The Apprentice, Week 4: Show and Sell
Last week, I was a little hard on the contestants, so this week I sat down
amidst the Dublin flooding, planning to pick out the positives and highlight the key business strengths the candidates demonstrated.
Well, this was tricky, I can tell you. I tried, I really did. Here’s what I came up with:
- Eugene is a creative thinker and a strong salesman. He takes direction well.
- Claire acted like a leader; she listened to the team and communicated well.
- Brian took action and changed tack when their strategy wasn’t driving results.
- Chris showed surprising ability in dealing with potential customers.
Erm…I’m really struggling now…
So, in the absence of any startling business insight, what happened on Monday night that we can learn from?
A couple of things really stood out for me in this weeks’ episode. Firstly, it was entitled ‘Show and Sell’. Simple, clear and to the point. In business these days, everyone has a responsibility to sell. Absolutely everyone can drive sales – from your receptionist (warm welcome, tidy reception area and a helpful demeanour) to your IT department (every interface you have with a supplier reflects on your company and their perception of it, every time e-mail is down your clients wonder about the quality of the service you’ll give them). Whether it’s in your job title or not, everyone should be aware of their ability to impact sales and actively coached on how to best to work this to the company’s advantage. Bill is always clear on this as a basis for business success but it seems to get lost amongst fancy design, presentations and events with the candidates.
The task at hand was to showcase two SME companies and highlight Bank of Ireland’s continued support of local business, as well as selling their products in branch. There was a lot of smoke and mirrors (read barely disguised power struggles) on the first day of the task but actual sales were poor on the day of the event and choice of product was questionable (smoked fish with your car loan, anyone?) Team Zest were the winners, delivering twice the revenue of Team Spirit.
Noel, as PM had a lucky escape in my opinion; Eugene, as sub-PM really carried him and drove the real sales results. Claire led Team Spirit (I’ve called out my support of Claire as a dark horse over the past two weeks) and her strengths in communication and working with and managing a vibrant team were evident. She even managed to calm an (as ever) rattled Chris without hostility, which is no mean feat.
The second important point in this weeks’ episode was one Bill raised with Noel in the boardroom, rightly commenting that, ‘good isn’t good enough anymore’ (when Noel damned his team by calling their performance ‘good’). Good is a word (along with ‘nice’ and ‘quite’) that I think should be banned from all business speak. It serves little purpose and is used to avoid the user making a judgement call; it wasn’t a very insightful comment from Noel but one which showcased his leadership style. In today’s economy, ‘good’ is no longer recognised; excellence is the new minimum standard (see thought leader Nicholas Bate for more on excellence as a minimum requirement in the new world of work) and The Apprentice candidates should be presenting this as the basis of their abilities in order to differentiate themselves from the crowd.
All in all, the fourth week of the series didn’t really cover any of the candidates in glory (though Eugene shone a little more than the others – I’ll be watching him from now on) – we’re still waiting to see a strong contender emerge from the rabble.
Finally, I’d appreciate your input – am I the only person who considers Chris’ constant use of the word ‘girls’ when he refers to the female contestants as patronising? Some may say even inappropriate? Or am I just being too hard on him?