Friday, 13 November 2015

The Apprentice Week 6 - Non-existent Negotiation

This week saw the 13 remaining candidates told to set up their own DIY business and try to make a profit from basic jobs. This involved the two teams providing quotes for two jobs set up by Lord Sugar, handyman tasks for a football club and a theatre, as well as to try and drum up their own business from flyers and knocking on doors. For sales professionals this episode was particularly interesting as the key to success in the task involved negotiation to try and get the best deals possible, as well as generating business in the first place. Lord Sugar has shown just how much he values sales skills in his future business partner, firing Dan in the first week for his failure to sell. So how did the candidates get on?

Awful Negotiating


Throughout the whole of the episode I’m sure sales professionals across the country were shaking their head with astonishment as to how bad all of the candidates were at trying to secure a good deal. The biggest mistakes made by the teams from a negotiating perspective came when offering a quote for redecorating the dressing rooms for a theatre in London. One of the first rules of negotiation is to know what price you’re offering for a service and to try and stick to it. Team Connectus did not seem convincing at all when initially offering £777 for the refurbishment, only ten seconds later changing their price to £877. Comically, Brett tried to cover up this mistake by suggesting just how good a service they were offering, before mincing his words telling the theatre manager ‘I am an expertise in my field’. Not the most impressive pitch.

Team Versatile had the opportunity to capitalise on the other team’s price mishaps offering an initial £560 for the theatre refurbishment job. Astonishingly, after some of the worst negotiating in the world the team ended up doing the job for only £375! Negotiation is about creating a ‘win-win’ for both parties, not just for price but for the service offering as well. The negotiation led by Richard ended up discounting the price by £200, whilst the service still included the same amount of hours of work to complete. A good strategy may have been to change the service: offer cheaper materials to try and regain some profit margin, or to remove a part of the job to reduce the amount of hours needed to complete the project. In the end the team spent a large amount of their time on this task for not a huge amount of money, a key reason why they lost the task.

Generating Business


Quite often the key to securing a large volume of sales is to manage your time effectively. The balance between prospecting for business and actually securing deals needs to be right, wasting your time on one sales channel can really hinder your efforts. Yet again the candidates were not good business examples, with Team Connectus wasting a whole day on ‘market research’ to try and find out the best areas to clean windows! With only three days to generate sales what a waste of time this was! Somehow Team Versatile seemed to match their dismal efforts by missing the deadline to print fliers, talk about a rookie error… 

If your name isn’t out there it’s going to be very hard to try and gain new business. From both a sales and business perspective this week’s apprentice is not a very good model to follow!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Can Jeremy Corbyn Sell Socialism to Britain?

September 2015 saw old-school left-winger Jeremy Corbyn secure a landslide victory of 59.5% of the vote to win leadership of the Labour Party. The initial outsider of the leadership contest promises to bring a ‘new politics’ to Britain and a real change to the New Labour centrist approach of recent years. Corbyn offers an anti-establishment, anti-austerity alternative to the Conservatives promoting higher taxes for the biggest earners and to put transport and utilities back under state control. Many see the Labour leader as a marmite figure in British politics, a large proportion of people and the media think he’s a nutcase, but equally he has developed an almost cult following from those who see him as a real change to the cliché politician. We pose the question: Is Jeremy a good enough salesman to sell socialism to the British people?

In the Scottish Labour Party conference in Perth yesterday, Corbyn stated that he wants the “sunshine of socialism” to beat the “narrow, nasty politics” of David Cameron’s Conservative Party. One of his most controversial policies is to increase the top rate of income tax to something above 50%, with rumours that the tax band could go as high as 75%. Surprisingly and as much of a change this would be, a recent YouGuv poll found that 56% of the public would be in favour of the policy, suggesting that Corbyn’s policies are not as out-of-touch with the British public as many people would argue. On the other hand, for many the Labour Leader is simply unelectable, too radical and too old at 66 to stand a chance in the 2020 election. I wasn’t surprised to find out that the bookies doubt his chances as well, an average of the top betting sites put him at 8/1 to be the next Prime Minister after Cameron.


Corbyn's Sales Skills


Undoubtedly however, there is a certain charisma about Corbyn which will help him win people over to support his socialist cause. For many young people and those that have become disillusioned with previous politicians, he comes across as someone standing up for those in need and a breath of fresh air against the spin in today’s politics. After promising a ‘new politics’ free of personal attacks, the David Cameron ‘pig-gate’ saga can probably be seen as bad timing for the Labour spokesman as previous leaders would surely have loved to get one-up on the current Prime Minister. Whether he can sell socialism to the British public remains to be seen, but I’m sure many business owners would like their sales staff to possess some of the communication qualities the Labour leader has.


I got the opportunity to hear Corbyn speak in Leeds yesterday and as a socialist sceptic I have to admit I was impressed with how convincing he came across! Personally I’m not so sure with the majority of his policies but the young audience I was a part of seemed to be captivated by him. Perhaps sales professionals can learn a few things from the leader of the opposition!