What’s your interest rate?

Once again, Kirsty was back in the boardroom, subject to the whim of Lord Sugar’s vicious tongue and pointing finger. I’m hooked on the Junior Apprentice series, at once admiring the willingness of such young people to plunge headlong into ‘cold calling’ situations, yet at the same time horrified at the behaviour of what writer Sam Wollaston describes as ‘little corporate bundles of hatred.” (The Guardian 3/6/2010).

This week the task involved selling art work in some of the trendier parts of London, and Kirsty was dispatched to seek out the most marketable produce. In the event that the two teams chose the same work, the artist had the right to choose who would sell their wares – and that required a bit of schmoozing. Off went Kirsty and…oh, dear.

In the boardroom post-mortem Nick questioned whether she’d spent more than 15 seconds looking at the pictures. It may have been nearer five. I winced, feeling the artist’s bemusement as Kirsty negotiated hard on price, scribbling down figures with scarcely a glance at the walls. Not surprisingly, the artist chose the other team to sell his work.

And for me there’s the lesson for those of us in business, trying to ‘win friends and influence people’. If you’re looking to build relationships, take an interest in people. Ask questions, listen carefully to the answers. Seek clarification. Quite apart from the intelligence you gather, it makes people feel good. And if you leave people in a better place each time you meet them (emotionally, practically), you’ll leave a great legacy wherever you go.

Simple, yes.  Easy?  Well if it was easy we wouldn’t see so many Kirsty-style encounters, would we?

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