The Sales Apprentice 2011: Sales Training & Business Development Tips From The Hit TV Show, Week 5

So it’s week 5 of The Sales Apprentice and tonight’s task was to make and brand a unique pet food, make a TV ad and then pitch the campaign to some industry champions. Not an easy task but one at least where the Apprentices wouldn’t be able to actually lose money again this week!

Team leaders for the week were selected by Nick Hewer in Lord Alan’s absence and were Vincent and Glen. Glen wasn’t slow in shouting his credentials from the rooftops… “I’m a designer… I do it on a daily basis,” he boasted but not satisfied that this was arrogant enough he continued with, “I am better than everyone else in this process.” Not to be outdone, Vincent wasn’t backwards in coming forwards either, “My confidence and charisma can overpower certain people,” he assured the camera.

I have been watching and writing about the Apprentice for several years now and I never cease to be amazed by the sheer gobby-gall of so many of the candidates. Having met several ex-Apprentices I can share with you that they always explain these kinds of comments by saying that they were goaded by the film crew, or that you forget that the cameras were there or that it was just the one time (at Band Camp) during the 12 week process.

But they do have to say these things or they wouldn’t get them on camera would they?

Sales training tip: Ego has no place in selling. No-one likes ego. No-one likes a boaster. No-one wants to buy from a smart-arse.

Back with the task, Vincent and Logic decided that their fortune lay with dog food and came up with a brand called “Every Dog” which was meant to provide healthy food for any dog; this despite the fact that the focus group and a vet said that you could not create a dog food that would be right for every dog. This could not have been clearer yet Vincent chose to ignore it even under a fairly robust challenge from Tom.

Sales training tip: Listening is a key element of being a good salesperson, a good leader or a good manager. If you don’t listen, you won’t sell as much as you should. You need to listen to your clients, your team and expert sources and use that information to provide a better service and add more value for your clients.

Vincent did none of these but he wasn’t the only team leader ignoring his team because Glen unceremoniously rejected the ideas and advice of his team members too after having sent them off to come up with a brand and speak to the focus groups.

I don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of Glen’s chosen brand (confusing as I thought it was… and annoying too with his mash up of their and they’re… aggggh!) but the way he rejected his team’s input alienated them and created a team of potential saboteurs…

Glen decided to have words with Zoe and demanded that she show him respect. Zoe was quick to point out that managers are not owed respect, they need to earn it. If I can get past her monotone voice, maybe she’s not as bad as she might appear…

Sales management tip: You might wish that your seniority, your salary and your embossed “sales manager” cards will gain you respect but respect is earnt not given. If you want the respect of your team then you need to engage with them, value their opinions and add value for them.

The teams then set about making some commercials with some cats and dogs. Ads made, the teams then made their presentations and showed their ads to the industry specialists before heading back to the boardroom.

In the Boardroom…

Lord Alan told the teams that… Logic had done a funny ad but their marketing was flawed because their whole Every Dog concept was flawed. Venture had a good concept with the cat food but that it was poorly packaged and the ad was poor.

I’d agree about the packaging of the dog food being awful (pea-puke green tins anyone?) and also about the Every Dog concept being a disaster so on that basis, Vincent and team should lose because they clearly ignored this information and ran ahead with  a flawed product.

I’m not sure, however, how much I bought into the Cat Size “double entendre” (as Vincent described it) and I hated the tag line of “see their light”… But then I am a bit of an “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” kind of boy and incorrect usage of their / they’re / there is a sure fire way of winding me up… (thanks in advance for all of your emails on that one!).

But the decision was Lord Alan’s and it was only going one way… Venture were off to play tennis with Pat Cash and Logic were in the dog house… or The Bridge Café as it is better known.

I couldn’t see Vincent charming his way out of this one.

Back in the Boardroom…

Jim got it in the neck for coming up with the Every Dog name in the brainstorming session. Even Karen Brady had a go, cornering him and asking, “Was that your name?” Jim replied, quite rightly, that it had been a brainstorming session and that he only came up with the idea. “If I give a dog a bone, they don’t have to eat it,” he quipped. A clever metaphor and a relevant one too. Karen shrugged. IMHO she was wrong here as was Lord Alan and Nick. Whilst Jim may share the blame for allowing the idea to progress he should not be castigated for coming up with the idea when brainstorming in the first place.

Sales training & leadership tip: Brainstorming is all about coming up with ideas, about participation and about thinking. It is not about only coming up with only “the right” ideas and much of what is thrown up will be unusable. Blame should not be cast as people will not participate if they think they may later on get a kicking for doing so. For more on brainstorming see, “What is brainstorming?”

Vincent elected to bring back Ellie and Natasha.  A brave move. Even if he didn’t want to blame Jim it was clear that Lord Alan wasn’t pleased with Jim and that not bringing Jim back would be frowned upon. To add to his woes, there was no reason for bringing back Natasha.

Now just the three of them left, Lord Alan was still banging on about Jim. He really doesn’t seem to like him and had apparently “seen his type before” and “marked his card”. Jim is no Bill Gates but he’s been one of the stronger candidates from what I’ve seen so far…

“Ey up Ellie, you’re fired,” barked Lord Alan and Ellie and her flat Bradford tones were gone. I’m pretty sure she’s from Shipley so maybe I will see her at my favourite local Indian Restaurant, The Aagrah (buffet well worth a look in if you’re ever up this way)…

But Lord Alan wasn’t finished and, as he has done several times before mid series, he sacked a second Apprentice tonight… and Vincent was gone too. Maybe Lord Alan felt overpowered by his “confidence and charisma”? Then again, maybe not.

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