The Sales Apprentice 2010: Sales Training Tips From The Hit TV Show, Week 3

Well, I don’t know about you but I thought that tonight’s Sales Apprentice was probably one of the most clueless performances from all concerned that we have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Sure, there were some okay “sales” performances but I don’t really call smiling and offering muffins in the street, sales. If it is, then we really need to be concerned for the economic future of the UK.

Anyway, cheery bagel -banter aside, this week’s performances were hopeless. But before we get going here are the sales training tips for this week…

Sales training tip 1: Honesty is the best policy. Sales relationships are built on trust and credibility and you don’t create this by exaggerating and lying to your clients.

Sales training tip 2: No matter what your colleagues do, you need to conduct yourself with professionalism and pride in sales meetings.

Sales training tip 3: Know your prices.

Sales training tip 4: Under promise and over deliver.

Sales training tip 5: Know your products inside out.

Sales leadership tip: Make decisions. Lead from the front. Be prepared to step up!

Let’s start with Shibby…

I have the greatest respect for achievements in any field particularly those which require academic commitment, intelligence and success. However, I am also all for demonstrating that academic qualifications do not by themselves set you up for business success. Despite this, it is getting somewhat predictable that the show-makers deliberately recruit over-qualified turkeys just to stuff and carve them up.

In other series’, we have seen accountants, lawyers and academics gobbled up. Tonight it was the turn of a fully qualified doctor. As far as business acumen and experience go his (demonstrated) skills set him about on a par with blood-letting and leaches in medicine.

Tonight’s task was to make some cakes…. sorry, to make then sell bakery products  to commercial businesses and to individuals in the street. The two teams were headed up by Shibby and Melissa. In summation, I would have happily sacked both of them along with the incredibly cocky and annoying Paloma but you can’t have too much fun in one night on the Sales Apprentice and you have to follow the prescribed format. Shibby, keen to make his predictable exit as embarrassing for his professional credibility as possible, was blabbing to the camera, “I know that I’ve got the intelligence and the entrepreneurialism to succeed.”


He did, at least, manage to decide what his team were going to bake even if he did later sell something completely different. This simple decision proved beyond Melissa who couldn’t even get her team to that point, pontificating and generally looking like she was having difficulty holding a conversation with her team let alone leading them and making credible decisions.

After both of the teams split up into a baking team and a “sales” team, the sales teams headed off to make their “sales pitches” in three sales meetings set up by Sir Alan. We didn’t see very much of these sales meetings but what we did see was verging on the comical.

In the first sales pitch, Our Mel’s team (and I think Alex specifically) were banging on about their company to the chap from the hotel chain who just wanted 1000 rolls. “We are from Le Pain Artisan, we are a speciality bread company and we have a real passion for baked goods,” he lied. Look, you prat, we all know that you’re on The Apprentice and that you don’t run a company and that you don’t love bread so why pretend you do? Lying is never a good sales strategy and this one just makes you look stupid. Why not ask some questions rather than talking gibberish?

But if stupidity was what was required, Our Mel had him beaten and dragged the whole thing down to price in one line, “Obviously, straight off the bat I’d like to gain some understanding of what you’d like to order from us and then negotiate some sort of price.” The buyer, not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth suggested 1000 bread rolls and asked how much this would cost? Bizarrely, Our Mel and her team seemed to have no idea what the price would be. They looked so confused that the buyer offered them a couple of minutes to figure it out and they disappeared for 15 astoundingly coming back with the price of £1.82 a unit. Surely I didn’t hear that right??

Anyway, they’d blown it totally and the client blew them out of the water.

Later, over on Shibby’s team a whole new farce was taking shape. Shibby had secured the order for the 1000 rolls when Paloma stepped in and upsold to 1500 and then to 19000 units. She was gleeful about this order, boasting about how clever she was. It did not seem to have crossed any of their self-professed, superior intelligences that they actually needed to deliver on these orders…

Back over on Our Mel’s team, their sheer lack of product knowledge was astounding…

Client: “What weight are we talking about?”
Out Mel: “There is a standard size.”
Client:  “Which is?”
Our Mel: “I don’t have it with me at the moment.”

Did I mention that she’s in Food Business Management?

Lordie! Lordie!

Over on team Shibby, Shibby and Paloma were disagreeing vociferously in front of a client about whether they could or they couldn’t deliver on an order. Shibby offered to deliver 100 units rather than 400 and the client said it was all or nothing. Paloma interjected to say, “I’d like to honour it.” Honour what Paloma? It’s a sales meeting not a legally binding contract. On the principle in dispute, Shibby was right. You shouldn’t make promises that you have no hope of keeping. But this should have been dealt with in a wholly more professional and client focused way. And they should never have discussed it (let alone argued about it) in front of the client.

In the bakery, Christopher, an ex marine, created a supply chain that was operating with military efficiency. No doubt Sir Alan will at some point decide that he is too much of a doer and sack him but for now it was nice to see someone quietly getting on with things…


After a late night the teams were up early to sell to the public but first they had to deliver their goods to the commercial suppliers. Shibby had to admit to the hotel chain that he had only been able to deliver 16 of 1000 ordered rolls. “Out of the 1000… I am embarrassed to say that we only have 16,” he laughed. Unbelievable. I am sure it was nerves and not arrogance but this was not funny…

Sad, yes?
Pathetic, yes?
Embarrasingly, unbelievably, hopelessly, depressingly, inept? Yes.

“What do I say?” asked the client thinking about his hungry breakfast diners. And, is if  just to prove that he simply had no grasp of the seriousness of his total screw up, Shibby tried to make a joke by suggesting that they went on The Atkins diet…

For once, I am lost for words.

But he wasn’t finished. “What would make you feel more comfortable?” he asked the client to which the client asked for money. What? Shibby gave away £130 “compensation” and simultaneously demonstrated that he had no clue and no competitive spirit. Let’s not forget, this is not real business, this is a competition and I, for one, would not have been giving anything away without a fight.

On Our Mel’s team they had made part of their commercial sale but lost out on the muffins which were not up to scratch. Mel offered to reduce the price but had she have been listening properly she would have known that this would make no difference. The client said clearly that the muffins were not up to scratch, he did not say that they were too expensive. There is a huge difference between the two and one that many salespeople could do with understanding.
This was not about price. This client sells top quality goods. He was not interested in saving money. His business was about quality.

At this point in the show, the teams went on the street and sold to the London public in a variety of locations. Nick thought Stuart had found his forte. Our Mel had her own take on things, “Some people have a softly-softly approach… mine is more I am going to make you take it.”

In the Boardroom…

Apollo sold £999.37, spent £139.50 and made £859.87.
Synergy sold £974.92, spent £308.93 and made £665.99.

Apollo departed for an Eastern meal and glamorous Arabian dancers and on Synergy the recriminations started.

Back in the Boardroom…

Shibby elected to bring back Paloma and Sandeesh. I think he really brought back Sandeesh because he thought Paloma might back him up in saying that she had not done anything to help towards the task. And Paloma because you might as well shoot your general if you’ve lost the war. In the event, she got in first shot by refusing to back him up in criticizing Sandeesh and by lying about the fact that she already had. She also attacked his business acumen, “… you don’t have the fundamental skills that all of us have in the household.”

Sir Alan thought Paloma might think she is a superior to the rest and I would agree on that but he also told her she had Karen to thank that she was staying. He pointed out to Sandeesh that his advisors thought she wasn’t contributing. But there could be only one loser tonight and it had to be Shibby. He had stuck to the script and shown how intelligent, highly-qualified people can fall with spectacular style onto their self-sharpened swords.

“Shibby. After a thorough examination, I have got some bad news for you. You’re fired.” Ah, Sir Alan, you crack me up. I think I need a doctor…

In the cab Shibby was predictable, “I think Lord Sugar made a mistake…” Really, do you? Do you? Really? “But, you know what? I will pick myself up and I will learn from it.”

Oh. Come on. With that comment you already didn’t.

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