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

So, we entered the second show with 14 apprentices left fighting it out for the “top job”.

730am – Sir Alan entered the apartment, “I hope you’re all enjoying this luxury penthouse I’ve got for you” he barked. “Your task today is all about supplying a service to people who work in the City… the task is that you are going to be setting up a catering service… first of all a lunchtime service … (and then) an evening service for these high fliers.”

As always the team who made the most money would win and one of the losers would be fired.

On the Boy’s Empire team, young Rocky Andrews, who runs 15 sandwich outlets puts himself up for the team leader’s role. Meanwhile, on the girl’s Ignite team, Yasmina Siadatan, restauranteur, promoted herself as the top choice. Yasmina to the camera, “I think my employees might describe me as rude they might describe as brash, they might describe me as little blunt…”

Why do these apprentices say these things? Do they really think these are good qualities in a boss, leader or manager?

The girls quickly decided on a Mediterranean theme and the boys on one of the Olympics for the sandwiches and Greek for the evening do.  Our apprentices had one day to plan and prepare and prospect for some lunchtime clients, the evening clients being selected for them by Sir Alan. The girls were quick to start to promote their theme as were the boys with their range of chicken tikka and peanut butter sandwiches to name but two… what?

Back at the penthouse Rocky and the boys were discussing wearing costumes… sometimes you just despair don’t you?  Yasmina, meanwhile, was working out what ingredients they would need and was then planning to shop for the cheapest, lowest budget produce she could get her greedy little mits on.

Sales training tip: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again but you have to know your market and provide what they want. Any muppet knows you do not serve cheap and tasteless “value” tuna to professional peeps at professional dos, nor do you wear togas for city drinks after work.

Not surprisingly the girls won contracts for their pleasant sounding lunchtime menu of Mediterranean flat breads – it’s just a shame that the experience that they were going to deliver is actually going to be more shell suit than dinner jacket. Equally unsurprisingly, the boy’s odd sandwich fillings failed to entice any customers at all. Who did they think was going to order peanut butter sandwiches anyway?

Sales negotiations…

Each of the teams had a meeting organized with the company that they would be providing with canapé style refreshments in the evening.

First up, the girls at a top City accountancy firm. Yasmina had created the menu and Kate was going to be selling their offerings to the firm. now, excuse me for asking the obvious question but why would you, as a team leader, send someone who had no idea what they were talking about into making a critical sales presentation? Surely, this was one of the fundamentally most important tasks?

When Kate got asked about one dish she responded, “I’m guessing that it’s grilled in some way, I’m not the chef”.  And then when asked, “Can you do blinis?” she responded, “I’ve heard of blinis.”

Oh dear.

The boys, on the other hand, fared even worse with possibly the worst sales negotiation I have ever seen on the Apprentice and one from which there are many sales training tips to be had…

It started with the boys’ totally absurd notion of asking for £65 per head for canapés based on one phone call made by Howard to an event’s company.

Sales training tip: One call does not equal market research!

Leading the negotiation Philip had little belief in a positive outcome at the start of the negotiation and it showed. “£65 per head. I don’t know how that sounds to you?” queried Philip sounding totally dubious about the price himself.

Sales training tip: Putting aside the fact that this was an absurdly ridiculous figure, when negotiating you need to sound like you believe in what you’re saying, otherwise you’re doomed!

Philip clearly had no faith whatsoever in what he was selling. Not surprisingly, the client was dismissive telling him that it was not acceptable and that the figure was more like what it would cost for a sit down 3 course dinner.

“Let’s get realistic, if we were talking £35 per head?” asked Philip sounding every bit as unsure as he had at £65.

Sales training tip: Wow! A virtual 50% reduction in cost, just like that. What message does that send to the client? What does it suggest about your original figure? About your integrity? About how much further you might be prepared to slide? And where are any concessions or variables? When you negotiate it should not just be about price and money. As Philip was negotiating he should have been talking about the different menus and options available for the different prices not just dropping the price on the one offering… over and over and over…

The only response this got was a shake of the head from the man and a short, “Not in the least”. This client had not even “engaged” in this negotiation at this stage whilst Philip was making all of the running and all of the reductions. This put Philip on the back foot and won the client this from Philip…

Philip, “No? Not even close? If we went down to something like £17.50 a head and looking at that sort of figures I think it’s incredibly realistic.”

Sales training tip So Philip tells us what he really thought it was worth in the first place. And reduces by another 50% now making his initial offering preposterous and, had this been a real negotiation, he would have shown his company as nothing short of crooks…

And he has still left room for negotiation with the words “that sort of figure”.

“I’m still unimpressed” said the client with still closed body language. Note how the client now engages verbally slightly more as he seeks to extract even more discounts out of Philip…

“I think we’re going to find it very difficult to stack up at anything lower than around 15 pounds a head” responded Philip obligingly.

“That sounds feasible, I think, we can justify that” agreed the client and the deal was done.

Sales training tip: I’d be very careful if estate agent Philip was negotiating the “best” deal for me on my house and had I been this client the words “around 15 pounds” would have drawn me to go for a final concession from the desperate Philip, perhaps something like, “Then if we can make it £13.50 and you can throw in a drink for each head, we’ve got a deal”. Philip was getting a pummelling.

In the kitchen Yasmina was psyching up her troops as they started to open the cheapest cans of tuna I had ever seen. Why oh why did she think this was the way to go? I am confused, so I wandered off to check out her website and I quote you off her website for her restaurant…

… It makes culinary sense that the shorter the produce journey from source to plate, the fresher and tastier the meal will be. Hence the idea of a British restaurant. If all the ingredients are coming from within the boundaries of the UK, the impact we are having on the natural environment is minimised. Eating seasonally, ordering daily, and being creative with fresh vegetables and fruit all lead to healthy customers and an amazing menu….


… If you are limited for time the fresh food can still be cooked to perfection without compromising on quality…

Which makes her decisions all the stranger. And her “real world” restaurant looks and sounds nice… maybe one of my readers has been and can share their thoughts…

In the boys’ kitchen, Rocky was ambitiously planning to knock up 500 sandwiches and sell them on the streets. Had he not got a sandwich shop background I could have excused him this but to me it just felt like “finger in the air” stuff and he should have know better. We never did find out how many sandwiches they did actually sell but given their final sales figures the answer would have to be, nothing like 500!

Serving their first clients their lunchtime sandwiches the girls were immediately running into quality issues such as not enough sandwiches per person, lack of filling, and a hair on one sandwich. “I’m not sure that it would get through the Pret test” said one customer. Surely, one of the girls would step up and demand an up in the quality before the evening? Err, no!

I just cannot talk about what then went on for both teams because it was just preposterous. I find it hard to believe that none of them on either team had not been on a semi-decent work evening do and that they just didn’t stand up and yell out, Harry Enfield Righteous Brothers style, “Oi, no! I’m not prepared to accept this shoddy performance!”

After a thoroughly appalling performance both teams were ready to go into the board room and we had the pleasure of Yasmina to camera, “Having met and worked with all of the other girls I firmly believe that I am better than all of them and as the weeks go on I think Sir Alan will start to realise that as well.” Rocky meanwhile was surfing his own ego too, “If I get past today then I think there is a good chance that me and Philip could be here to the end, fighting it out.”

Well, there’s certainly A chance Rocky…

The results…

Ignite and Yasmina spent £354.77, took £1006.20 and made profits of £651.43. This included reduction on their evening event from £750 to £500 for poor quality.

Empire and Rocky spent a whopping £821.37, took £661 and made a loss of £160+. This included a reduction on their evening event from £750 to £375 due to being overly tacky, inappropriate food and poor service.

That’s two weeks on the trot that these apprenti have run into difficulties because of their inability to deliver on their promises.

“A loss. Unbelievable” muttered Sir Alan. And then to the ladies, “Very, very, well done, even with a few complaints” and then again, “Very well done. A 200% margin nearly.”


I disagree. From what we saw the girls were a shambles too and Yasmina’s decisions about food quality were totally unacceptable. Business is not about maximum charge and minimum quality. Their food was a disgrace from what we saw… poor quality, poor ingredients, low on quantity, badly presented and unoriginal. Admittedly, compared to the boys, their performance was amazing but compared to any real world standard it was not good enough.

Tips for selling in a recession: One of my most popular keynote speeches for sales conferences at the moment is Selling in a Recession. How to survive, thrive and grow in difficult markets is essential and of key importance in any market, especially the markets of today.  Cutting costs and fleecing your customer is not the answer; adding value and going the extra mile is. For someone who runs a restaurant, Yasmina did not even put any thought into presentation or variety – things that would be critical for a high class client. In the real world, she would not get repeat business for the performance that Ignite turned in.

Many non-business people watching The Apprentice carry the impression that business is all about making profits at the expense of the customer. This performance and Sir Alan’s subsequent comments will have done nothing to allay their fears. Had the girls lost, Yasmina should have gone but the facts remain that she won, she made four figure profits and she hammered the boys to boot, so in Sir Alan’s mind she did well…

If she can keep out of trouble for a few programmes now she may go far…

I feel a little sorry for Rocky because he was so clearly out of his depth. I have no doubt he is good at what he does and I cannot understand what, at 21, if he is running 15 sandwich shops and employing 350 people, he is doing here. What was he going to do if he won? Sack them all? Why couldn’t he accept and build on the real world successes that he has already had? For some the grass is always greener… But he won’t win and he won’t be here because he knows what he knows but he didn’t even have the flexibility to use that knowledge in a task he should have been able to smash for six.

Rocky decided to return to the board room with Howard and James. Howard seemed surprised at the choice but really there was no choice as this failure was primarily Rocky’s and there was no-one else to blame. Rocky should have known how to ace this task, he should have known how to pull profit. He didn’t. He had to go.

Sir Alan, “Rocky you’re on the ropes… James you look a bit hurt… Do you think your mouth got you into trouble?”

To Rocky, “Who should get fired?”

“Howard who should get fired?”

“James who should get fired?”
“Both of them.”

Way to make friends and influence people James!

Sir Alan, “I think I’ve heard enough… Rocky you stood up and said you would take this job on and I would have thought that this was the right bloke to do this job …. Howard I think that because you run 10 pubs you could have grasped the nettle, you could have helped him out… You James… your resume is the thing that is confusing me… you can be a total plonker… I’ve concluded that Rocky you’re 21 years old but one cannot ignore a series of what I call immature mistakes… at Middlesborough you were taken off the pitch in a stretcher… this time, you’re off the pitch in a black cab. You’re fired.”

So that’s it for another week, what did you learn, recoil from or enjoy this week?

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