The Sales Apprentice: Sales Training & Business Tips From The Hit TV Show, Part V

Week 5 and Sir Alan is still looking for a new apprentice but what exactly is he looking for? With Claire in the frame to be a project manager for the second time in 5 shows tonight, this should be interesting.

730am and Sir Alan turned up at the house. Maybe he has, but I cannot remember him doing this before. Interestingly, the vast majority of the wannabees were still in bed. Now I have nothing against people grabbing some extra shut eye but I thought this was “the job interview from hell”?

Few serious business people I know are still fast asleep in the land of nod at 730am in the morning. Most serious contenders of their age and with their claimed aspirations would be at work or well on the way to work by this time. This lot would struggle to get up, get dressed and make it to the office by 9am! Not quite the behaviour that one would expect from “future business tycoons”. I can’t say I would have been happy at all if I had been Sir Alan…

After wishing them all a good morning Sir Alan rejigged the teams a little moving Kevin over to Renaissance. A good decision. There are far too many cliques and petty rows going on – it’s making the whole thing even more trivial and Big Brotheresque than it actually even is. He then appointed Claire and Lucinda as project managers of the two teams.

This should be an interesting task! These two seem like chalk and cheese. Surely, between the two of them and their sales teams we can be served up some powerful business and sales training lessons…

The task this week was to represent two country farms who do not sell ice-cream to London yet; to develop new flavours of ice-cream and then to sell the ice-cream to the trade. The highest volume of orders would win. A straight business and sales task then…

The teams headed off for the countryside and their two farms where they needed to decide on flavours, organize tastings, make the ice-cream and plan their sales strategies and tactics. Claire split her team taking part of the team on the hunt for ingredients and leaving part of the team to look after the kitchen.

Now I’ve got a problem with this… Who are you going to sell to tomorrow?? By my reckoning and with 6 on each team, they could have had 3 sales teams of 2 the next day who could easily have covered several appointments in central London each…

When’s the right time to get on the telephone making those appointments? Now would have been my answer…

Anyway, meanwhile Lucinda had appointed Lindi as her 2nd in charge. I’m not really sure why. She has displayed little gravitas, seems to have little management experience and is overly-confident of her own sales abilities which seem to consist mostly of smiling and being positive… Certainly a start but not anywhere near enough…

Lucinda seemed to start out well as project manager. Both halves of her team were working well with her kitchen team getting down to producing the ice-cream and her sales team booking people in for both the evening’s tasting and the next day appointments with prospects.

On the other team things were not going so well. Claire had struggled to find the ingredients and they had still not booked any appointments or organized the evening tasting session.

On Lucinda’s sales team, and under the guidance of Lindi, over-confidence was spilling over. Raef was on the phone describing himself as the CEO of Renaissance Ice-cream, Jennifer had successfully booked a sales appointment with a chain of independent cinemas and Raef was going on about how one hit can boost your confidence. If that’s the case Raef why did you all stop at 6 appointments? Surely you would have been better using this confidence to make more calls! 6 is not enough. Make more!

Sales training and business success tip: Fear of picking up the phone and approaching prospects destroys the careers of many salespeople and the businesses of many small business owners. A large proportion of new businesses fail mainly because their owners are seemingly incapable of getting on with this simple activity.

One of the best ways to get over call reluctance is to force yourself to keep cold calling and prospecting until you get some results and until it starts to feel second nature. The best way to defeat your fears and boost your sales and your business is to face your fears and do it anyway!

Unfortunately, Raef must have missed the sales training lesson that teaches how consistency is key. They were on a roll, they should have kept going… But they didn’t and Lindi, Raef and Jen were still boasting… “It’s going to be a walk in the park,” (Lindi) as they knocked off cold calling for appointments.

Back at the house Lucinda thanked her team for working well. I’m quite impressed, she’s not had a bad day and for the first time this series we have seen signs that our wannabees might actually be able to work together. But then the cracks started to show as Lucinda suggested that Lindi, because of her sales experience, should work with Lee and Helene the next day. Raef, Lindi and Jen just stared at Lucinda. They were clearly not happy.

You see right there is the problem. These characters only work together when they want to. As soon as anything upsets them they take their bat and ball home. Sir Alan will later tell Lucinda that mixing up the teams was a good idea and that she should have enforced it. Easy to say Sir Alan, not so easy to do with this lot. This was a management Catch 22 scenario…

This was a case of which is the lesser of two evils? Should Lucinda have left the teams as Lindi and friends clearly wanted them to be and hoped that they worked well together and got a result? Or should she have enforced the changes to maximize her team’s sales skills at risk of upsetting them so badly that they would have deliberately sabotaged her? Difficult call…

I know what I would have done in the real world but in this strange twilight world with egos and one-up-manship floating on the air like a bad smell…

Day 2 and Claire’s team had only 2 appointments set up compared to the 6 confirmed sales appointments on the other team. Alex told the camera that he thought that 2 appointments from 3 salespeople in a whole day was pathetic. I agree!

In the field our teams started to make some sales and Lucinda discovered that 3 of the 6 appointments that had been set up by her team were with shops who made their own ice-cream. She rang Lindi to discuss this… Lindi was dismissive and said that all clients say that and refused to take responsibility for the poor quality of leads that Lucinda had been given.

Meanwhile, Alex, on the other team, had approached an independent cinema in Clapham. The manager seemed to like the ice-cream but said that there were 18 cinemas in the chain and the he would have to speak with them and set up another appointment later on that day. Alex was pleased with his progress and hopeful of a big deal.

Cut to Lindi, Raef and Jen who were pitching another cinema in the same chain only they have both the cinema manager and the head buyer present! We watched as they won the order and as Alex got a call from the manager at the Clapham cinema cancelling the meeting. He was gutted and blamed the manager for pretending he was the “big cheese”. From what I saw, he didn’t but whatever the case there is a powerful business and sales training lesson here…

Speaking to the right sales prospects who can make sales decisions (or not) can make or break you. Understanding decision making processes is critical. Knowing who can and who cannot buy will help you to make more sales and grow your business. There are no excuses, you either know it or you don’t. Any gaps in your knowledge of your client in this area represent huge holes in your sales potential and your ability to accurately sales forecast.

Claire’s team were struggling. It looked like Lucinda’s lot were going to romp home with this one. Alex was mourning his team’s situation, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.”

On the way back to the board room Raef and Jen were moaning about Lucinda. Lindi said that she was more of a manager than her… Lindi, you need to read Andy Smith’s comment of last week about self-awareness…

In the board room…

Renaissance were complimentary about Claire and her team leading skills. Alpha were positive about Lucinda except for Jen. Lindi got taken down a peg or two for booking appointments with people who make their own ice-cream. Lucinda said that her sales team had not wanted to be split up. Jen denied this saying she had been happy to move. Both Lindi and Jen got lampooned by Sir Alan for offering unauthorized exclusivity deals to clients.

And the results were out…

Lucinda’s Alpha 1273.64, Claire’s Renaissance 1455.45.

Probably a lucky result for Claire. Her failure to plan the sales approach could have cost her dearly. Conversely, Lucinda’s hands off manner and (personally stated) lack of sales knowledge had meant that she did not question her sales team’s activity nor assess the quality of their appointments.

Sales training and business tip: All sales leads and sales appointments are not created equally. Activity is important but it needs to be the right kind of activity. Any fool can get busy. As a successful sales professional or business owner you need to get busy working on the right stuff.

As Claire’s team headed off by helicopter to play golf and archery, Lucinda and her team were left to ponder what could have been.

Back in the board room Sir Alan was not happy about the poor appointments or the granting of exclusivity. Lucinda elected to bring back Lindi and Jen to the board room… the only two choices really.

Now just the three of them, Lucinda said that she did not want to upset the teams by moving people. Sir Alan said that she should have. In the real world he’s absolutely right but in this strangely surreal world I’m not so sure, but I do know that this lot should know when to shut up…

Lindi and Jen were at each other’s throats. Lucinda stayed pretty quiet as they shouted at each other right across her. I have often thought many of the apprentices incur Sir Alan’s wrath by attracting too much attention to themselves in the board room by behaving this way. Lucinda, quiet because either she thinks like me here or because she had nothing to say, was under the radar. Would Sir Alan see this as wise or weak?

Sir Alan on Lucinda, “Do I need risk managers?” On Jen, “The exclusivity thing is unforgiveable.” On Lindi, “Lindi, you were second in charge for the most important part, selling, and it is sales you lost this on and this brings me to the conclusion that Lindi, you’re fired.”

The right decision in my opinion.

In the car the humility of Simon last week was no more. Lindi, “Sir Alan did not see enough of me. I am in shock that he did not see how special I am.”

I’m bored of talking about ego and self-awareness so I won’t…

So what are the main sales training and business tips that we learn tonight that can help us to make more sales and be more successful?

Lead generation is critical

In this task, lead generation was critical. With only one selling day but time to pre-book sales appointments a large part of the resources on both teams should have been allocated to setting up enough quality appointments. On the sales day itself both teams had neither enough leads nor the quality of leads. This was not a hard “sell” and setting up appointments should have been easy. The teams should have been booked solid on appointments with no reduction in the qualification and quality of those appointments.

Not every sales lead or sales appointment is created equally. Just because you can secure a meeting does not mean that it is worth you investing your valuable time and effort in it. Many sales and business people think that because a client will agree to see that you ought to and have to go.

They are wrong.

Sales is a two way process and you have choice about who you deal with as your client does.

Deal with decision makers

Far too many salespeople and business owners waste far too much time and effort and lose far too many sales because they do not speak to decision makers. Finding, targeting and building relationships with decision makers and understanding decision making processes is fundamental to your sales future.

I am always amazed by how little salespeople, business owners and directors know about the sales processes and decision making steps in companies that they are pouring huge amounts of time, effort and resources into. In tonight’s episode we saw one team’s efforts totally derailed in one big sale because they had failed to uncover the decision making process or speak to the key decision maker.

Say “No” sometimes

After hearing about the debacle of the “exclusivity” deals that both Lindi and Jen had agreed to Sir Alan said that he would not have allowed their deals if he had known before. These deals were agreed because both Jen and Lindi were prepared to do the deal at any cost.

Some people call this selling. I don’t. If you cannot make a win-win sale then why bother?


There are many things that can make deals win-win but none of them were present here. In both cases these two should have stood their ground and walked away if necessary.

As a salesperson and a business owner or entrepreneur you need to know who your target clients are and what you need to achieve in a sale. Only by being congruent with what you are trying to achieve and who your clients are can you create any real value in what you do long term.

Why not let me know if you think Sir Alan made the right decision tonight? Or share your opinions by commenting below?

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