The Apprentice is one of the most viewed programmes on television, with a format which on paper sounds of little interest to the average viewer. The success of this programme is not only in its insider view into the world of business, but also the personalities involved. Whilst Lord Sugar’s profile has long been public property, that of his right hand man, Nick Hewer has only recently come to the fore, specialising in raising the profiles of others rather than promoting himself. A foil to Lord Sugar’s famously aggressive approach, he is well known for his calm, insightful commentary as well as his quit wit and dry sense of humour.
Starting his career in public relations in 1963, before joining the Amstrad Management group in the early 80’s. Nick Hewer was already well respected amongst his peers, but his role in The Apprentice catapulted him into the limelight.
At the recent launch of OneSource’s new iSell product, Hewer spoke to delegates about sales and selling. And talked to SalesPro about his thoughts on sales professionals, what makes a good sales professional and whether Lord Sugar is a ‘natural sales person’.
Selling Skills – Good and Bad
After many years in business, and having worked with giants of industry such as Lord Sugar and Rupert Murdoch, Hewer describes his views on the sales profession. “If there are no sales the business fails, and that’s the long and the short of it,”
“Sales are absolutely essential to the success of any product or service led company... a great sales person can sell a product that is not that great, but a brilliant product will not get sold without a good salesman”.
Having worked with so many sales professionals Hewer points out an area that he feels is integral to the success of the sales function. “Failure to identify a target market or company is a disaster... assiduous preparation, research and networking should all be a natural part of any sales professionals’ role”, highlighting the core purpose of the iSell product being launched.
So who does Hewer feel is a good sales person? No surprise, Lord Sugar was high on the list. “Lord Sugar is a very good salesman. Why? because of his enthusiasm for the product, he’s very intelligent and is exceptionally good at assessing the purchaser – but enthusiasm is the key”.
The skills that Hewer outlines are key for any sales professional, and many of these are very natural skills. The sales profession often looks at and debates the value of training, assessing character traits and behaviours to establish the mix that makes the perfect sales person, but Hewer’s criteria would certainly make it to the top of most Sales Director’s wish list for a future employee.
Hewer comments further on the idea of nurture versus nature in the sales profession. “I think that good sales people are born. You can train and improve technique and understanding – but sales people like people, and can engage with people and empathise; these are core skills they are born with”.
Having maintained a relationship with what Hewer himself describes as a person who can be difficult at times, for around 30 years, he must be a pretty good sales person himself?
“I don’t like selling, and I was not a good salesman” Hewer admits. “I was good at holding on to clients that we had for a long time, but was I an above average salesman? I don’t think I was... I was enthusiastic and liked people but where I fell short may have been a lack of confidence”.
Hewer did however like some parts of the selling, “there is a huge pleasure in getting a sale, a high – I always enjoyed that part of the process!”
Hewer describes the continued relationship with Lord Sugar and his participation on The Apprentice as more about a desire to meet new and interesting people, as well as enjoying the company of a man he still finds completely intriguing, despite knowing so well.
Whilst manintaining high viewing figures The Apprentice has attracted some negativity from areas of the business community, yet throughout Hewer’s presentation for OneSource he was honest in regards to the role that The Apprentice plays in business. He referred to variousindustry leaders that he has spoken to who have been critical of the programme, although, he points out that, they all seemed to have an opinion on who should or should not have been fired!
From a sales perspective, can the Apprentices sell, or at the very least do they show good sales skills? “Some of the Apprentices do show good sales skills…they certainly are not short of enthusiasm”.
And how important in winning The Apprentice are those sales skills? ”Without the ability to sell some of the Apprentices will be struggling, but Lord Sugar is looking for more than just that. Without it however, they wouldn’t stand a chance”.
With programmes like The Apprentice highlighting the value of sales within business, it’s no wonder Hewer is showing his support to products like iSell. And whether it is your favourite or not, The Apprentice has certainly stimulated debate and helped bring business to the forefront.