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

If you spent tonight watching Manchester United play Barcelona in the Champions League then the good news is that you didn’t miss a lot in the way of sales training and business tips on tonight’s Apprentice. What you did miss however was Sir Alan sacking someone that, based upon your emails to me, many of you had thought would make the final. I agreed with Sir Alan’s decision but more of that later…

Tonight’s task was to select products to sell live on a TV shopping channel. The team that sold the most would win. A task like this is all about picking the right products for your target audience and then selling them effectively. How would they fare?

On team Ignite, Howard volunteered to project manage Lorraine and Kate whilst over on team Empire, Yasmina volunteered to project manage James and Debra. Debra also wanted to be project manager and agreed to Yasmina leading the team somewhat ungraciously, “For me, I am happy to be project manager every week,” she stated. Err, yes Debra, but that’s really not what it’s about though is it?

Both teams split in two to select products which the other members of their team would have to sell on TV the next day. All were treated to “sales presentations” on various products which they could choose from. They may have asked but, if they did, we never heard one question or one comment on target markets and audiences…

Sales training tip: Much as knowing what the products do is important, so is knowing who the audience are and what they buy. Me, I would have spent rather more time asking questions. Who are the audience? What do they like? What do they normally buy? How many did this product sell last time? When was it last on the channel? What have they bought that’s similar? How did they sell? How do the prices compare? How price conscious are they? What compels them to buy now? Etc etc.

Choices were made. Kate selected a hideous leather jacket with silver or gold leaves on and a healthy chip pan for Howard and Lorraine to sell. Howard and Lorraine selected a rather bizarre pet craft kit and a mini electronic, air guitar for Kate to sell.

Over on the other team, James and Yasmina selected a leaf grabbing contraption and a polo-neck, scarf type piece of clothing for Debra to sell and she in turn selected a cheap remote control car and a pack of elasticated hairclips for them.

Notably, James, Yasmina and Debra did not have a product priced over £29.99 whilst Kate, Lorraine and Howard had two approaching £150. Would this make winning hard for Yasmina and her team or would their cheap “pile them high, sell them cheap” approach work?

On the TV…

James was cheesy, “If you’re not first with this, you’ll be last with this”, he quipped, “Stop spying and start buying.” Debra meanwhile looked slick but did claim the line of the week, “This is the answer to the scarf,” she stated confidently. What was the question again Debra?

Over on the other team, Howard and Lorraine looked uncomfortable working together. Selling the chip pan they waxed lyrical about the chips but said little about how to buy the product. Kate looked like she was enjoying herself selling the air guitar, perhaps a little too much.

Sales training tip: Every sales message needs a call to action. People need an incentive and encouragement to buy now. They need to know when to call, why they should call now, the number to call, the numbers that are selling, the number of people hanging on the line etc etc.

In the board room…

Empire had sold £1541.88. Ignite £1376.73.

A win for Yasmina and her team. Apparently Debra had been “exceptional” according to the TV channel representatives. Howard and his team had failed to win despite their higher priced products. Neither the leather jacket nor the fryer had sold to the expectation levels of the channel.

During the conversations that followed it became clear that both Howard and Kate blamed Lorraine. Lorraine thought Howard should go due to being over cautious. In private, Nick vociferously stood up for Lorraine to Sir Alan, “She is so often right.”

In their defence…

Howard said that he is a great communicator and works well in teams. Nick told him that he lacked ambition and is not brave. Lorraine said she has natural business acumen. Sir Alan asked why she wanted to work for him then? Kate said she has been a strong team player. Sir Alan said that one of them is “not going to be very happy.”

“Kate. I think you stepped back in my eyes in this last week. You say you’re not a one trick pony… but you might be… Howard you’re a steady Eddie… Lorraine you speak a good game, your age has got nothing to do with it… I’ve noticed a couple of times that you seem to make your mind up afterwards and I ‘aint got time for people like that either… This is a very difficult decision because you three people have come a long way in this process… Howard, you’re fired.”

An interesting decision and one I agreed with. Howard has never really stepped up. We are one week from the final and he is still a figure in the background. Worse, he has twice been present when bad decisions have been made and has seemingly done and said nothing to contradict the bad decisions being made. But he is a nice guy and eminently enmployable…

Howard in the cab, “I’m gutted. Really gutted…. If Sir Alan thinks I am risk adverse then ok I will take on board the feedback.”

So…

Kate, Lorraine, Debra, Yasmina and James remain to face the wrath of the interviewers from hell next week. Who will survive the ridiculous, unrealistic, un-PC, verbal attacks of Sir Alan’s attack dogs? Who do you want to see in the final?

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