The Sales Apprentice 2010: Sales Training Tips From The Hit TV Show, Week 6

So we’re into week 6 of The Apprentice and 10 remain…

First tip this week came early on… don’t sleep in! If you haven’t got anything to do in the morning then there is a good chance that Sir Alan is going to knock on the door at the crack of dawn and catch you in your PJs. He always does this about week 5 or 6 so what they were all doing hunkered down in their pits I have no idea…

Anyway, back to more serious business and this week’s task…

To design a new brand of cleaning product, create radio and TV adverts to support the campaign and then pitch the ideas to advertising agencies. The winner of the task was to be at Sir Alan’s discretion but with input from Nick, Karen and the agencies.

First person to offer to be team leader was Alex. Oh, roll on disaster. We might as well stop the show here, if he loses he is history and how can he not? “I am not just another corporate clone,” Alex promised. No, you’re right about that. Aren’t you unemployed? “If I was an apple pie then the apples inside would be orange,” he continued. This was a theme he rolled out across the task… I don’t think it occurred to him that maybe people do not want orange apple pies. “It would be foolish not to go with that experience,” said Chris. I couldn’t make my mind up whether his tongue was firmly in his cheek or whether he had just taken leave of his senses…?

Over on the other team, Christopher stepped up as team leader. Given no-one has looked consistently good so far, Christopher has looked like a top 4 candidate although there is plenty of time yet for him to screw that one up.

Back on Alex’s team, Alex decided to start with a brain-storming sessions. He didn’t really seem to have the hang of the principle behind brainstorming i.e. involvement of multiple peoples’ ideas. Not only that but his method of rejecting their ideas was tantamount to saying, “You’re all shit but thanks for trying!”

Sales Tip 1: If you want to run empowered teams then you need to get people involved. You need to give them a chance to express their opinions. Great sales teams are teams that work together, they are not dictatorships. Empowered teams encourage people to participate and their ideas are valued.

After listening to a mother toddler group Chris’s team decided to go with an Octopus theme and call their product Octi-Kleen. Alex’s team, seemingly bereft of any ideas whatsoever, went with Germ-o-nator.


(Am I the only one that is constantly amazed by the lack of creativity and originality displayed by the Apprentices?)

Chris, Stella and Liz, who had now sailed off on the good ship Octi-Kleen without consultation with the rest of their team rang the others to share their passion. They didn’t like it. Rather than hear their concerns however Chris steam rolled Jo, talked over her and told her to get behind it.

Sales tip 2: You need to get people on board. Steam rolling is not an option. If you want a motivated, passionate and driven team you need to ensure that they are truly behind your ideas. Steam rolling their worries and concerns is not the way to build a happy team!

Back in the office, Alexs’ team were fleshing out the Germ-o-nator idea. They had decided to create a black and red bottle (to stand out against the other products) and use a child in the marketing. Why would they do this or even think this to be a good idea? Cleaning fluids are to be kept away from kids. This was not sensible at all.

Sales tip 3: Know your market and your clients. If cleaning stuff is dangerous for your kids and your target market has kids then you need to understand that they don’t want adverts encouraging their kids to play with dangerous fluids. Simples.

When the products arrived next morning Germ-o-nator looked like something you’d strip wood with, kill rats with or poison weeds with. Alex obviously saw something I didn’t, “To me, that is going to become the iconic cleaner… good use of the black and red.”

OMG! This really is the X-Factor. I can market, really I can. What? Wrong colours? Poor understanding? Me? No, I can market, really I can.

Sales tip 4: Get in touch with reality. I’m sorry if you don’t like this one but I see sales and business people who seem divorced from reality every day. Maybe not as badly as some of these people and maybe not to X-Factor out-take standards but out of touch none the less. If you want to get great results in your business and in your life then you need to get real. It’s the only way to roll.

In the radio studio, Stuart (“Baggs the brand”) was determined to do all of the voices for the advert. Perhaps he secretly thinks he is the next Rory Bremner and he is going to be talent-spotted? Err, no Stuart.

Mind you, Octi-Kleen didn’t have it all right either. In their TV ad they were filming some kind of sexist, 1950’s, wet-dream where the little woman does all of the cleaning whilst the man of the houses sits on the couch and waits to get lucky. What I am struggling to understand here is why Stella and Liz (two of the better candidates this year) went along with this? Surely, surely, surely, they could see this was just wrong…?

Sales tip 5: Know your customers. Sorry, did I say that already? Well, it’s really important and I haven’t said it a lot this year. Patronizing the very people you are selling to is hardly going to endear them to you and your product is it?

The Sales Pitches.

Germ-o-nator were first into the affray. What can I say? The ad execs didn’t look amused. They laughed… but surely at it not with it. One asked, “How funny on a scale of 1-10 do you think your ad is?” They thought that red and black would not appeal to the target audience. All in, not a resounding success for Alex and Co.

And then Octi-Kleen got their turn. From what little we saw, Jamie’s presentation style looked okay and he tried to use research to support his claims. Unfortunately, his research, true or not, did little other than reinforce the outdated (and sexist?) approach… (apparently men would turn down passion if their home was dirty AND mother and baby focus groups agree that modern working women need 8 hands to keep up with the cleaning). Queue more laughing. At them too it seemed. (You know, I would love to take on a third team of kids and see how they performed by comparison…)

In the Boardroom…

Lord Sugar was not impressed with either campaign. Apparently, on this occasion he agreed with the advertising agencies and Chris and Synergy escaped. “I would not say you have won… technically you haven’t lost,” he warned. But a “not lose” is as good as a win on The Apprentice and soon they were hollering and whooping at a karaoke party in celebration of their “victory.”

Back in the Boardroom…

Alex got sacked. Oh, sorry. Not yet. I’m getting over-excited.

Back in the boardroom, Alex seemed determined to ensure his termination and started to explain why he thought they should not have lost the task. Sir Alan was quick to point out that they had and that he was not interested in this line of thinking. Alex elected to bring back Chris and Sandeesh. Chris because the campaign was mostly his idea (even if that was because the others did not seem to have a coherent thought between them) and Sandeesh because… well, if I was cynical, I’d have to say because he thought Sir Alan must be bored of seeing her in the boardroom.

Frankly, Alex, it doesn’t matter who you bring back, I’d have sacked you in week 1 given the chance. Infact, I’d have binned you as soon as you called yourself an Unemployed Head of Communications.

Sir Alan was no more impressed with Alex’ choice than I was and obviously had the same question, “I reject your logic for bringing people back… Last week you heard me say I wasn’t happy with the pair of you (Alex and Sandeesh). I’m wondering if you brought her back today thinking she would be the lacky?”

Chris said Alex was responsible for the failure of the task. Alex said Chris was responsible. Sandeesh said Alex was. Predictable.

Sir Alan had made his mind up. “I don’t agree with the reason Sandeesh why you are in this boardroom so you go back to the house now. Alex I’m still lost as to why on this, a task which you are supposed to be expert in went so miserably wrong… Chris, I think that this task is really not the one for you to have taken the helm on… and that is a flaw… it’s really unforgiveable. But I think the positive things that you have done in previous weeks outweigh that…”

And Alex, Unemployed Head of Communications, was fired. A Fired, Unemployed, Head of Communications. Not every day you can say that.

“Nice to meet you, Lord Sugar. Likewise, Karen and Nick,” said Alex politely. On the way out he turned to Chris, “Good luck,” he said. As my Grandpa always said, “Manners cost nothing.” I like that about him.

In the cab, Alex donned his Paddington coat and pulled a marmalade sandwich from under his battered hat, “I think Lord Sugar has made a big mistake. I am successful. I am going to be successful. I am going to found my own businesses. I don’t need him. Now driver, over to Mr. Gruber’s, it’s time for elevenses.”

Quotes of the evening…

“As soon as she mentioned Octopus you were all over it like a tramp on chips.”
– Nick.

“The Titanic won twelve Oscars but it weren’t a good advert for cruise liners were it?”
–  Sir Alan

About the author: Gavin Ingham
Gavin Ingham is a speaker and author on mental toughness and will help you to Be More, Do More & Have More in your business and in your life. For all of the latest news, podcasts, videos, tips and strategies join his newsletter. Sign up to the newsletter
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