The gentleman asked some typical questions about me, then handed me a pen, and said, “Sell the audience this pen”.

Instead, I pulled a drinking straw out of my handbag and begin pitching the value of using a prized McDonald drinking straw. In order to win over the audience I had to accomplish three selling principles:

  1. Expertise
  2. Value
  3. Relationship


This was accomplished because it was a “McDonald’s” Straw being sold at QVC.


Why is the McDonald Straw better?  Because the hole in the straw is larger than other straws from competing fast food restaurants making it an easier and more pleasant drinking experience.


How can you build a relationship with an audience through a camera? Connect to the audience by looking directly in the camera as if only talking to one person and by asking a series of pain point questions then provide a solution.


“How many times have you struggled to get a straw out of the wrapper only to have the straw bend, making a small hole? You can’t drink out of a straw with a hole in it, can you! What a pain, because now if you’ve driven away from the drive-thru, you can’t drink your beverage without a straw.


This won’t happen with a McDonald’s straw because the wrappers are loose and easier to extract the straw. Plus, McDonald’s straws are thicker and sturdier thus, less likely to bend.

Relationship Building:

And because we value you, QVC will let you use this McDonald’s Straw for 30 days. If you’re not happy with your purchase, you can return it within 30 days for a full refund.

Seriously, that was my pitch and I had to glamorize that straw for 3 minutes!

After the audition, I talked to the producer to learn more about what I did right, what I should do differently, and tips on developing camera “presence.” I also asked him questions about his career at QVC and learned a little more about him. He said I was the only one so far who took the time or interest to ask him thoughtful questions.

As the story goes, I was asked back for round two of auditioning as a QVC show host.

Obviously, I didn’t make the final cut or you’d be watching me on QVC instead of reading this.

But here’s my point

whether it’s interviewing or auditioning for a job or selling to a prospect, it’s not about the one-time interview or sale, it’s about creating a relationship so people want to know more about you and your product. And the only way you can attract people to you is to show an interest in them through the 3 principles of selling as outlined above. Expertise, Value, and Relationship.

I truly believe the reason I was asked back two more times to audition at QVC was that I made the effort to nurture relationships and I always followed the 3 principles of selling.

The 3 principles of selling are just the basics, but you should strive to make sure all three elements are present in every selling interaction. 

Expertise  Value  Relationship

Moral of the Story:

Forgo the quick, easy sale. Cultivate long term investments with your clients by nurturing value centered relationships for referral business and repeat sales over decades.


How Can I Help You?

Does this sound like you?

  • You find yourself glancing around looking for answers because you’re in a sales slump and have no idea how to move forward.
  • Often, you experience difficulty in finding the right words to use when speaking to a prospect.
  • Your focus is challenged so you have difficulty completing tasks with weeks of unproductive selling.

The good news is, I can help.

Simply fill out the form below. In the message section ask to schedule a 30-minute complimentary Introductory call. We can fix this and other pressing issues you need help with!


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