The Apprentice, episode 10 – Sell, sell, sell

Our ‘shower’ rose early again to be briefed by Lord Alan of Sales.  Never has the Lord’s ‘Del Boyness’ been so apparent in what you felt was his favourite place in the world – not his boat, airplane, apartments – but a wholesale warehouse. To him it wasn’t a drafty old shed full of tat, it was the final scene of raiders of the last ark and Lord Alan was Indiana. 
This week he certainly did take it back to basics and made it clear that here was £200 worth of ‘gear’; sell it, see what sells best then quickly come back and buy more, then sell that too. After two days you’re done and don’t worry about the remaining stock, it’s an asset. Got that? There were maybe three to four people in the whole country who didn’t understand that; sadly they were stood in that wholesale warehouse nodding at Lord Alan.
So after inspecting their pallet of booty, which included everything from nodding dogs to sponges, all waiting for the profit to be squeezed (Lord Alan’s line not mine), the teams hit the streets.
This week Venture was almost lead by Susan who volunteered but found herself overruled… again. She was the Clegg of the team to Natasha’s Cameron while Jim bridged the gap Cable-like (don’t know why I went all ‘coalition’ then). 
So off they headed toward the tourist trap that is Covent Garden to arrest the attention of ‘Johnny-foreigner’ long enough to part him from his cash. Who could resist a clear umbrella on a dry day or a nodding National Front puppy? Well, I could for a start but Jedi-Jim did his mind tricks again and the dogs pretty much flew of the shelf (okay, perhaps they didn’t quite fly).
However, while Jim was convincing people their lives would be enriched with a nodding dog, or that they needed an umbrella on a dry day, Susan’s strategy was proving less successful. 
Let’s try selling a dodgy duvet, door to door, in one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in the country, sorry Europe…possibly the fekkin’ world. She couldn’t have got a more negative response if she had set fire to the damn things and pushed them through the letterbox; ‘take that you rich bastard’. But her summation of the strange strategy was that it only failed because it was a ‘rubbish product’.
Yes, that’ll be the issue Susan, dream on… (which she actually did as she proceeded to fall asleep in the comfort of her lovely people carrier). She should have got one of the duvets out.
Natasha, the team leader, was anything but as she kept herself busy doing those important things that add real value when you’re under pressure such as winding up team members, not listening to them, being condescending and ignoring feedback. Busy busy busy.  I’m not sure Jedi-Jim could been any clearer in saying to her “it’s all about re-investing” and his devious mind tricks didn’t work on her either. 
At the market, alongside Susan who had decided that bracelets were the way to go, Natasha was simply the ‘Bitch on the Pitch’ and did nothing of any real consequence.
How did the other team fare? Well, Logic were anything but logical quite simply (which is what most of them are – simple). The girls – Helen and Melody – decided that their strategy was to sell to retailers , not to the higher margin public, but to retailers who buy from wholesalers anyway…hello, anyone there?
So the team, headed by ‘Melody-I-have-no-relevant-experience-but-I want-to-impress’, included ‘Helen-I-have-never-lost’ and ‘Tom-now-that-it’s-all-gone-wrong-let-me-tell-you-why’, headed out to fulfil their destiny. 
It got off to a bad start when, after offering a box of £50 watches for £25, the retailer of the pound, yes POUND shop, declined. Time to go, I think so.
But just as the disastrous strategy seemed to be self-fulfilling, they were thrown a line. A retailer would indeed buy 10 towel sets off them… creating nearly £30 of profit. Excuse me if I don’t get giddy. 
While the girls were stalking the retailers, Tom was well out of his comfort zone and with all the grace of the Child Catcher, he was aiming to sell nodding dogs to passing children. But credit to him as he managed it. 
Again the dogs were proving popular, albeit at a lower price than the other team were selling them for. So like a good salesman and someone who understood the brief he called the team leader to order more dogs. It should therefore have come as no surprise that, ready for action the next day, Melody had bought…alarm clocks and phone chargers. Proving yet again that like the dogs in question, she may look at you and nod, but she ain’t listening.
Her lack of strategy became apparent and as the second day dawned, Helen attempted a coup de grace to overthrow Melody – which Melody wisely declined and pressed on. 
Bless them, they all tried to sell their tat; the kind of electrical items you get for free when you buy ink cartridges for the office. And they did have some success. Convinced that the killer deal was to be had with the towels, Helen got the okay to consume £100 in fuel and four hours in time to make a potential £30 profit… Yes, let’s gloss over that. She was disappointed when she not only discovered that the original wholesaler was shut, but that the retailer she wanted to sell the towels to was also shut. Bad end to a bad day.
An ending that wasn’t that dissimilar to Natasha’s team’s: Jim , having finally convinced Natasha to allow him to buy more brollies, went off to re-invest a miserable £23 in 23 more brollies. And with 23 minutes to sell them, he didn’t succeed, funnily enough.
This lack of re-investment came back to haunt them all in the boardroom. As the teams sat there, neither one volunteering supportive comments about their team leaders, it seemed that only the boys had ‘got’ the aim of the task – the ‘back-the-winners’ strategy and invest more in the top sellers. So both boys, in the final analysis, were free to return to the house. 
The team that actually won the task was Venture, mainly thanks to Jim’s sales technique of Irish charm combined with the right location in a market with the right products – dogs and brollies. 
But so enraged was the Lord with their lack of understanding of the brief and their lack of desire to reinvest that he fined them £100. Luckily for them, their sales were still high enough to carry them over the line as winners – hurrah, but no treats were offered – booo.
So, in the losing team, Melody and Helen went head-to-head as owners of a duff sales strategy while Tom tried to keep quiet.  Helen had to ‘fess up’ over her would-be mutiny but made the mistake of saying she would also have carried on with the failed strategy of selling to retailers – but on a larger scale! 
It was evident that Melody hadn’t listened to Tom’s advice – ‘more dogs’ he had yelped, let’s replenish what sells. But she hadn’t (did he yelp when he should have barked and howled?) Everyone was also aware of the ‘fool’s errand’ that
Helen had embarked upon for a potential meagre profit.
Lord Sugar quizzed them all and they fought desperately: ‘Tom, you’ve been here before’, was the accusation. ‘Yes, but I did well in something I know I’m not good at’, was his response. Good enough this week to let him off. 
‘Helen, it was an awful strategy, plus you’ve never started a business, you’re a jumped up PA.’  Her reply: ‘Yes, but I have won more times than anyone else and have pulled in record orders, this is my first mistake.’
‘Melody, you talk a lot but what do you actually do?’ Her response, of course included plenty of what we have heard before – her training by Al Gore, her claim to have worked with the Dalai Lama, featuring in the Queen’s Speech, her youthful age, her global business, yah-da, yah-da, yah-da… pass me a brolly Jim, it’s raining bullshit. 
But this time Melody failed to strike a chord or hit the right note and it fell on deaf ears; Lord Alan let her go – and rightly so in my opinion.
So what did we learn from this week?
Well, first of all, never underestimate the poor taste of the general public, especially those who may be visiting our fair, if drizzly land, on a holiday. 
Listen to the brief you have been given and don’t go off piste and develop your own strategies when it’s been laid out for you by an expert – you are there to learn. 
If you’re selling, it pays to cut out the middle man. Get your products to end users for the highest returns. 
Don’t try to sell a million items if your customers only want ten items, remember that 80% of your profit probably comes from 20% of your range. 
Find the winners and back them and if they sell, guess what? BUY MORE! 
And always, always remember to TEST – your product, your message, your channel, your service. Then MEASURE – the responses, the sales, the enquiry, the footfall – and ROLL OUT with the winners.
But hey, they’re all winners really… well all apart from the eejit losers. 
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