Over the last few years the economy has changed, business has changed and how we go about selling and marketing have changed. For many, life has got tougher. Many businesses that once made a comfortable profit now struggle to keep their heads above water, many salespeople who used to easily beat their targets have to work harder and brands that once sold themselves now do not.
On last night’s Sales Apprentice semi-final we saw the two teams competing to create a luxury product range for an affordable price. This task was all about having a clear brand identity, a solid business plan and a route to market. One team got this, creating a male grooming range with a clearly defined identity, a route to market and a clear business strategy (Ok, so the packaging was poor but that would have been easy enough to change).
The other team messed it up, not really knowing what they were about, what their brand identity was, who they were selling to, what they were selling, at what prices or where.
Clearly, I have no idea what was going on in the head of team leader Adam but we have been watching him for 11 weeks now and he seems to have a fairly common trait whereby he believes that the more things he has to sell, the more chance he has of selling something. People who are desperate to make sales often think this but the opposite is frequently true.
In last night’s task, Adam’s team team set up a confectionery outfit selling hot chocolate, some drunken jellies, some wafer type chocolates and some marshmallows. It all reminded me a bit of standing underneath my Nana’s sweet cupboard at 2pm! You never quite knew what you were going to get…a bit of Spangle here, a Smarty there, perhaps a Chewit or, if you were really lucky, a Fruit Salad or a Chocolate Eclair… but I digress…
You will see people do this. They figure if they can sell something, they should. They don’t seem to realise that people do not want to pay a premium for a jack of all trades and a master of none. People want to understand your business, they need to know what your business is about, they want to know how you are different. You need to make it easy for them to find you, easy for them to come to you for advice / help, easy for them to buy off you, easy for them to get excited about your brand, easy for them to recommend you. Fail to do this and you just make it easy for them to go somewhere else.
In my business, over the years, I have defined what I do so that my clients know what I and my business are about. And to do this you need to realise that IT IS ok to turn business away. One of the best words I ever use is, “No”. Just because I could train your team on communication skills doesn’t mean that I am going to (I’m not). And just because I could do deskside coaching with your sales team doesn’t mean I will (because I won’t). But if you want a motivational speaker to inspire and motivate your teams at your next conference, that I will do!
If you want people to understand what you are all about then you need to be able to clearly define it yourself. When asked what they were about, Adam could only say what they weren’t about… “not a chocolatier” and “not a confectioner”. Who is ever going to remember what you’re not? Who even cares what you’re not?
WHAT ARE YOU?
In today’s competitive and challenging business markets, your company identity and brand is more important than ever. You need to be able to clearly articulate what you’re about, what you sell, why you sell that, who it helps, how it helps people, why they want it, why they need it… and so on…
Not surprisingly, Ricky and Tom won the task with their male grooming plan, Modern Gentleman and Adam, Jade and Nick lost with their (not so) Sweet Thing. Lord Sugar was faced with a difficult decision in the boardroom but concluded that Adam was out of his depth and fired him.
That leaves Ricky, Tom, Nick and Jade in next week’s final. Without prior knowledge of the business plans I have no idea who I would pick as a winner but I did have a thought that it would be rather fun to cancel next week’s ridiculously staged and hammed up interview process and instead have them go and present their business plans to Duncan Bannatyne, Hilary Devey, Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones. Now that would be a good show!