The Sales Apprentice 2010: Sales Training Tips From The Hit TV Show, Week 2

“From across the country, 16 of Britain’s brightest business prospects have come to London,” Err, ahem!

And with these words, the second week of The Sales Apprentice kicked off. With bad feelings ruling on the boys’ team last week, this week it was the girls’ turn to make the boys look harmonious but they didn’t do it without a helping hand…

Stella was moved over to work with them in the absence of Dan (fired) and Raleigh (retired for personal reasons) and promptly took charge. Her strong but fluid style proved to be the Rennie that they needed to soothe their troubled waters.

This week’s task was to create a new beach product and pitch it to three large retailers. The team getting the most orders would win. So for those not interested in the details here are…

This week’s sales training tips…

Sales training tip 1: There is no “I” in team. Many of these girls (particularly gobby Joanna) seem to only have a first person perspective on everything and seem oblivious to the needs of others. This is not, nor can it ever be, good for group dynamics.

Sales training tip 2: Don’t slap your client down, whatever they do or say. Many people have a problem saying, “No” to their clients and whilst I advocate a, “No” when it is appropriate it is essential that it is done in a respectful way. Watch this episode for a perfect example of how not to do it.

Sales training tip 3: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Boots offered the girls exclusivity but they threw it back in their faces. Given the circumstances, this would have been a massive task winner. Whoops!

Sales training tip 4: Don’t pitch like R2D2. People buy people.  Everyone says this but you have to understand what it means too. I am sure NASA has robots that could get more of their personalities over in a presentation than Chris did.

Sales training tip 5: Don’t be sexist. What more can I say?

Sales leadership tip of the week: Take a calm cool, look at your team. Be firm but strong. Know your own strengths. Don’t get pulled into arguments. Get people involved and ensure they know what they’re doing. Turn in a stellar performance every time.

After a 530am wake-up call our intrepid teams headed for Heathrow Terminal 5 where they were greeted by Nick and Karen. Despite the early hour the boys were still focused on beating the girls, “We have got to beat those girlies,” one of them parped. Political correctness at its best!

At Heathrow Sir Alan briefed them on their task via video link and Stella was moved over to the boys’ team to make up the dwindling numbers and to “keep them in check”.  ”I’ve been working with men for years…  I have no problem with whipping these boys into shape!”  And she wasn’t wrong. Maybe that is what these boys did need, a firm mother-like-presence to stop them misbehaving? Stella was off to a stellar start and when the boys started to drift during brainstorming she plumped for one of the options and marched them back into line, “I am happy with the decision. We’ve made it. Let’s just move on,” she declared.

The boys had opted for a Cuuli… a sort of towel come drinks cooler come baby food store come safebox… sort of thing. Not something I saw a need for myself but my wife told me, “I like it.” Infact, she seemed to have grasped it better than the boys who seemed as confused as ever when briefing the designers, “The best way to describe it is a towel, a beach towel, with a pillowcase on top.”

Heck man, you’ve sold it to me. I always wanted one of those! Whatever it is!

Meanwhile Jamie, who along with Chris, was every bit as annoying this week as (the strangely quiet) Stuart was last, was talking to the camera. “You have to earn respect,” he stated, clearly meaning that he had it. I was reminded of my “Sir Alan Entrepreneur Theory” (derived from his comments about entrepreneurs last week)…

You shouldn’t have to tell people that you have respect. People should just give it to you!

Over on the girls’ team, inspiration was lacking. I am always amazed by the lack of creativity and inspiration the Apprentices seem to have. Perhaps it is the pressure, maybe it’s the situation, perhaps they don’t want to put themselves forward (sorry! scratch that!), perhaps they’re too busy talking… Whatever! The girls were struggling to come up with any kind of product at all…

Eventually, they settled for a sort of half-a-hula-hoop type thing with a hankie hanging between to hold a book. Who am I to criticize when Boots said that they liked it but it looked like total tat to me? They called it Book Eeze which I thought was a pretty good name.

Over on Stella’s team the boys were showing their maturity (not!) and my wife was having a fit. They were discussing Stella modelling a bikini for them for the photo shoot. Chris thought that she should, “… take one for the team.” He even repeated the same to her, laughing, “Go on mate, take one for the team.”  Watching this, I did have some sympathy for Dan last week however Stella did handle it pretty well. This didn’t stop the boys mumbling amongst themselves at her refusal, “I think that’s a wrong decision,” said one, “It’s a cowgirl look… it’s very in,” said another.

Yes boys, maybe in Spearmint Rhino. Meanwhile Stella had slightlyabandoned her principles and was going to do a toned down version of the poster.  “If it means our poster is going to be better, I will do things that mean we’re going to win,” quipped Stella. I was reminded of the girls selling kisses for cash in a previous series… not a high point I felt.

Back over on the girls’ team Laura was having control issues. Talking to the camera she said that it was impossible to facilitate / control such “strong” women. I’m not sure Laura… strong? More like awkward, egotistical, pig-headed, full of themselves… I guess it is something of a point of definition though.

Pitching the Prospects….

Practising the pitch Chris was about as natural as a robot from some blockbusting 1970’s sci-fi epic. To be successful in sales pitches you have to find your own natural voice and persona. If this is his, then he has a lot to worry about. Stella pointed this out to him and he was very ungracious. Nick Hewer thinks he should have been more light-hearted as he was not selling nuclear submarines. Frankly, I think that nuclear submarine commanders would torpedo him rather than listen to him drone on. But don’t worry, any fear that he might have been upset by any of this feedback was well cushioned by his massive ego when he declared he did not care what Stella thought anyway.

Great way to develop buddy. Glad you came into this with an open mind.

Over on the girls’ team Melissa was doing little better at presenting despite having told us several times what a sales superstar she is. Joanna (annoying, annoying, annoying) pulled no punches in alienating her and everyone else with her forthright opinions.

The pitches to Boots, Fit2Kit and Duty Free looked pretty dire. Chris’s attempts to paint a picture were , if anything, worse than his ramblings, “He’s looking cool… He looks stylish on the way to the beach.” Woman from Boots, “He just looks like a man with a towel to me.” Priceless.

On the girls’ team things were going little better until Boots wanted to talk exclusivity. I don’t want to get into when, why and if you should accept exclusivity deals right now but I do want to talk about the way Laura handled it. It was a total masterclass… in upsetting your client.

Whatever you are going to say, when you communicate with a client or prospect you need to keep the lines of communication open. This does not mean rolling over for their every whim but it does mean not offending, annoying or rudely rejecting them.

I suppose there is always next week, Laura.

In the Boardroom…

The boys smiled when they thought of Stella and the results were in…

The boys made a poor 100 sales to Kit2Fit.
The girls had set a new record and sold… wait for it… nothing.

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nul point.

Sir Alan was not chuffed.

Indeed, I was so busy looking at his disgruntled face that I never even heard what the prize was for Stella and the boys for their stellar performance… I’m sure someone will tell me…

Laura selected Joanna as the first to come back and Joanna did something I have never seen happen before – she argued about it. And then WWIII broke out amongst the girls. Sir Alan was not impressed. Karen reminded them of their duty to set an example and looked embarrassed to be a woman. Nick had an air of resignation and was clearly wondering why he had not joined Margaret on the beach in Margate sipping Sherry or wherever she is.

Back in the Boardroom…

Laura brought back Joanna and Joy.  Joanna because she is so aggressive and Joy because she is exactly the kind of person who is there to be sacked in the early rounds so why wouldn’t you bring her back?

Sir Alan told Laura she had failed miserably and that she would go down in this boardroom as the person who came back with absolutely zero sales… He told Joy that there are people that come into the process thinking that they can just step back and do  nothing… He told Joanna that she really wound people up. But in the end, despite saying that it was a hard decision, there was only one decision…

Laura wasn’t all bad considering. Joanna is too good TV. So it was Joy No Joy who had to go, “Joy, I haven’t seen anything from you to be honest. Neither have my two colleagues. Joy, you’re fired.”

And much like Bart, she put her head in her hands and exclaimed, “Oh man!” Back in the house, Joanna told the waiting Apprentices that  Sir Alan had said that he “is feeling is that I am a bit of a gobshite!”

Yes, Joanna. That is exactly what he said…

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