The Apprentice - Wholesale Success?

Sunday, 10th July 2011
For those of us who are business people in the real world then we can at least sit back and enjoy the mishaps of the fledgling young entrepreneurs that form the apprentices in the popular BBC show, The Apprentice! Introduced as a ‘Back to Basics’ episode, this week's task really did strip away any thoughts of business being all glitz and glamour along with any hiding places for our ambitious 'apprenti' (what is a good collective noun for them? A 'hopeless' of apprentices? Perhaps a 'shower' of apprentices...) This week's task was to sell on a pallet of £250 worth of wholesale goods for the highest return, giving the candidates the chance to flex their selling muscles. Starting with £250 of stock, this week's Apprentice task was about "smelling what's selling", replenishing stock bought from the wholesalers and selling again. Success would come to the team that mastered market trading to members of the public, with plenty of Del Boy-style shouting and making connections with the customer, and was surely made for Jim to lead from the front. But he allowed Natasha to take control of Team Venture, who so far in the series has shown little sales acumen. In Covent Garden Jim sold well, but missed the opportunity to combination sell. The area was brim full of ill-equipped tourists in cotton shirts under a threatening cloudy sky. He should have used his silky-tongued skills to emphasise the need for an umbrella while selling them a nodding dog wearing a union jack jumper as a memento of their trip to Blighty, marking up the products if sold individually and offering a discount if bought together. Having seen how well both products sold they should have filled their boots, but despite Jim's constant reminders Natasha failed to grasp the purpose of the task and held on to the cash instead. In the real world this would result in a stagnating company not generating enough money to stay afloat. Natasha seemed ineffectual as a salesperson and attempted to deflect her ineptitude by exerting her authority over easy target Susan, reminding her that she was the decision maker – when a leader needs to remind their team who is boss, they have already lost control. Her outburst came because Susan had been selling costume jewellery effectively, offering plenty of giggles and exuberance, making more than 200% profit – proof that sales comes from appealing to the buyers' mindset. Susan was also brave enough to ignore her project manager's instruction and buy what she knew would sell well; perhaps Jim should have shown such belligerence when Natasha prevented him from buying more stock. The good news for Venture was that Team Logic proved to be worse at this task, with team leader Melody once again showing her lack of attention to detail as she attempted to sell a £25 watch to the owner of a pound shop. This poor focus continued as both she and Helen decided to target retailers for the big orders, failing to grasp the fact they would have no interest in their marked-up products. Helen won the "failure to close" award. Despite finding a retailer to agree in principle to buying 30 duvets, she failed to seal the deal. She should have got the order in writing, phoned the wholesaler immediately and agreed a delivery time. Instead she was left holding the duvets – a good salesperson never leaves a deal incomplete. Tom used his "twee appeal" when selling the nodding dog, speaking to young children at their level, realising it was they he should target and that mum would be nagged to death to buy the cute toy. He did, however, let them go too cheaply, allowing a five-year-old to dictate terms – £5 instead of £7.50. The child wants the toy, and at that age does not realise the value of money, he just wants to "beat the funny man". Perhaps Tom should have said to him: "Pay the price and I'll give Mum 50p to buy you an ice lolly." Melody again proved her lack of listening skills by ignoring Tom's plea for more dogs – salespeople are taught they have two ears and one mouth, and that is the ratio in which your sensory organs should be used. One thing she did hear loud and clear though was the sound of Lord Sugar saying "you're fired". Our front runners now are Jim, Tom and Helen! These are our top three, what about yours?