From the top · 23 November 2018

The “bizarre” sales technique that left Apprentice viewers stunned

Where did the candidates go wrong this week?

When Lord Sugar assigns his candidates weekly tasks on The Apprentice, real-life business owners are usually left seething in front of television screens at the show’s failure to capture the true tests of entrepreneurship in 2018.

In episode 8 of The Apprentice 2018, Lord Sugar sent Collaborative and Typhoon up to Glasgow to test the candidates’ art dealing skills. The teams were up against private and corporate clients this week and were offered the opportunity to demonstrate a new dimension to their skills.

Those in team Collaborative delivered a more convincing impression of art dealers, and Typhoon’s project manager, supposed art lover Jasmine Kundra, was sent packing.

We asked our panel of entrepreneurs which candidates impressed them the most, and what business lessons can be adapted to the real business world.

Bruce Spencer-Knott, managing director Minister Surfacing

Which candidate performed badly?

If there’s one thing to take away from this week’s episode, it’s that you really shouldn’t talk down a product you’re trying to sell to a potential customer.

Tom’s bizarre approach at Team Typhoon’s gallery exhibition saw him hand negativity on a plate to everyone he spoke to.

Although it’s important to be transparent and honest with your clients, criticising your own product will destroy any interest they might have otherwise had. If you don’t believe in your business, who else will?

If it wasn’t for Jasmine’s overbearing approach to managing the team, he could’ve easily been the one packing his suitcase.

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Which candidate impressed you?

Sabrina still stands out to me as a potential finalist. Her enthusiasm is a bit scattergun, but in business, it’s much easier to learn from your mistakes than learn how to be a positive and hands-on person.

Speaking of enthusiasm, over in winning team Collaborative, Daniel did a great job of getting into the role of art dealer. He walked the walk and talked the talk, appealing to his potential customer base and ultimately closing deals.

Once again squabbling and personality clashes meant the teams didn’t perform as well as a group of experienced business people should. I know a few of them put it down to finding it difficult to work with certain characters, but everyone who has worked a day in their life knows that it’s not always possible to get on with everyone and yet you get the job done anyway.

That’s exactly what the remaining candidates need to do if they want to win challenges and shine in the final weeks.

Daniel Scott, founder CoinCorner

What the winning team did well

Despite failing to comprehend the client’s brief (“innovation, provence, experience”), the winning team where much better at sales. They knew what they were talking about… or at least it came across that way.

What the losing team did badly

The losing team (Team Typhoon) lost sight of the brief. The brief required cohesive thinking but with the lack of confidence in each other as a team, it was clear it wouldn’t come together as planned.

Which candidate impressed you?

Daniel. His ability to schmooze was brilliant! He could certainly talk the talk (even though he admittedly didn’t have “a f*cking clue”) and he even changed his look to suit the event which worked in his favour.

Which candidate performed badly?

Sabrina. She spent most of the time just getting on everyone’s nerves – interfering and interrupting all the time and trying too hard to sell the tote bags when she should have been focusing on the pieces that would return a better profit margin.

Also, Tom. How on earth is Tom still in this series? This was another week and another task where he should have excelled! Despite his father and sister being artists, he was awful at trying to sell the art, resulting in no sales at all!

What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

It’s important to know what it is you are trying to sell inside out. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Samantha Caine, managing director of Business Linked Teams

This week’s challenge saw the teams tasked with becoming art dealers in Glasgow’s vibrant art scene. Both teams were tasked with selecting one artist whose work would complement a corporate client’s workspace and reflect their company ethos. The chosen pieces would also need to impress punters on Glasgow’s art scene with each team required to host a gallery event where they would be expected to sell as many pieces as possible.

Putting herself forward to project manage Team Collaborative, Jackie led the sourcing task, meeting artists and striking a deal to sell their work while the other half of the team met with the corporate client. The team collectively failed to truly understand the client’s requirements. The client’s key messages, which should have been conveyed by the art chosen for their workspace, were also lost in translation.

Despite failing to deliver on the corporate client’s requirements, Collaborative excelled when it came to selling to collectors at the gallery event. The team showed real skill in understanding the target market here and their efforts to immerse themselves in that market and speak its language paid off with impressive takings.

Team Typhoon’s performance, on the other hand, was the polar opposite to their opposition’s. Led by Jasmine, Typhoon did well at understanding the corporate client’s requirements and key messages and chose well when it came to sourcing the art that reflected the brief. However, the team really struggled to understand or interact well with their wider market at the gallery event. When the team did sell a piece, it was already being considered for purchase by the corporate client.

The corporate client was also unimpressed by the team’s inconsistency when it came to managing the client relationship. Having initially met with and been impressed by Sabrina and Sian, the client was baffled to arrive at the event and be told that both Sabrina and Sian were present but weren’t even able to greet them. When Sian emerged at the client’s request, a sale was finally made.

Which candidate impressed you?

While Jasmine was this week’s boardroom victim, it was Tom who stood out with a cool and calm demeanour, exhibiting great diplomacy when dealing with difficult team situations. However, he failed to sell and landed in the bottom three for the second consecutive week. If you’re going to generate sales, strong people skills need to be visible to clients, not just colleagues.

Faisal Nasim, founder ExamPapersPlus

Which candidate performed badly?

Tom is so fortunate to still be in this process. He had a terrible week with incredibly poor salesmanship skills on show.

It was always going to be a tough week. But you’d have assumed, given the fact that two of their team members claimed some sort of experience of the art world, that team Typhoon should have been the favourites to win it. But Jasmine was an abysmal project manager, Sabrina was all over the place and Tom was terrible on the sales front. So poor Sian was really left trying to make things happen.

Which candidate impressed you?

On the winning team, Daniel was outstanding this week and has probably cemented his place as the favourite for the whole series. He really was superb with the clients and he adapted his sales style perfectly for the audience. He grasped that the sale was more about communicating the art well and talking in language the customers understood, rather than hard pitching. He was brilliant.

What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

There isn’t simply one way to sell, it must be adapted for the audience and the product. Daniel gave a masterclass in that this week.

Danny Doughty, Director, Roch Valley

What the winning team did well

Team Collaborative made significant errors in their dealings with the corporate client, resulting in zero sales in that department, however, they managed to pull it out of the bag with some brilliant sales work to the general public on the day of the exhibition. Their final total was boosted by the generous commission they were able to negotiate from the artist.

What the losing team did badly

That Team Typhoon lacked team spirit was apparent from the very beginning, and it was never going to help them in their endeavours. They also gambled on making big sales to the corporate client, those sales never materialised because although they were initially able to build a rapport, it was broken by Jasmine’s antics as she tried to step in and take all the glory.

Which candidate stood out in a good way?

You’ve got to hand it to Daniel, his sales patter was superb, he easily won over the artist, helping to secure a hefty 40% commission, and then went on to wax lyrical about the paintings in the gallery setting, easily making the biggest contribution to sales and ultimately to the winning of the task for Collaborative.

Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

Tom’s salesmanship was terrible, I thought he was on his last chance this week and he was very lucky to stay in the process after his performance on this task. However, Jasmine was outstandingly bad this week. Her arrogance prevented her from listening to the opinions of her own team and her attitude to Sabrina in particular bordered on bullying – and not for the first time in this series. I was pleased to see Jasmine fired, it sends out a positive message young business-people about the way to behave towards your colleagues.

What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

Be generous with your team and give them opportunity to shine at what they do well, listen to them and include them in the decision-making process even if you’re going to make the final call. If you take a dictatorial approach you will stifle creativity and nurture a negative culture in your organisation.

Peter Watson, co-founder Distract

Cheap tote bags being waved about in front of expensive works of art, awkward haggling for over-the-top commission rates and shouting over a client demonstration… there was a lot of strange behaviour going on this week.

I’m not sure if it’s desperation to stay in the boardroom or sheer ignorance to client and customer needs that’s driving the candidates to behave like a bunch of bickering school children, but if things carry on like this Lord Sugar will be talking to an empty set of chairs within a couple of episodes.

Despite that, Team Typhoon managed to charm their corporate clients thanks to the rapport that Sabrina and Sian established in their initial meeting, building trust in their brand and ultimately a sale. They took a risk with some quirky modern art that fell a bit flat with the public, but they understood the brief from the client and secured a chunk of guaranteed money. For me, this was the best bit of wheeling and dealing this week.

It was a shame that along the way, Tom’s negativity and Jasmine’s rigid management style slashed their chances of making big money.

Over in Team Collaborative, Daniel’s gift of the gab worked miracles on the floor. His ability to speak the same language as the artists despite not knowing a great deal himself demonstrated just how important it is to chat, chat, chat!

Khadija and Camilla were a bit underwhelming this week and did a terrible job with the merch. People actually laughed in their faces at their ridiculous prices and it’s clear that they’ll both be on the way out unless they stand out a bit more in the coming weeks.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and has previously worked as a content editor in local government and the ecommerce industry.

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