“Hey, you look HOT. You need ice cream. How about helping me out?”
Yes, it was a hot day in New York and yes, one of the men was selling to a “hot” female customer. I always wanted to use this line. Too bad the Chicago summer has ended. Hopefully next summer I will somehow find an ice cream cart, roll it up to Millennium Park, and start approaching and selling all the pretty ladies. That is definitely a “Laosy” idea. I love it!
As absurd or obnoxious you might find this line, it was very reflective of the men’s latest tactics in episode two of “The Apprentice.” The men and women were competing to see who would sell the most ice creams in the streets of New York. Led my career salesman, David, the men were literally pumped up (Steuart was flashing his muscles and doing push-ups) to win back-to-back challenges. The women put their trust and faith in a recent Stanford graduate with no prior sales experience, Poppy. The stage was set and it was going to be a battle of experience versus no-experience.
As it turns out, both the men and women team sell at the same location, Union Square. The producers couldn’t have asked for anything better. Two bitter rival teams battling it out on the same turf. Who would win and how?
The men started shop early and struggled to get off to a good start. Shortly the women arrived. They also struggled. As a result of the inactivity and slow sales, both team decided it would be a nice idea to buy uniforms and stand out from the crowd. Dressed in their new looks, it was now time to start selling again. The women seemed to be having a more productive day, laughing and high-fiving each other after every sale. The men are seen whining and complaining about how the women took over their corner and sold more ice cream.
As the day approaches the closing bell, the men decided to take their show to another location, hoping to find a neutral site away from the woman. It turned out to be a good decision. With more sales, the men’s confidence improved and they began to have a bit more fun. At one point, they were able to close a $50 sales transaction, adding to the strong finish for the day.
The women continued to sell at Union Square despite the slowdown in the afternoon foot traffic. Poppy is caught on camera expressing the slow foot traffic and the reluctance of people wanting to buy ice cream for $5 without any indication of how to fix these challenges. In the midst of Poppy’s silent leadership, Stephanie started asserting her authority by commanding others to sell more. Interestingly enough, she is not seen selling herself and is not wearing a pink tank top to match her teammates. While heading back home, Stephanie strongly asserted her opinions on how to sell and how to use time effectively. Poppy responded by expressing how aggressive she is. The women closed Day 1 with a battle brewing.
The next day, the men and women decided to return to Union Square. Learning their lessons from the previous day, the men set up shop at the women’s hotspot. Obviously, this angered the women as they arrived on the scene and prompted them to set up their cart next to the men intensifying this challenge. It was the “Yell and Sell” tactic versus the “Soft and Sweet” tactic. The men over powered the women with their aggressive “Yell and Sell” tactics causing the women to concede and move to another location.
This proved to be a wise decision as the women were able to sell ice-cream in record numbers to a host of parents and children. Feeling great from their rapid success and achievement, the women decided to spend the last minutes of the competition distributing their remaining inventory of ice-cream and offering them for free to the men’s potential customers. The men were caught off guard and were not ready for this act of sabotage, adding to the enjoyment and glee of the women. Day 2 comes to an end with both teams feeling great about their overall success and accomplishments.
In the boardroom, Trump made a surprise announcement and fired Liza after an argument with Poppy and Stephanie. Liza’s face was ablaze in shock and disbelief. A few seconds later, Trump informed the group that he is joking. Now that he has the room’s attention, Donald proceeded to announce the winner. The men sold $1,500 in profits and fell short of the women’s $1,800 in profits. The men began to debrief with Trump on their performance. As fast as he said, “You’re Fired” to Liza, Trump tell the men to leave the room leaving David, James and Alex to battle for their lives.
David immediately pinned Alex as the weakest link even though it is obvious he has some bitterness and personal gripe with James. After being labeled as non-aggressive, James went on the offensive and made his case to why he should not be fired. Missing in this exchange is Alex. He remained submissive to the strong personalities of David and James. Ultimately, this was seen as a major issue. The message was now loud and clear, Alex was not able to play in the big leagues and was not in the same level as the two other men causing Trump to assert the famous words, “You’re Fired!”
I agreed with Trump’s decision. Alex was just too timid and very submissive in the boardroom after a dismal performance selling ice-cream. After two episodes, it is evident what Trump was expecting from leaders. You have to have the ability to be tough and make a strong case for your existence. Essentially, it came back to having Sales skills. Trump told the men that a key skill in life is the ability to sell themselves individually. The inability to sell oneself will limit success. Alex was a living example of this and was immediately removed from the competition.
Here are the “Laosy Guy’s” quick hits of this episode:
- I was surprised at the lack of preparation each team had entering the first day of selling. I was especially disappointed at the men’s team since they were being led by a self-proclaimed, career salesperson, David. There were no conversations on branding, marketing, sales pitches, sales channelization, etc. The men had no direction. There was no scripting of sales pitches or work on how to approach people and sell. David was reflective of a typical sales guy who cared more about making sales and not overly concerned about other processes. This showed me his limited ability to lead and his limited ability to be a strategic planner. He could have easily assigned two people to work the neighboring business and have them sell boxes of ice-cream that could lead to higher profit margins. Apparently, he has not watched previous seasons of the show or didn’t learn much if he did.
- As deficient as David was as a sales leader, I felt that Poppy was able to make the right decision based upon the circumstances by assigning Stephanie the task to lead the sales initiatives for her team based upon her sales experience. What I saw in her was not what I expected? She had the right ideas but lacked in delivery. She mentioned that her team was spending too much time selling ice-cream bars one at a time and focused too long on one customer. I agreed with her but she failed to follow up that thought with a suggestion or plan to change the tactic. I was angry at the fact that she did not adopt the pink tank top uniform her teammates were happily wearing. This did not reflect her team spirit and unity. Add the fact that she was not seen selling and it was safe to assume that she was a sideline coach playing in the shadows. She was giving orders and telling others what to do. Her teammates did not want to take orders. Her delivery came off as too aggressive and she was barking order without establishing rapport. A good leader knows how to connect and motivate their team. This was definitely not the person I expected to see when Poppy assigned her the task to lead sales.
- I was infuriated that the women’s team did not attack Poppy’s style of leadership in comparison’s to their Project Manager in episode one, Nicole. During episode two, the camera would show Poppy lost and confused numerous times. She had no idea what to do. She didn’t make any adjustments and went with the flow. It became apparent that the men were crushing the women’s team on Day 2. Poppy stood silent and let her team take a beating. She could have rallied her team and started working on a new plan. She didn’t do much leading at all. It wasn’t until Mahsa expressed her frustrations of selling like vultures against the men that caused Poppy to react. They changed locations and were able to sell more. I thought Poppy was indecisive, quiet and lacked the ability to make quick adjustments based upon the circumstances. These were the same flaws that plagued Nicole and led to her firing. It was not until the boardroom that Liza challenged the poor performance of Poppy. I did agree with Liza and felt that Stephanie was more of a leader than Poppy. Though ineffective, Stephanie did assert more effort to influence the outcome and process. I just couldn’t understand why the other women defended Poppy and why they blasted Nicole for essentially, the same example of leadership. I speculate there is a friendly bond between the core of the team and they didn’t want Poppy to take the heat. This will be an interesting dynamic to watch for in the upcoming episode. There is a growing division in the women’s team.
Here’s the “Laosy Guy’s” guide to not getting “FIRED:”
1) “What’s in a name?” – I am sure when Shakespeare composed the famous line he was thinking about job titles and how it related to leadership. He was way ahead of his time! What transpired in episode two is the assumption that a person is “Sales Leader” because he or she had a previous title encompassing sales duties and responsibilities. Just because David or Stephanie made a career in sales doesn’t qualify them to be a “Sales Leader.” This is a very common mistake in corporate America. Just ask any sales organization. People tend to think that because a person is super successful closing sales, they would automatically make great bosses, managers or leaders. Let’s set the record straight through the example of David and Stephanie. They might have been great salespersons but they were not strong leaders. Becoming a strong and effective leader is more complex than selling. It requires the utilization of more skills. For one, you need to know how to rally and motivate your troops. Secondly, you need to have a solid plan of attack optimizing your resources for the best chance of success. The list can go on and on. The bottom line is neither did a great job managing their teams and resources. Next time you are in a position to lead a sales team, remember it’s not always about the actual sale as much as it is the process.
2) Bill Gates School of Sales – My favorite part of the episode was when Trump taught a lesson about sales. He cited examples of friends that were more talented than the legendary singer, Frank Sinatra. The only reason why these friends weren’t famous was their inability to sell their talents. Sales therefore is a key skill all leaders must learn. Take for example Bill Gates. His primary skill set is technical and analytical. He understands the complexity of technology and how to package it in a simple format for others to use. In order for him to succeed, he has to sell people his vision. If you ever watch him on TV or YouTube, you would not label him as a salesperson. Yet, over the course of leading his company, he was able to learn the basic fundamentals of sales and grow his ability to influence others to achieve an outcome. By definition, a leader is someone who can influence an outcome. Having and developing sales skills will increase the effectiveness of leadership.
3) Speak up or get OUT! – One of the most “Laosy” ways to get fired is the inability to stand up for your actions. I remember this lesson too vividly. There were plenty of times where I took a passive course of action because I wanted to avoid confrontations or did not want to cause further trouble. I have learned in my later years that this route wasn’t always the best. It wasn’t until I was told that I was too soft that I started to analyze my behavior. Outcomes could have become different had I stood up and raised my voice or took a strong position on a decision. In order to be successful, you must learn how to break the “Laosy” habit and speak up for your actions. After two episodes, it is clear that the ones that are “Laosy” are the ones that get fired. The latest victim was Alex. He kept in the shadows of his teammates and it caused him the opportunity to win. A leader knows how to use both passive and aggressive styles of decision-making and is able to communicate the decision effectively and decisively.