Lessons In Sales Skills From the Apprentice

This weeks episode of the Apprentice saw the teams tasked with choosing and selling a range of beauty treatments and peripheral products.

After a switch around in the teams, Lord Sugar this week chose the Team Leaders – Zoe for team Venture and Felicity for team logic.

The first task was to chose the location in Birmingham where they would sell the products and carry out the beauty treatments.

Team logic chose the Bullring Centre in the middle of the city. This decision was challenged whilst reading through the documentation, especially regarding the distance of the treatment room from the sales area. This was dismissed quickly by the project manager by saying ‘I’ve read it and don’t need to read it again’ – a mistake that will come back to bite them later in the task.

Team Venture chose an out of town venue that had the treatment room near the sales area.

Logic showed some clear working out when it came to profit margin and helped them to select the products they would sell.

Once the venues were chosen, the next was to chose two treatments to sell. Venture showed enthusiasm towards all of the products that eventually won them the right to sell Spray Tans – a product that both teams wanted and ultimately the product that created the most income.

After the products were chosen it was time to buy the extra products that the would sell along side the treatments. They didn’t have as a big a margin as the treatments, but needed to be sold. Whatever they bought would ultimately come out of the overall profits at the end.

It seem seem at this point that Felicity from Logic involved the team in every decision – putting most things to a vote. A great Leadership attribute, but I think it was over used here. Not only does a leader need to involve the team but they also need to be decisive. The responsibility for failure will sit with them, so the right decisions need to be made after consulting the team. Voting doesn’t work and it can be perceived as weak.

In team Venture, Susan, who runs a Skin Care Business was looking at buying the skin care products they would sell during the task. She was very over optimistic, but confident in the amount that she could sell. This was challenged by the team manager who decided on a lower amount.

Team Logic bought a stack of products, a huge task to sell it all.

Come sales day team Venture started selling treatments immediately. The close proximity of the treatment room meant they could get there people quickly. Team Logic seemed to have a real focus on the products and not the treatments, and one hour into sales they had sold product but not treatments. A call from the treatment team sparked a decision to send one of them down to the sales area to sell treatments and chaperone people to the treatment area; however, Tom the person selected talked about treatments for a few minutes but them began to sell product.

In Team Venture, Tom had found a very clever was to build rapport with his customers. Asking them to stick there little finger in the air to which he grabbed with his and walked them over to the sales area. A softer way that grabbing a hold of someone and dragging them there. A method which seemed to work very well for him.

Three hours in and the treatment team in Logic had done nothing – nor had they made any decision to challenge what was happening.

Venture’s treatments were selling well, but product wasn’t moving. Susan’s over optimism seemed to be hurting the team due to the amount of product they had left.

Later into the day, Logic decided to offer free initial treatments to get people into the treatment room in the hope they would continue on, but it soon became clear that people took the freebie then left.

It seems that in Team Logic there was a good choice to reduce the amount they spent on product as if they has spent the amount they were advised to, they would have made a loss. A decision that won them the task.

Team Ventures focus on product meant they made a loss of £246.28 and lost them the task.

Venture had no real sales strategy. People were given roles, but no clear process on how they would get people to the treatment room. When the decision came to change this, things got busy but it was too late in the day.

The decision not to listen to the advice about reading the documentation relating to the venue proved a big mistake. Having to get people to go up three floors in a busy shopping centre to the beauty area was a big cost to them.

In conclusion, when setting out to sell a product you should consider the following things:

  • Be very clear about the sales location. Will you get enough foot traffic, and if you need to set up across 2 venues, will people get there.
  • Check the profit margins and focus your attention toward the higher end margin products. This is what selling is about. Or chose a lower margin product and upsell from that.
  • Be realistic about your sales targets. Being over optimistic will hurt you if you don’t sell all of the product.
  • Build rapport with customers. This should be the start of the sales process. Selling immediately will put people off.
  • Have a clear sales strategy. Understand how long things will take, who will do what and how will you get customers to your product.
  • As a sales leader, make decisions. It’s not always necessary to involve the team in everything. Don’t put everything to a vote.
  • Build in regular reviews to ensure that things are on target, If not, change it after identifying why things are not selling.
  • Don’t have people sat around. Use them at all times.
  • Don’t drop prices immediately just to get a sale. The person should sell the product, not the price.
  • Ensure you understand the products and are confident in talking about it.


Next weeks task is making, branding and selling Pet Food. A task that no doubt will require a clear strategy in identifying a target market, market research and creativity.

Look out for next weeks post right here on out Blog.


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