Business and Leadership Lessons from the Apprentice - Selling in France

This weeks task saw the team picking British products and selling them to French retailers. After a re-jig of the teams, Lord Sugar placed Tom in charge of Logic and Susan put herself forward to be in charge of Venture. The first job of the day was to split the teams and send one half […]
Business and Leadership Lessons from the Apprentice - Selling in France
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This weeks task saw the team picking British products and selling them to French retailers.

After a re-jig of the teams, Lord Sugar placed Tom in charge of Logic and Susan put herself forward to be in charge of Venture.

The first job of the day was to split the teams and send one half to France to do market research while the other half remained in the UK to select the products.

For Logic, Melody and Leon headed to France and for Venture Jim and Helen.

In France, Melody and Leon were asking the locals about their thoughts on three of the products, a pop-up postcard, a rucksack booster seat and a teapot lamp. Melody could speak French and communicated well with the locals whilst Leon was drawing pictures to try and get the message across.

During this discussion, the feedback showed that the locals didn't think the teapot was a great product, where many of them thought the rucksack booster seat was. One guy though did say that many people in France use the Metro to commute and not their cars.

It seemed Melody didn't like the booster seat rucksack, and when the call was made back to the UK on which products to select, she said they liked the Teapot. Leon obviously couldn't challenge this as he didn't understand the feedback people were giving. This lead to the team selecting the pop-up postcard and the teapot lamp.

For Venture, their market research again told them that the booster seat rucksack was a good idea. This leads to them selecting the rucksack and a travel grip for portable gadgets such as mobile phones.

Lord Sugar had set up one pitch for the teams with La Redoute, one of France's largest mail order catalogue companies. Tom called team Logic in France and asked them to find out as much about the company as possible, something that wasn't done and would bite them a bit later.

Whilst in France, Melody set up a number of appointments and when the rest of team Logic arrived in France she said directly that she was going to sell to them and no one else. This wasn't challenged by the rest of the team.

Back in the UK, Susan for Venture was showing some immaturity asking questions like 'Do the French drive' and 'Do the French love their kids'. She later explained the reasons behind these questions in the boardroom, but initially, they seemed really inappropriate.

On the day of selling Melody attended all of her appointments and started making sales along with Leon. Tom and Natasha would take the pitch to La Redoute. On the way, they were trying to decide who would do the pitch and ended up doing Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide who would do it.

At the pitch, La Redoute asked what the minimum order was, the reply to this was 10! This is a company that buys 1000's of units of a product, add this to a poor pitch meant things didn't go as well as they could.

On the other hand, Helen led the pitch for Venture, a fantastic pitch that was met with a challenge on the price but was quickly and expertly overcome.

Out on the road, Jim and Zoe were selling, but slowly. Susan called them for an update and said they should look for mobile phone and gadget stores to sell their products to. This was met by a 'talk about teaching granny to suck eggs' response. I can see what Susan was saying, but maybe the wrong approach as they didn't take note.

Shortly after, Susan found an independent mobile phone retailer who also has an online presence and sold them 1500 units, a sale of over 100,000 Euro, proving that she was right to look at mobile phone retailers. She called the other half of the team to tell them and they leapt into action looking for stores; however, time was up and on the way back to the train station they passed mobile phone shop after mobile phone shop after mobile phone shop that they could have been selling to.

Back in the board room Lord Sugar picked on the fact that Melody didn't share the appointments and it should have been a team effort, although he did commend her for her strength later. He picked up on that Tom was railroaded by Melody and Leon hid behind the fact that he couldn't speak French.

In terms of results, logic sold 11,138005 Euro of orders to retailers and 0 Euro to La Redoute - they didn't take the teapot. As for Venture, 14,137599 Euro to retailers and La Redoute bought 214,000 Euro worth of rucksack booster seats - proving that it was the right product but also it had a lot to do with the pitch.

In the later stage of the boardroom, the same discussions were brought up. Tom should have gone with his gut instinct about the rucksack as he liked it, the team in France didn't research La Redoute and Melody didn't share the appointments. But, because he had little input, Leon got fired.

So, lessons from this week are:

Research Your Customer - I'm not sure how many times I've used this lesson and will probably use it more than once again, but I can't describe how important this is. Not knowing enough about La Redoute meant the team went in with completely the wrong pitch.

Don't become too reliant on one team member - By allowing Melody not to share the appointments could have made things even worse. If she wasn't confident in selling this could have been disastrous. As a leader, there are times where you have to make a decision and overrule what your team says. It may not be nice at the time, but you have to make the correct decisions for the team and not just the individuals.

Don't show immaturity - Don't give the team a reason not to trust or respect you. Think consciously about what you are saying. Engage your brain before speaking and don't speak to think. Be sure to be articulate in what you want to say.

Choose your leadership approach - In the case of telling the team to find mobile phone stores, Jim and Natasha took this the wrong way. Maybe a more supportive or coaching approach would have worked i.e. asking them where they think the products would be best sold.

Ask the right questions of the team - If a team is telling you that a customer does not like your products, ask them for specific feedback, just don't take their word for it.

Trust your gut instinct - Some of the best decisions leaders make are on gut instinct. For more personally, if my just instinct is just rumbling a little, maybe I wouldn't do it. If it was screaming at me then I know I should trust it and follow through with it.

Be sure your team trust the product - In the case of Logic, Melody didn't like one of the products and therefore this may have influenced the way she provided the feedback about it. Again, this goes back to asking the right questions.

Next weeks task, designing a new brand of biscuits.

For now, have a great rest of the week.


Revolution Learning and Development provided courses and workshops on Sales and Leadership Skills that will help avoid the pitfalls you see above. To see our schedule of courses, click here to go to the Training Courses Overview Page

David Lumley22-06-2011

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