The Sales Apprentice: Sales training tips from the hit TV show, Part II

I know what the problem with The Apprentice is! I do! There are too many people keeping their heads down in the opening rounds. There were 15 people “competing” last night and I still don’t know most of them. How many can you put a name to? I can name about 6 I think… Rory, Tre, Jadine, Kate, Ifti and Ghazal. Anyway, I think we always knew that Tre and Jadine would be “back for more” tonight but our star newcomer to the affray, and that’s the only word I can think of to describe the (nearly all) boy’s team, was Rory… of whom more later…

Last night’s task was to design a product for doggie lovers everywhere. The teams then had to pitch their ideas to 3 retailers. The team making the most money would be the winner and thus escape the acerbic end of Sir Alan’s tongue (“I don’t care where you come from… all I want is someone who is drop, dead shrewd”).

So with these words of wisdom from Sir Alan and this task in mind our pumped up, self-aggrandizing, ego maniacs got to work. Well sort of…

They still have plenty to learn:

  • Know your clients. Sir Alan threw them 3 guaranteed sales presentations – 1 with Pets at Home (180 shops), 1 with Harrods and one with another store, Pets in the City. Clearly, the “daddy of all sales presentations” was Pets at Home with 180 stores because they were capable of “buying big” but no-one on the boy’s team seemed to spot this. Whether the girl’s team worked this one out or whether they just “got lucky” we were left guessing about.
  • Research your clients. We saw the boy’s team go to a “focus” group for dog owners to find out what they thought and we saw them research products on the internet but we never saw them even discuss the companies they were actually presenting too. Oops! Sales training 101 – do your planning and preparation!
  • Knowledge is useless if you can’t use it. Egos abounded but none of the individuals with Product Design degrees seemed to actually know anything about product design. Knowledge is useless guys if you don’t use it! Same is true of professional selling! I don’t care how much knowledge or experience you might have; if you can’t make it count when you have to make that sale, then it’s worthless. To make your knowledge count you need to be constantly learning and practising.

Welcome David, I’ve been missing The Office!

And then David Brent showed up. Tonight there can be only one clear winner. And what a winner! Rory demonstrated himself to be positively the worst manager and motivator I have ever seen. He made working at Wernham Hogg seem tame by comparison. Here are 7 rules for running a successful team as interpreted by Rory…

Rule 1: Motivate your sales team and set the ground rules…

On taking over the team Rory informed them that he would “send out” anyone who did not listen to him. He said that he wouldn’t have “it” with people talking over each other. He continued that those on the creative team (everyone bar him it seemed) would take their jackets off. He then told the camera that he was keeping his on! Priceless. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Rule 2: Respect is earned not imposed…

Ground rules settled Rory proceeded to sit back in his chair and let his team do all of the creative work in coming up with some designs. This despite the fact that he apparently has a Product Design degree too!

Ahhh well, maybe he had a heavy night that night and missed that seminar. I wouldn’t have minded but he didn’t seem to have allotted himself any kind of task whatsoever!

Rule 3: Get the whole team involved…

Rory informed the team that this was a team effort and that no-one should criticise any of the ideas submitted. He then proceeded to reject every idea whilst barely looking at the board, told the camera that the ideas from his team were very weak and pronounced his own hair-brained idea (NYPD style, “gun harness”, shoulder strap to hold a pooper scooper) the winner.

Note to sales managers everywhere: Getting your team involved does not mean paying lip service to their ideas whilst having no intention of ever taking them on board! At least when people used to work in C19 cotton mills they never thought the boss actually cared what they thought!

Rule 4: Take on board feedback…

With the words, “… there will be no more ideas coming forward” Rory set out his stall and promptly dispatched 4 of his team 20 miles outside London to go to a “doggie disco” (ed. Anyone out there living in East Horsham please explain this to me!) to find out what the public thought. On the way there the team had an idea for a hair-proof doggie blanket.

Tre popped onto the web to say that there were squillions of Google hits on doggie blankets but Rory shushed him up like a naughty toddler and said that the team could pitch it alongside his idea, confident that his 1980’s, mobile phone strap for bouncers would win the day (anyone remember Gareth having one of those in The Office?).

It didn’t. The focus group hated the Rambo strap and loved the doggie blanket.

Rule 5: Respect everyone in the team…

The “Horsham 4″ rang Rory to give him the feedback but Rory rejected it. Why would you waste their whole day if you never had any intention of listening? Deaf to anything he didn’t want to hear Rory, egged on by some equally ridiculous, apprentice (Paul?) actually put the phone down on the focus group. Nice! So you are prepared to waste the time of four people all day to prove you’re right and when you’re wrong you abuse them.

Rule 6: Get the most out of individuals…

Now I’m not saying that Rory didn’t have his work cut out. Tre seems a handful in a team. Ifti did precisely nothing all day (and then admitted as much to Sir Alan in the boardroom who blew him out of the competition). We saw little of any of the others bar Jadine and the focus group was pointless but you know what…

Life’s like that. Sales teams are like that. Some people are easy to manage, others are more difficult but the job of a sales manager is to get the best out of everybody. Tre seems angry, he seems to be a little disruptive but he does speak some sense. He made valid points both last week and this week even if he did not package them in the most appealing manner. He hit the nail on the head this week when describing his team, “… a complete and utter shambles”. He clearly doesn’t like being treated like a child. We saw that last week with Jadine. As a manager you need to get over your own ego, appeal to the strengths of the individuals on your team and manage them in the way most suitable for them…

So not surprisingly, the boy’s lost. They made two small sales for £565 profit but the girls nailed the chain store and made £5,000 profit. Interestingly, even before they knew these results, when asked what they thought of Katie’s leadership the girls waxed lyrically. Asked the same question the boys were rather less generous and got ready to sink the good ship Rory.

If your team don’t think they’re a good team then guess what? They’re probably not!

Rule 7: Take responsibility…

Sitting in the cab on the way home Rory reflected… “I will be back”. I’m sure you will Rory but will it be to make the same mistakes?

Until next week.
Gavin

p.s. I’m not sure whether it was the editing but there seemed to be a lot of people being “carried” this week. Were they? I’m not sure. Why not have a look around your sales floor and see how many people you’re carrying? You never know – might be quite a few!!

p.p.s. To progress from the rank of Sales Apprentice to the status of Sales Superstar you need to take action. Decide what areas you can improve on and what actions you need to take to do that do it now!

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