Week 10 of our Sales Apprentice and what a week! I was pretty much incensed for the whole hour. This was a sales training lesson in how not to sell and for once I would question SAS’s firing decision although I think it was fairly obvious why he did it…
After a quick shuffle of the teams SAS set this week’s task, “You are going to be selling live on TV. The team that sells the most will win.” He told them to be careful about the products that they chose and then told the camera that if these products were too expensive they might not sell any and if they were too cheap they might have to sell 10,000 to beat the other team.
Our intrepid Sales Apprentices headed for Ideal World in Peterborough. Both teams were to select a range of products to sell live on TV. With the teams down to 3 each they had to do one solo slot and one duo slot per team. This week the teams were being headed up by Kristina and Simon. Kristina backed up by Lohit and Katie, Simon supported by Tre and Naomi.
As the camera panned across Ideal World we heard one of the “professional” presenters, “Would you recommend these to your friends Doreen?” “Yes”, came back the forced reply. How much more powerful would it have been to ask, “Why would you recommend these to your friends Doreen?” and have heard a compelling customer reason for purchase.
Yet again this week Katie is going to escape the chop and yet again she is on her soap box, “I would never buy anything off the TV nor would I associate with anyone who did buy anything off the TV.” She then went on to say that she is naming her target audience Mavis, a big breasted woman with no friends who rings up because Lohit looks like a nice boy. She calls herself a brand manager but all she has done so far is rubbish her competitors, the products she sells and her potential customers. If she was representing your brand, would you be confident of what she was saying behind your back?
Sales training tip: If you want to stay in your market for more than 5 minutes you need to be congruent. This means doing what you say you will do, acting in alignment with how you present yourself to your clients and being true to yourself. Anything less will effect your relationships, your reputation and your long-term sales potential.
After some brief sales training sessions it became clear that our sales teams have neither a clue about presenting nor any idea about what might sell. The teams must pick from the channel’s stock of over 50,000 items. Now I do watch TV selling channels occasionally. Not because I love them but because I think it is interesting to watch people selling this way…. Predominant on these channels are jewellery, fitness equipment, cleaning products, collectibles and craft type products. This suggests to me that these things might sell well.
Simon however was going for (in his own words) a risky strategy. He decided to present alone and was allocating a lightweight wheelchair for Tre and Naomi to sell. However you look atthis choice, it was a niche market and a big risk. He also selected a hair removal product for them to sell. Tre and Naomi picked a light weight trampoline and some Decoupage. This is something to do with craft work and if you want to know more I will email my Mum to find out what exactly.
Tre and Naomi are not happy with the wheelchair. Tre asks, “Don’t you think it’s a very, very niche product?” Simon answers, “No.”
Simon in turn does not like the trampoline, a much better choice in my opinion.
Over on the other team Kristina has decided to present solo leaving Katie and Lohit to present together. She has picked for them some slimming pants and a foot spa. They have picked a steam cleaner and a chocolate fountain for her.
Tre tells Simon again that he does not agree with the choice of a wheel chair. Simon says that it’s his choice and he will “carry the can” if they lose the task. Brave talk but is it bravado?
After learning more about their products it becomes patently clear that the teams are not going to be ready in time but the show goes on anyway…
Up first was Kristina with the chocolate fountain. Remember, she has been my favourite but this week she made it very hard for me to keep routing for her. Peppering every uncomfortable sentence with an uprising, “Ok” she sounded unconfident, unhappy and unprepared. This was not her natural home.
Sales training tip: If you pepper your sentences with surplus wordage (e.g. Ok, basically, honestly, frankly, at the end of the day…) you need to work hard to cut it out. It can make you sound unprepared, unsure and very junior.
But if that was bad, her sales pitch of the steam cleaner was worse. I’m amazed that Ideal World did not pull the plug. Embarrassing. SAS, who was watching, was pulling his hair out. “Didn’t you practise?” he squawked at the TV. Unfair. Clearly they did their practise. You did not give them time to learn how to do the job effectively.
Sales training tip: Learning how to sell properly is critical to your success. Walking into sales situations without the right techniques and skills will not be pretty! It does not matter how long it takes to get you well trained, what is important is that you are. It was obvious that our Sales Apprentices never were and never were going to be prepared fully for this task. None the less, I would have liked Kristina to have done better.
Next on were Katie and Lohit. Katie seemed quite natural and relatively at ease when presenting. She can present it would seem. Shame she is such a two-faced charmer. Poor old Mavis would never realise that Katie actually despised her.
Following Katie are Naomi and Tre pitching the hair removal kit and the wheelchair. Simon, who is behind the mike, and supposedly guiding them, freezes. He has nothing to say. Nothing! When the wheelchair arrives on the screen SAS exclaims, “What brain dead chose that?” and continues, “It is the worst item.”
Next up is Simon. He clearly has no idea what the Decoupage foam pads are. He fairs little better with the trampoline. Oh my goodness me. Between them the teams have lost the channel tens of thousands of pounds.
I hope SAS repaid it.
Up until now I was thinking Kristina. Now, I’m not even sure about her. Perhaps he won’t take anyone on at all? Our two teams sold 1/10 of what Ideal World would usually expect to sell in an hour. Ouch! SAS is not impressed. Simon’s team have brought home £921.79 and Kristina’s £1339.10.
Surely Simon has to go. He picked the wrong products. He said he would take the can if they lost. He froze in the control room and he couldn’t sell the products at all….
But SAS has different ideas. He says this is all about picking products and does a 180 saying that Simon’s picks sold and Naomi and Tre’s didn’t. The fatal errors seem to lie with these two he declared. Simon renages on his “carry the can” speech and sees some hope. SAS is on a roll, “Simon chose better products.”
SAS may I remind you please of your initial comment on Simon’s wheelchair, “What brain dead chose that?” and then, “It’s the worst.”
First off I disagree. The trampoline was a good choice. It should and could have sold but Simon failed to sell it. This sort of stuff sells like hotcakes on the TV, it’s just a case of getting the right hook. The wheelchair sold (a couple) because Katie and Tre got behind it. Sure, this task was about picking the right products but it was also about selling and it was selling, or lack of it, that made the difference here. But SAS is not playing straight now, he clearly saw no place for Naomi in his business and he clearly likes Simon.
Naomi with regret, you’re fired.
She was never going to win but she can rightly feel robbed and Simon should consider himself an eight lifed cat! He could well take those lives right to the end of this competition – still with Kristina despite her poor performance today. My money’s still on Kristina – just!
So what’s our sales training lesson of the day?
Simple. You can sell anything but you need to learn how to sell it properly. You might get lucky in the short term but in the long run you need to employ the right strategies, the right techniques and the right processes. You need to build your sales skills through learning, practise and refinement.
You’re in your career for a lifetime so you don’t have to be great over night. In fact, it’s often better to struggle a little… at first. Salespeople who struggle a little have to commit themselves to learning and practise and this gives them effective, repeatable sales skills which they can use day in and day out, in good times and in challenging ones. Sometimes those who find it all comes to them a little to easily struggle when times are rough because they don’t have the necessary skills.
I recently got a call from a client who had been in a buoyant market. Their sales were easily come by and their sales staff complacent and overpaid. As in every industry times were changing and they were getting left behind by new players entering their market with enthusiastic, hungry and well trained salespeople. They needed sales training. Don’t wait until you’re in the mire, build your own sales development plan and take some time out of your busy schedule to ensure that you keep your sales skills sharp so that you can maintain your competitive edge.