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THE APPRENTICE - Task Four 
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of Life" Samual Johnson, Episode 4 

Image supplied by www.tv.bt.com 
This week it was the sales task and the teams were sent along to the London Pet Show to sell a number of pet-related items; having to pick a couple of low cost/high volume items and one ‘big ticket’ item… The teams were mixed up for this particular challenge – which was probably a blessing really; with the extreme cattiness that has developed amongst the girl’s team in previous weeks, they might well have been confused with pet exhibitors… 
 
Whilst team Versatile only had one contender for PM this week, David; team Connexus saw both Ruth and Scott vying for the role. Both made clear their sales backgrounds and ultimately it was Scott who was voted in by the team… 
 
David approached the task with the enthusiasm of a ‘Duracell Bunny’; encouraging his team to be equally enthusiastic when it came to meeting the representatives looking for their goods to be sold by the Team at the Pet Show. His approach was quite an interesting one to observe; his bubbly enthusiasm cleverly masked the fact that his approach as PM veered more towards the ‘autocratic’ style – if his team reflected back on the selection process, it is unlikely that they would be able to truly say that they had had any say in the selection of the two high volume items picked by ‘the team’. Those items being the inflatable animals and animal t-shirts; the former of which they secured through their demonstrable enthusiasm, which was picked up by the product representative when it was down to him to select which of the two teams would get his product… 
 
Over on the other team, Scott’s approach was much more of a ‘people pleaser’; trying to disguise his own indecisiveness with ‘democracy’ when it came to making the selection of the high volume items. His sub-team were perhaps hampered a little by the involvement of Brett in the process; who was extremely focussed with the task, but perhaps a little too business focussed. What Brett did not appear to understand is that people will do business with people they like; if rapport is not established, it is less likely that someone will choose you to work with them – particularly when it comes to trusting you to sell a product that they have a significant vested interest in. Natalie did try to explain this to Brett, but her attempts fell on deaf ears as he pursued his single focus of establishing the bottom line… 
To be clear, building rapport with someone can be very simple; in some cases it might be about using language that people associate with for example, a ‘visual’ person will relate to visual words i.e. ‘I see what you are saying’, ‘I have a picture of what you are looking for’; where ‘auditory’ people will respond better to ‘I hear what you are saying’ or ‘It sounds as though…’. Likewise, using active listening and mirror/matching of the persons actions can also build rapport on which a business relationship can be based.  
Image obtained from excellenceassured.com 
Image obtained from Aliexpress.com 
In this particular instance though, showing some enthusiasm for the product, rather than treating it like a ‘cash cow’, is what the representative pitching the inflatable animals was looking for and hence why he gave them to Versatile. 
 
We digress, having failed to obtain the inflatable animals, team Connexus were left with some bizarre heating pad for cats and a cat toy, which involved a flashing light contained within a small ball and a funny shaped tube… 
Over at Excel, both sub-teams were involved in procuring their big ticket items… For team Versatile, Rich was at his manipulative best as he used some clever language techniques to persuade David that the best option – with a number of dog-owners on the team, was the ‘dog sofas’ and throws ~ which were effectively dressed up dog-baskets, which could then be sold onto gullible dog lovers for hundreds of pounds as opposed to twenty-quid!! 
 
Meanwhile, seduced by the stall-holders’ claim of having sold 19 items in a single day, the rest of team Connexus opted for some sort of modular cat tower thingy, that is built up to create some sort of cat kingdom. I’m not particularly a cat-person and I have to confess that at times my spatial awareness leaves a lot to be desired; but each module appeared to be extraordinarily large on its own, without being connected to another piece and I would imagine that a person living in an ordinary sized house, would only have to buy two pieces before they would have to consider moving themselves out of their living room to accommodate the cat!!! 
 
Once the selling day itself arrived, on team Connexus there were two extremes of selling styles observed… Having selected Ruth and Selena to work with him on selling the big ticket items; there was Ruth who failed to make any sales – largely because she appeared to talk herself out of selling. By which I mean that she kept on talking to the potential customers until the point at which they had talked themselves out of buying anything from her… Though to give her her due, she did at least attempt to engage with passers-by throughout the day, unlike Selina who managed to ‘claim’ one sale, though it appeared beyond her level of intelligence to calculate the cost of that sale and then appeared to spend the rest of the day looking thoroughly bored, yawning and not engaging with anyone… 
 
Ultimately, whilst it was the lowest cost item, the inflatable animals ultimately turned out to be the highest volume seller, netting a combined sales total with the t-shirts of just under £2500 and combined with a few sales of dog sofas, resulted in team Versatile walking away as the winners of this task. 
 
Back in the Boardroom and Selina and Ruth were identified by Scott as the failure of the task and were brought back with Scott to face the music… After the usual back-biting and sniping and is often the case with the Apprentice, it was Ruth who faced the ‘fickle finger of fate’ and was fired on the task within which she had sold herself as being experienced in… 
 
 
Image ~ Cyanide and Happiness © Explosm.net 
But who should have gone? 
I can empathise with Ruth to some extent on this one; her own business is about training sales people to sell and it is often easier the case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, when you are developing and equipping others with the right skills to deliver in their chosen field. As a HR Practitioner, I have given numerous people advice about how to approach job interviews, which they have been successful in, only to then find myself in an interview scenario doing everything that I have told others not to do and consequently, not getting the job… Therefore, the fact that she is a ‘sales trainer’ may not always translate into her being good at selling… However, her enthusiasm for the task was beyond question and had it been me, I would probably have chosen to take Brett and Selina back into the Boardroom. 
The former, because he failed to recognise the need to establish any rapport with the representatives in the initial pitch, costing the team the inflatable animals and the latter, because four tasks in and I have yet to establish what her point in the process is… She doesn’t appear to engage with anyone, is often central to any antagonism going on and any useful contribution that she may make to the process is lost because of her sneering manner… 
 
What we learnt about the Candidates… 
 
Forget what we have learnt about the candidates; this week we have learnt that you can buy high visibility jackets for Chickens!!! Not only that, but if you visit the Company’s website, you can also buy your chicken a ‘camouflage’ jacket – though having seen the picture of this, I have to conclude that it is clearly a fashion statement as opposed to any attempt for the chicken to disguise themselves from a marauding fox!!! These items, along with other pet accessories, can be purchased from omlet.co.uk 
... And then there were 14... 
 
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