The Apprentice – week seven

It was clear that the task would stand or fall, succeed or fail on the choice of product predominantly, and then the sales that would follow.

I suggested Myles and Neil were ones to watch last week and I’m pleased to report that this week both proved me right – sadly though Myles to watch and cringe at his over enthusiastic ‘we love it’ smiley Myley manner, and happily Neil because he took on the task of being Project Manager for Evolve and actually did a darn good job. He provided direction, was decisive, engaging and modest – even when the affable Jason managed to make the first sale, which hit Neil’s ‘man pride’, he took it with humility pleased that his team had achieved the sale.

Kurt became the Project Manager for Endeavour and his whole approach could be summed up as over casual, unengaged and borderline miserable. He himself said he took a gamble to be project manager and on this occasion that gamble did not pay off.

Both teams failed to a greater and lesser degree to recognise the task was about the customer and what the customer wanted. They did not read their audience nor did they engage with them terribly well – well except Jason, and more of him later.

Endeavour bought what they would like – a retro camper van appealing to a 35-45 year old market, rather than sticking with what their market research indicated; the over 50 year old market. Well when I say market research I mean looking at all the caravans and guessing age of the person who was driving the vehicle whilst motoring up the M6 to Birmingham – yes really!

Neil went through the same thought process as Endeavour to understand target age group and in the end chose the fold out trailer/come tent as he felt that was more in keeping with the customer target, than the camper van he personally preferred, and that one choice won his team the task. They sold three of these high end products at a total of £30,491. Mind you even if they hadn’t they would have won on the accessory sales alone when their children’s camping box and electric bike sold for a total of £3116 against Endeavours Boat/Car box and folding chair with a roof of which they only managed to sell £1479 worth and no retro vans; not one, none, zip, nada! It wasn’t a loss but an annihilation as Lord Sugar said.

Why? The products were already there, they just had to pick the right one, the audience and customers were there, they didn’t have to drum up support, they only had to match the two and they failed. Myles sales technique was missing an initial qualifying question to save time. One simple question would have saved his time and effort on time wasters – ‘do you intend to buy today’. Even dragging Leah over to add ‘eye candy’ as Kurt called it, whilst engaged a potential buyer, it did little to close a sale.

So Endeavour’s failure meant Kurt brought Natalie into the Board room for a fourth time – a tactical move that both Lord Sugar and she spotted, and Alex’s eyebrows, oops I mean Alex, for being involved in selecting the wrong product. After the usual ding dong fight and slanging match that followed Kurt was fired for ultimately choosing the wrong product and for playing tactics. Off he popped leaving Natalie and Alex trying to catch their breath only to have Lord Sugar state that tactics or not, Natalie had been warned and as she didn’t make any efforts she too was a ‘gonna’! Alex was the last man standing and off he trotted back to the house.

So that was this week’s task – a dismal failure on the sales side again, and a demonstration that selecting your product and matching it to your customer is key. I can’t leave you this week though without mentioning the other shining star. Who? Well Jason of course, who managed to step out of Neil’s shadow when partnered selling their folded trailer product. His flamboyant arm waving, flowery words, endearing smile and bumbling charm worked a treat on the target audience. As Karen Brady said ‘the more mature person seemed to like it’. So much so Lord Sugar called him back into the board room to congratulate him – altogether now… ‘aaahhh’. Finally Jason well done.

So I told you to watch Neil and I would encourage you to so again next week, only I would add Louisa to the list, much as that pains me as her ‘girly’ manner and ways irritate me so very much, but this week she managed to keep calm and deliver. So who would you watch? Come share your thoughts and opinions with us at @BizMattersmag or follow us on twitter @3domSolutions