The doyen of business reality telly has got to be ex-ICI Chairman John Harvey-Jones, with his awesome Troubleshooter series throughout the early Nineties. Since then, several pop-tv shows have introduced helping businesses escape dire straits (like the aforementioned show), pitting contestants against one another for dream jobs, through to start-up funding gameshows. And now we add another to the growing list from a runner-up on Alan Sugar’s Apprentice.
Its tabloid title, Badger Or Bust, gives an inkling as to the protagonist’s (Ruth Badger) approach. Whilst frankly nowhere in the same league as industrialists and gurus to have performed a similar role before, you can wholesomely forgive her because she makes decent telly. It is true that pretty much all of her advice could be dished out by anyone that had hit their targets two years running straight out of college. The requisite depth for which I crave is sadly absent, but isn’t it funny what doors a prime time humiliation can open…. The episode I saw featured a caravan and trailer homes lot. This was particularly interesting for two reasons; on her Apprentice torment, she took part in a second-hand car sales day and although made a couple of mistakes, did quite well proving that she had done that kind of thing before, and also, one of the very best fly on the wall docs ever on selling, The Real Swiss Toni (aka Would you buy a used car from this man?), took place in a similar environment. So, what are the lessons you can take from this show even if you never saw it?
Keep yourself disciplined – as the boss himself admitted, “when you’re busy you become less disciplined” just at the point you need more professionalism. One way this manifested itself was a lack of any “sales boards”, where targets and achievements were kept up-to-date so instant snapshots could be gleaned.
Training is continual – the sales manager also acknowledged that he wasn’t spending enough time one-on-one with his three charges. Role play and mystery shopping unearthed all sorts of deficiencies that he must address, like not asking how much money the prospect wished to spend, and when a budget was announced of £12,000, being shown product for less than £10,000 (!)
It’s fine to recap the basics – I remember with misty eyes way back in the 90s running sales training over breakfast before my guys hit the cold call trail and catching them with a ‘pitch this product to me’ exercise. How can I forget one session where the choice was a mobile phone, bottle of champagne, banana and condom where everyone messed up until Stuart Shenton played a blinder with the banana. Sheer class he was with a simple single F-A-B sentence approach ending with “enabling you to hit your numbers!” Anyway, Ms Badger did the same trick with phone, apple, handbag and brolly. It’s a good way to sharpen up basic skills, although her ‘sell the dream’ intonation is a touch corny.
Demo skills are critical – the 3 guys she was asked to turnaround were lazy, as evidenced by body language for instance, but when in the caravans, some truly shocking pointing took place rather than showing properly. At the end one of the guys changed his behaviour so that he would focus on “what you do with it rather than what it’s made of”.
And as a footnote, here’s one tactic that whilst I clearly cannot condone, did bring a smile to my face….one rep put a couple of his business cards in a colleague’s card holder so he’d inadvertantly give them out, hopefully giving him more leads.