The Sales Apprentice: Sales Training Tips From The Hit TV Show, Part I

I have to admit that I don’t watch much TV. I don’t have the time. When people talk about “Big Brother”, “Eastenders”, “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here”… I have nothing to say because I just don’t watch them. But I do like “The Apprentice”. I didn’t see the first series but I really got into the last one. So much so infact that I was positively looking forward to tonight’s first installment. And this made all the more interesting because I know one of the housemates…

Who will the superstars be?

So tonight the new apprentices entered the house. Who will they be? What will they be like? Will they get on? Will they fight? Who’ll be the highly qualified idiot with no common sense? Who will be the blagger who already thinks they’ve made it? Who will the real superstars be? Will there be any? How many of them will be patently not worth anything near £100k?  Surely out of 10,000 hopefuls there must be more people who “have a shot” than last year?! We all waited with bated breath…

Hard work but an easy task by anyone’s standards…

Their first task was to make and sell coffee from two stands per team – one fixed, one stationary. Hard work but an easy task by anyone’s standards. A simple transactional sale – you give me cash, I give you coffee. Some simple calculations of likely sales. A small amount of stock control. Finding a high footfall, latte drinking locale for the mobile van. Make face to face sales. Being ready to move the mobile van if it’s not producing. Get on with it. Easy!

Or so you would have thought…

The list of errors was horrendous… the assumption that because the machine could make 100 cups an hour that you could therefore sell 100 cups an hour! The van sited on a quiet road in a downmarket area with cheaper coffee everywhere! Not moving said van for hours! Not being able to answer a mobile phone or return calls! The lack of management! Driving the vans around willy nilly wasting selling time! Shutting one of the vans on one team!  Having a “meeting” in the middle of core selling hours! I could go on but it’s depressing me…

But non of these are the Sales Apprentice’s sales training tips for this week…

Nope! Because we can do better that them. Sales training tip of the week comes courtesy of Jadine Johnson… Jadine totally missed the point that this was a transactional sale. If you want to sell as much coffee as possible in a day and you are never going to do it again you sell, sell, sell and deliver good, solid coffee. But like many salespeople trying to impress she made it far more complicated that it was. Her complication of choice… brand Eclipse. What? What on earth was she banging on about brand for? What on earth was she putting Eclipse logos on coffee for? What on earth was that song about Eclipse being the place to buy your coffee from?

Errr… no, it’s a TV show and you’re going to get fired if you don’t wake up and smell the coffee!

Jadine, you just made the name up yesterday. You’re making coffee for one day only. You’re never going to see your customers again! This has nothing to do with brand. It has everything to do with selling. What’s more you don’t know people well either. Sir Alan likes people who get on with it and in a lot of his activities this means selling well. He hates pretension and frankly that’s where you’re at with your irrelevant brand rubbish.

Tre Azam and and the other one who seemed to speak every language under the sun seemed to have it right. Well for the first hour anyway. They were the dream team that any sales manager would have begged for – 55 cups in the first hour… from a mobile stall. Pretty impressive. But not good enought for Jadine. Nope, she split them up and trashed their territory. Why? Because they weren’t promoting the brand Eclipse. What?! What?! What?! Brand has got nothing to do with this – nothing, nothing, nothing.

Look at your sales and make sure that you’re not complicating something that should be easy!

Some sales are really complex. Many are really simple. Salespeople complicate them for all sorts of reason. Look at your sales and make sure that you’re not complicating something that should be easy!

Until next week…

p.s. Who thought Andy Jackson was a bit touchy feely? I lost count of the number of times he “touched” the girls. They didn’t say anything. People often don’t. They even “oohed” and “ahhed” when he said something sweet at the end of the exercise. But they trashed him and voted him out anyway. Was this because of the touching? Who knows?

But if you are a bit touchy-feely like Andy, just be careful who you touch… people like me won’t say anything but we don’t like it! You’ve been warned. Andy, wherever you are… if you’re selling cars again… keep your hands to yourself a bit more! You can have that tip for free!

Dress For Success: Sales Training Tips That The Politically Correct Won’t Tell You

Many of my sales training tips are inspired by what goes on around me and this one today was no different. It was a bright day here today and everyone was out and about enjoying the fresh air and the police force, who seem to vanish from the streets on inclement days, were all walking around in the sunshine. Strange that! So I was driving up a hill and slowed to let some children cross the road, when I noticed that an adult was talking to a police officer who was…

… leaning against a wall, top button undone and not wearing his hat. Leaning against a wall, deep in conversation but managing to chew gum none-the-less! Call me old fashioned (or just old if you want) but I don’t expect police officers to lean against walls. Nor do I expect them to be hatless and tieless. And they should definitely not be chewing gum. Ever!

So is this just me being unreasonable?

Probably. Maybe. Perhaps not. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’m not an expert in how the police service should dress. But I do know that people still notice what you wear no matter what some trendy, politically correct, everyone-is-equal, do-gooder says. Perhaps it doesn’t matter to them because they don’t have to make a good impression because in those kinds of circles no-one dares sack anyone but it is most certainly not the case in sales and in business!

Sales training tip! In sales, first impressions count…

And I have to tell you that some of my sales training and sales seminar delegates do not make a good first impression. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t care what they wear. Couldn’t give a fig! And I deliberately do not set a dress code for sales training so that delegates can be comfortable wearing whatever they want. But I do think it’s worth thinking about things before you leave the house in the morning. My delegates may think that they are just coming on a sales training seminar but how do they know that they might not meet their biggest ever client there? Or bump into that potential employer who makes them a dream offer? Or meet the partner of their dreams?!

I’m not telling you what to wear. I’m not telling you to dress like you live in the Victorian era. I’m not even telling you that you ought to dress smart. I’m telling you to think about what you wear. Ask yourself, “What would be appropriate for me? What would be appropriate for this client?”

I’m guessing that some of my readers will be reading this thinking, “Who does this Gavin Ingham think he is? He’s not the keeper of me!” And you’re right. In today’s society you can pretty much do and wear what you like. Very few people will pick you up on anything or give you any kind of feedback because they’re often too scared to tell you for fear of behaving incorrectly or infringing your human rights!

You might have a human right to dress like a loser but it doesn’t mean you have to invoke it.

But I don’t run with the herd if I don’t think it’s the right thing to do and on this I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. As someone who has run sales training seminars for 10+ years I have to say that it’s down to you to take control of your own life and ensure that you always make a strong first impression. Often times, increased sales come from thinking about things that your peers are not thinking about.

When I first posted this sales training article it was on another website and it stirred up a positive avalanche of people saying that I was not right to tell people what to wear. Having read it again I have the same opinion that I did before, I am not telling you what to wear, only that you ought to think about it. You can think about it and dress how you like, whatever that is. As long as you know the upsides and downsides of your decision, that’s fine.

Interestingly, the whole argument seemed to gear around suits and ties and how I was wrong to advocate them because dress codes have changed… and yet I never mention either in the article. Nor do I express an opinion either way. And, neither do I often wear a tie myself. So it seems kind of ironic that I was being told not to tell people to wear ties! And you know what? Not wearing one most of the time is my choice and I accept the positives and negatives of that. I am sure that some people turn up at my sales training and success seminars and one of their initial thoughts is about why I am not wearing a tie!

People often throw Richard Branson up as an example. Again, I never said you had to wear a suit and tie so maybe I meant… dress like Richard Branson. I didn’t, by the way. But the point is that Richard didn’t just get up one day and dress like he does. He didn’t just accidentally forget to wear a suit. His appearance and approach is thought out. He knows what he is comfortable in, he has thought about it and he is aware of the positives and the negatives.

On Dragon’s Den Peter Jones has more than once cited appearance as one of his reasons for turning someone down for investment. And they may well have said to themselves afterwards that they would rather not have had investment from someone with an attitude like that… and on that one I would point you to Aesop’s fable about the Fox & The Grapes. Interestingly, however, he has invested in some pretty wacky looking people too so he obviously judges people in some industries and from some backgrounds differently than others. Which, of course, reinforces my point about thinking about  what you wear and knowing your market and your client.

What you have to remember is that what is acceptable to one person may not be acceptable to another. But there is no right or wrong. Just because you think it is your right to dress how you like does not mean that people will not judge you for that right. Political correctness does not come into sales. If someone does not like the way you dress or they think you look unprofessional or inappropriate or lazy or slovenly or ill-prepared or unsuitable… then that will impact your ability to build rapport with them, damage your credibility and reduce (destroy?) their likelihood  of entering into a business relationship with you.

Recently a post appeared on LinkedIn talking about cuffs on shirts of all things and it also started a storm of conflicting opinions and ideas so I have answered a couple of questions from that post on here as I thought they made interesting points…

Firstly, several people said that THEY do not judge anyone by how they dress. Seriously?! Get out of your own head. If you sell, whether that’s in the traditional sense or just yourself within your organisation, you need to think about what others think, not just what you think.

Secondly, one person said that they judge people on their attitude and their preparation for the sales pitch not how they dress. And you know what? I agree that would make sense for clients but it’s not what most do. They cannot help but judge you before you speak, before you get to show how prepared you are, before you get to do the business. Why make things hard for yourself when you have done all of that good preparation by giving yourself a blinking great hill to climb? Why not look the part and have them ready and waiting to listen to your words of wisdom?!

Interestingly, a friend of mine is a recruiter and he recently posted a video on the impact of having a visible tattoo on your chances of getting a job. He was flamed horrendously for saying that it was not a good thing and that it would likely go against you in a corporate environment. Interestingly, there were several hiring managers who were on the discussion who said that they could not /would not hire someone to be customer facing if they had certain tattoos but most of the writers were so busy arguing that they did not even see these comments and carried on saying that it would not make any difference despite the evidence to the contrary.

As I said originally, my purpose here is not to tell you how to dress. You have a right to dress how you like. And only you can work out what is right for you, what is right for you situation and what is right for your career. I am just asking you to think about it.

What are your thoughts on this matter? What is the most inappropriate thing that anyone ever wore when they came to see you? Would what someone was wearing / not wearing put you off entering into a business relationship with someone? For more articles like this one, make sure you join my success newsletter here.

Sales Training Strategies From The Politicians? Whatever Next?

So, come on – hands up. Who’s been following the shenanigans of our governing politicians? Everyone? No-one? And who cares? And what does it have to do with sales training, business success and achieving the life that you want?

Many of our politicians seem to be a law unto themselves, doing what they want and not really listening to what the voters want them to do. Maybe they think that people don’t care enough about politics to force politicians to do anything about the current state of affairs. Perhaps because few people are saying anything, no-one thinks it really matters whether a politician is true to their word or not….

Now I don’t think that this happens to be true. I think we all care. Everyone I talk to cares when they’ve been lied to, cares when our politicians (whatever flavour) say one thing and do another, cares when no-one seems to be connecting with us on a one to one level, cares when our politicians seem to be out of touch. So what if we’re not in the streets shouting and rioting? That’s because we’re all getting on with our lives. We have more pressing issues to deal with… at the moment…

But the time will come when it IS important enough for us to take action and the politicians will be punished – whether at the polls or in some other way. It’s happened before, it’s happened other places and we’re fooling ourselves if we think it cannot happen here.

Well, the same is true in sales (and sales training) and in business. On my travels as a motivational speaker and sales speaker, I see individuals and companies who mislead, lie to and poorly service their clients and potential clients and say that it does not matter because their clients don’t say anything. Sure they don’t say anything, they just leave… eventually. It’s called client turnover! Voting with their feet. That’s why many companies are constantly searching for new business. I know one company who have been going for well over 5 years and they are still operating at 95% new business every year. Shocking.

Does that put a strain on the sales teams or what?!!!

As salespeople and business leaders we should care. We should tell the truth to our clients. We should deliver what we say we are going to deliver and then some more. It’s not optional, it’s essential.

It’s sad to say it but in today’s marketplace, sometimes all that is needed to stand out from the crowd is to ensure that you take these simple guiding philosophies to heart. Build them into your sales training programmes and the development of your sales teams and your sales future.

I wonder what you will draw from this quick article? Politicians don’t listen? Politicians don’t care? People don’t change? There’s always something to moan about?!


Many people will carry on doing what they do irrespective of whether it’s working or not. If you want ultimate business and personal success then you need to look for the signs, you need to take the feedback and you need to be ready to make changes so that you can keep on providing value for your customers, your future customers and your employees.

It’s funny. I am currently making all of my posts “evergreen”. I want them to be as relevant in the future as they are when I wrote them. When I reread this post I thought it would be dated but the sad fact is that, when I think about it, nothing has changed.  Nothing has changed with the politicians and nothing has changed in business.

To be the first to read more stories like this one, join my success newsletter by clicking here now.

Which Sales Skills Process Or System Should I Use?

I was asked a great question today, “Which sales skills process or system should I use?” And I thought that it was worth posting the answer here as it is relevant to all salespeople, sales leaders and business owners who want to improve the performance, abilities and results of their sales teams. Some sales trainers and sales speakers might not like my answer but hey, I never said I was here to be liked!

Question: Are there any particular selling systems that you advocate or follow?

That’s a great question and the answer is, “Yes, my own”! And you can book an in-house sales seminar or come to an open programme near you. Just give my team a call to book :-).


There are lots of other systems, approaches and programmes that can help you to achieve the sales results that you want and improve your sales skills. And many of them are very good but when you look at all of the sales skills systems you can get very confused. They, on first sight, will appear very different but when you get down into it, they are (mostly) pretty similar. Whatever you call it they all work with people, problems, solutions, value etc. It’s just the semantics, the ability of the sales trainers and the programmes that they’re wrapped up into that change.

But few sales training companies are going to admit to you the similarities between programmes. It is in the interests of the individuals selling these programmes to “big up” the differences. One system from one famous company that I quite like talks about the HUGE differences between their programmes and the competition but when it comes down to it most of the things they are claiming about the differences are far smaller than is touted.

Certainly, there are some things in some systems which are not in others but mostly it is more of a case that one system will have a name for something which another system doesn’t therefore it’s easier to differentiate.

Different people will achieve better results with different styles…

There are many reasons for this – personal taste, style of teaching, ability of the sales trainer / coach, experience, mindset and whether the individual salesperson is ready to commit to working on the process.

And different teams too will get different results with different approaches based on all of the above, the culture of their business, their willingness to take action and also how appropriate the follow up and sustainability programmes are that help sales leaders to implement the new approaches.

I have worked with individuals in the same industry who rave about different systems but sell into the same clients – go figure. I have also worked with individuals who think their success is down to a particular system or a particular set of sales skills but they aren’t actually using that system when you watch them in action.

Sales and selling is not that complicated and you don’t need overly complex sales skills!

It’s just that most people fail to put the work in. Top salespeople and top sales teams pull the best sales skills from all of the best systems but… you can’t go “freestyle” until you know the basics.

As a final point, I would say that it is worth looking at the different sales skills systems, the trainers, their approaches and making your call but once you have made that decision, stick with it until you are “doing it”. Don’t look at any others until you know and breathe your own process as this can just confuse.

If you’re not ready for full-on sales training and development yet but you want powerful tips and strategies straight to your inbox then join the Gavin Ingham Success Newsletter here free.

Should Cold Callers Ask, "How Are You Today?"

Should we ask, “How are you?” at the start of a cold call? It’s a great question and one which salespeople and sales trainers alike are split on and spend a lot of time debating in sales training programmes, cold calling seminars and courses!

Whilst accepting that there are always exceptions to every rule, I’m, for the most part, on the not side. My main reason is that most salespeople do not sound like they mean it and most potential clients think it’s disingenuous! Here’s a real conversation that took place from one of my delegates on a sales training course who would not stop asking this question…

Sales: “Hello X, it’s Y here from ABC company. How are you today?”
Client: “I’ve been off sick for two weeks and have just got back today.”
Sales: “Oh. The reason for the call today is…”

Oh, come on! How rude is that?! Right at the start of the call our “hero” has totally ignored his potential client. Disaster. But , one of the problems is that the alternative conversation where we delved into his private life was unlikely to go much better…

Far better to realise that clients are not hanging around hoping that you are going to be cold calling them and to ask the more polite question, “How convenient is it to speak?” This question is rarely asked because salespeople have the mistaken belief that by not asking it clients are more likely to stay on the phone… righto!

You can learn more about how and why you should ask permission and what to expect when you do use it in future articles and my sales training seminars and No Fear Cold Calling programmes.