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

Well! Well! Well! What was that all about? What did you miss if you chose to watch Man U and Chelsea rather than tuning in to Sir Alan and his wannabee business moguls! After tonight’s Apprentice I was left feeling that something must have been left out in the editing, that something must be lost in translation somehow…

Tonight’s show was an odd one with few or no sales training lessons to learn but plenty of mini-lessons in personal development, management and presenting.

Week 9 – Atishu! Atishu! We all fall down.

At the start of tonight’s programme only 7 contestants remained and only 4 tasks separated them from ultimate victory but as one “unlucky” apprentice wannabee was about to find out, sometimes one bad task is all that is required to see you evicted on this show.

After a bit of team restructuring we were left with Alex heading up Lee and Lucinda and Raef heading up Claire, Helene and Michael. Their task was to create an advertising campaign for tissues consisting of the box, a press advertisement and a TV advert. This was snot an easy task!

Once they had created their brands and their ads our teams were to present to one of the UK’s biggest ad agencies and the team with the best presentation would win. You know the rest.

Raef was immediately in his element, “I have done a lot of theatre in the past” he stated, “I love advertisements”… I’m not sure whether these guys are “set up” by the film crew asking them questions to make them look stupid but you couldn’t help but watch this and think, “Are they setting him up for a fall here?”

On Alex’s team they were thinking of branding and started with the name, A Tish U… Atishu!

Back on team Raef they were getting somewhat carried away with the “story” but eventually came up with the name I Love My Tissues… A strange name this one and not one really representative of tissues at all. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think that anyone feels that passionately about their tissues!

Back on Alex’s team, Alex and Lee were not getting on too well with Lucinda. She, in turn, was not impressed by their “story” asking, “Who wants to hear about a normal bog standard family?” She suggested a story about homosexuality which was immediately rejected by Alex.
Seemingly to get rid of her, Alex sent Lucinda out to find a location whilst he and Lee designed the box for the tissues.

With two boys and a girl on the team, this was no doubt a flawed plan from Alex. Surely most tissues are bought by women and it would therefore have been logical to keep Lucinda involved with the branding and design…

Tonight I really did feel that we missed a lot of cuts as what people were saying really seemed out of whack with what we saw at times. Lee and Alex were adamant to camera that Lucinda was being unreasonable but from what we saw (whilst accepting she was a little negative) it looked a lot more 50/50 with them not wanting to work with her because she did not agree with them. I would have liked to have seen more of the “reality” of the situation…

Over on the other team however, we saw Michael and Raef behaving like they were creating a blockbuster movie rather than keeping their focus on the task in hand.

Sales training and business tip: As a motivational speaker I have the privilege to work with many different companies in a multitude of industries and it never ceases to amaze me how so many people can manage to focus their energies and attentions on entirely the wrong things. The key behind this task was to persuade the ad agencies that they had a viable concept not to persuade them that they were the next Spielberg… The second option might have been more “sexy” but it was always going to lead Michael and Raef down a slippery slope…

Next morning the tissue boxes arrived at the house. Lucinda did not like the boys’ efforts calling the box “ugly”. Lee thought it was “quality”. Alex thought it was fine. Lucinda and Alex were about to kick off in a full scale argument when Lee stepped in saying that what they needed was “cohesiveness” and that they needed to “pull together”.

Sales training and business development tip: If everyone in the boat rows in different directions as many of our apprentices seem to do then the boat is not going anywhere! Many companies and teams work really hard but with poeple working at cross purposes much of their potential is lost.

Over on the other team Raef and Michael could hardly contain their joy at meeting their “celebrity” star, Sian Lloyd. They both seemed convinced that she would be a real winner for their campaign. Even Sian herself was not so sure saying that if they Googled her they would know that she was not a mother (they were casting her as one), she was single and she had never worked with children. She also expressed surprise at the concept that they thought that she was “wholesome”.

Ed: But when all you’re interested in is fame, it’s not surprising that they did not consider any of these facts rationally! They were too busy meeting a “star”.

Raef and Michael meanwhile were joking about getting into the movies. This might have sounded like light banter but it masked a much deeper ill, they had lost sight of what it was that they were supposed to be doing…

In the editing suite Raef and Michal struggled to cut down their advertisement from 54 seconds to the required 30. Between the two of them they managed to decide to cut out the one close up of the tissues, a decision that would come back to haunt them.bClaire was not impressed by the finished ad saying that she was disappointed by the quality of it.

Cut to the pitch…

In the audience Sir Alan has placed 3 agency chiefs, a group of consumers and… himself!

Meanwhile Lee was doing some last minute rehearsing. Lucinda and Alex were helping him with his wording. Margaret commented to the camera that she thought that it was too late to be changing the pitch. Lee said that he was still struggling with the order of the pitch. This did not bode well!

Raef’s team presented first. The problem with these “sales presentations” as with the negotiations and the selling situations is that we never see enough of them to really judge what’s going on. Certainly, we seem to be getting even less of this, the good stuff, than we even did last year.

And then Lee came on to make his presentation…

Oh dear!

Lee is not a natural presenter. He seemed glued to his notes, seemed to be struggling to read them, seemed to get lost at one stage (and we only saw a few seconds!), had no flow to his pitch and seemed to use very unnatural language.

Sales presentation tip: Great presenters engage with their audiences not with their notes! Great presenters talk naturally and openly with their audiences. Great presenters base their talks around key benefit points not fact after fact after fact. Great presenters know how to get and keep themselves in a positive mindset.

In the board room…

Raef said that he and Michael had experience in drama!
Michael said that he had his own theatre company at university.
Sir Alan told Lee that his presentation was fumbly, unprofessional and poor.
Nick told Lee that Claire used no notes.
Lee said that he was absolutely gutted.
Alex said that he found Lucinda abrasive and border line upsetting.
Lucinda said that she buys a lot of tissues.
Sir Alan said that the brand name Atishu was excellent.

Sir Alan then played both ads to the two teams. During the playing of Alex’s ad, Raef and his team looked smugly on. You could see it all over their faces… They thought they’d won. They could barely contain their laughter at what they thought was an inferior ad…

And then Sir Alan told them that they had lost. Raef had created an ad for tissues with no tissues in it. Sir Alan said that he did not know what their ad was about and that it would not sell any tissues.

“This is not my opinion. It is the opinion of the experts.” Sir Alan barked, kicking a man when he was down.

Alex looked relieved. His smile appeared to be one of almost unbelieving relief. He clearly could not believe what had just happened.

Michael’s face meanwhile said it all – going, going, gone! “I love my tissues”!. You’d better, you’re going to need them. So finally we will get rid of Michael…

… Or maybe not!

Raef elected to bring back Michael and Claire.

Michael was quick to claim ownership of “everything” that Sir Alan had liked. Raef was, understandably, put out by this saying that Michael was being dishonest. From what we saw I would agree. Stupidly Raef backed himself into a corner by saying that he was totally in charge but then saying that Michael wanted to take the close up of the tissues out not him. A contradiction.

Sir Alan had a half-hearted attempt to rope Claire into the afray accusing her of not wanting to stand up and fight to correct the mistakes that she said shre saw to try and salvage the win for her team. But it not going to wash… no-one seems interested in her here.

Sir Alan to Raef, “You have been lucky to only be in the board room once…” and then, “Raef, you’re fired!”


So ok, he shot off on a tangent with the task, he got totally carried away with the whole filming thing, he should have know better, he didn’t manage his team particularly well but, seriously, how can you elect to keep Michael and fire Raef? What are Sir Alan’s criteria?

So where does that leave us tonight with our sales training and business development tips…

Presenting well is a key skill.

In every walk of life the ability to present a clear and compelling message and to engage an audience is critical. Whether you are selling face to face, pitching a product or an idea or motivating a sales team you need to be able to present naturally and persuasively.

If this is an area where you do not excel at present, fear not. Anyone can improve their presentation skills with practise and dedication. Here are a couple of tips…

Improving presentation skills, tip 1: Awareness

The first stage of improving your presentation skills is to be more aware of how good, or not, you currently are. Most salespeople take feedback badly. Most salespeople go on the defensive when they are given feedback. This is a shame as without feedback you will struggle to become self aware and without this awareness you will struggle to improve.

Improving presentations skills, tip 2: Practise

Practise is the key to making good presentations. Do not confuse practise with rehearsing 5 minutes before the event! Practise is a constant focus on improving your overall ability to present in any situation.

Anyone can create opportunities to practise their presentation skills whether with clients or with your peers. Many people who would benefit most from this practise are the same ones who avoid it!

If you really cannot find any opportunitites to practise then try your local Toastmasters club where you can practise inside the safety net of a specialist club dedicated to helping you to improve.

Don’t do like many business and salespeople do and put off working on your presentation skills until you have a huge pitch coming up… Even the week before a life changing pitch is too late… start now!

Improving presentation skills, tip 3: Be natural

Great presenters learn how to present naturally. They don’t pretend to be anyone else. They don’t copy others. They show their audience their true genuine selves.

People today are bombarded with sales and selling messages all day long. Some of these messages are amateurish. Some are incredibly slick. You may never be the best presenter in the world but that doesn’t matter… People will connect with presenters who they see as being genuine, presenters who they see as connecting with them.

You don’t have to be the best presenter in the world, you just need to be the natural, genuine, you!

Improving presentation skills, tip 4: Constant improvement

No matter how good you are or how good you think you are, you can always become a netter presenter. Making sure that your mindset is focused on constant improvement will steer you away from falling into bad habits and mis-steaks!

One of my favourite questions to ask myself after making a presentation is, “How could I have improved that presentation?”

(If you want to know more about making powerful and persuasive presentations then check out my Powerful Presenting seminar schedule.)

So there we go, a strange decision tonight and one which leaves me none the wiser as to what Sir Alan is looking for. I’m really interested in knowing your thoughts so let me have your comments below…

Who do you want to win? Who do you rate and why? Who should go next and why? Is there anyone worth hiring??

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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