The Sales Apprentice 2009: Sales Training Tips From The Hit TV Show, Part VIII

Week 8 and an interesting task rebranding Margate from being “a little tired” to being “a cool place to go”. Not many sales training tips this week but an interesting night and a few good tips.

Leading the two teams this week were Debra and Yasmina. Yasmina declared that she was suggesting herself for this task as it required a “multitude of skills” and that she had them. Nothing if not humble.

The two teams quickly started coming up with ideas for the rebranding. Debra, Mona, Howard and James decided that they would try and tap into the pink pound whilst Lorraine, Yasmina, Ben and Kate settled for the somewhat safe idea of rebranding Margate as a family holiday venue.

Over a two day period our teams had to create the rebranding plan, create a poster and a leaflet and make two sales pitches. One of the would be to branding experts and the other to officials and locals. Both of these groups would score the pitches and the best scoring pitch would win.

Both teams elected to operate with two team members in Margate and two in London. In Margate for Empire were Mona and James and for Ignite, Ben and Lorraine. Whilst Mona and James “subtly” tested the local opinion of chasing the pink pound, Howard and Debra enjoyed casting for their photos. Over on the other team Kate and Yasmina seemed to be gaining equal enjoyment from their casting of a yummy Daddy, Yasmina licking her lips as he bared his chest…

The next day the fog had landed on Margate. It was not perfect weather for appealing photography. Mona and James decided to start off by shooting some shots inside, recreating a night club scene. Nick was not complimentary saying that the models were not getting a lot of direction and that they looked wooden…

Every week we learn from the occasional successes and frequent failures of the apprentices. I am happy to point out what they have done wrong, how egotistical they can be and what they should have done instead but, in this, I disagree with Nick. The apprentices are not photographers or directors. Nor do they pretend to be. How do they know or why should they be expected to know how to direct a photo shoot? Why would they know how to get the best out of a model? Would you? Would Nick? Would knowing how to do this make them any more employable as a leader?

Leadership tip: Being a great leader is not about being able to do everything yourself. Being a great leader is about utilizing the resources you have to get the optimum result. Being a leader is about knowing when a job requires specialist help. Being a leader means understanding how to integrate that specialist help into your business. This was one of those times when specialist help was required and I think it would have been more realistic as a leadership task to have let them lead and manage a specialist in this area.

Later on, James and Mona moved to the beach to continue their photo shoots. “Directing” two guys with ice cream 99s on the beach, Nick continued to look on with disgust as if he had just found a rancid gherkin in his ice cream. Margaret meanwhile looked relaxed and calm, sitting on a seaside bench, eating an ice cream and watching Ben and Lorraine on their shoot.

Back in London, Lorraine and Yasmina clashed over the poster that Yasmina had created. Lorraine really has an ability to rub people up the wrong way fast. But if their arguments were unproductive they were nothing compared to the problems on Debra’s team where just 30 minutes before the print deadline they had not even started the leaflet! Not surprisingly, they could not finish it in time and had to leave it incomplete with gaps on it.

This was not the first time this series that one of the teams had failed to complete a basic task and I was surprised that more was not made of just how incompetent this really was. Remember the plain green cereal box? Tonight’s task was to do a rebrand with a presentation and to back it up with a poster and a leaflet. To not finish the leaflet was inexcusable.

The first sales presentation was to two agency chiefs and a tourism expert…

Kate went first with their family theme “See Margate through childrens’ eyes”. As with all of the sales presentations on the Apprentice we did not really see enough to comment on her presentation skills but what we did see was somewhat fact based and not very sexy at all. Rather too much steak and not much sizzle.

As usual, the professionals had to show their “expertise”, “If you saw your poster without the logo would you be confident that you would recognize it?” one asked. Frankly, I could apply that question to virtually any holiday poster I have seen anywhere and I wondered if they would have taken on the same project from cold in the same time period.

Howard made the presentation for Debra’s team and the idea seemed to go down well but the experts were quick to ask about why the leaflet had gaps on it. Debra, who had obviously been thinking up an excuse over night as to why there were gaps, said that the spaces were for local advertisers. It was fairly obvious that they did not believe her but she continued to dig a hole for herself and her team. Later on, Margaret said that the branding company did not like being lied to and said that you need a relationship of trust between a branding company and their client and that it had been blown out of the window.

Sales training tip: Trust is also critical if you want to be a top salesperson. Trust is essential if you want to close sales. Trust is crucial if you want top class client relationships. Trust is mandatory if you want your clients to open up and speak to you about their real needs, wants, fear and desires. Salespeople are often seen as untrustworthy, untruthful and dishonest. Sometimes this is fair, sometimes it isn’t. To deal with this perception you need to develop deep trust between you and you clients and the only way you can do this is by being honest, open and trustworthy, all of the time.

Back in the boardroom…

We discovered that Empire had scored 4/10 from the officials and residents and 4/10 from the branding experts. Ignite had scored 7/10 from both groups respectively.

Debra, Mona, James and Howard were left to fight it out whilst the others got to race Lotus Exiges around a race track. James hit the nail on the head for me, “We lost because our execution was poor.”

Debra elected to bring back Mona and James…

This was a difficult one because they could all go. Surely none of these three could win this thing. James seems all Tim-nice-but-dim to me, Mona just doesn’t have it and Debra could wind up any team fast…

On tonight’s performance alone, I would have sacked Debra. Sir Alan said that Howard seemed to do nothing wrong tonight and Debra blamed the quality of the photos and creativity on Mona and James in Margate but what exactly were she and Howard doing for two days? Why was the leaflet not nearly completed and just awaiting photos? Why was the poster not laid out and awaiting photos? And how on earth did she think she could lay out a leaflet in 30 minutes anyway?

Debra also has very slippery shoulders, casting around to lay blame on anyone but herself in a very aggressive manner, “I wish I was you and James. I wish I had gone off to Margate, done absolutely nothing, ate fish and chips, taken a couple of pictures that weren’t actually relevant to what we were trying to do…”

Sales training tip: Sales success is about taking responsibility. Sales success is about knowing what you’re good at and improving what you’re not so good at. Many average salespeople do not admit any faults or failings and blame their clients, their colleagues, the market or anything except themselves for their failures. Unless you take responsibility, total responsibility for your sales performance you will limit yourself from becoming an absolute top sales performer.

But, as Sir Alan said, he is looking at performance over the whole series now and despite doubts over James and Debra, Mona had to go. “It looks like to me that you might be right at the end of the pier in this process… Mona, with regret, you’re fired.”

“Thanks you for the opportunity,” she said politely. And we were down to seven.

Quote of the week goes to Yasmina on Lorraine, “There is a difference between managing people that have strong personalities and managing crazy people.”

Who is your favourite? Who would you like to win and why?

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