4 CRM Lessons From Apple Genius Bar

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Secret weapon: Should your sales program be stocked with geniuses?

Sales-wise, Apple continues to throttle the competition: it’s a master builder of the category killer. Want to bring a new smartphone to market? It will be judged against the latest iPhone. Same again for any tablet or laptop. And then Apple markets the debut of every new iPhone or other device to within an inch of its life. What’s left? Oh yes, revenue: Apple is the most profitable company in the history of profitability.

In recent years, of course, Apple has also branched out into retail. The Apple Store offers a quick way to get your Apple fix–in either sense. But from an employment standpoint, a recent New York Times exposé noted the lack of sales commissions–unlike, for example, a Verizon store–and general low levels of pay, plus the cult-like corporate culture, lack of promotion opportunities, and relatively high levels of employee burnout.

Despite that work environment, the Apple Store is yet another sales juggernaut for the company, and at least some of that success comes down to its Genius Bar, which is Apple’s fancy name for its tech-support desk, where Apple owners can troubleshoot their products with an “Apple Genius,” a.k.a. computer repair person.

What makes the Genius Bar tick, and what lessons does it offer to other businesses who want to not just better support their customers, but move more products? To answer that question, take a look at the latest version of the Genius Training Student Workbook from Apple, which Gizmodo recently got its hands on. While the manual doesn’t deliver unknown Steve Jobs management secrets or other potentially earth-shattering knowledge, it does offer four takeaways that can help make any sales program better:

1) Customer Empathy Sells

According to Gizmodo, Apple’s training materials promote a form of psychological sales jujitsu:

Sales, it turns out, take a backseat to good vibes–almost the entire volume is dedicated to empathizing, consoling, cheering up, and correcting various Genius Bar confrontations. The assumption, it’d seem, is that a happy customer is a customer who will buy things.

Takeaway: Don’t discount the power of a satisfied customer. Apple has some of the highest customer satisfaction scores in the market. While customer satisfaction might not be sexy, it sells, and costs far less than trying to attract new customers.

2) Don’t Waste Customers’ Time

Indeed, just look at the Genius Bar reservation service, which allows customers to book a time to speak with an Apple expert about any issues they’re having with an Apple product. When it comes to customer service, most businesses–including cell phone carriers and cable providers–send the wrong signals, telling customers that when you have to wait in a queue, the problem isn’t the wait; it’s you. Consider how many businesses badger you in a phone queue to hang up and use the self-service tools on its website.

Apple, meanwhile, allows you to schedule a service appointment at its store, when it’s convenient for you, which means the problem can often be resolved on the spot. No doubt this psychological “we’re here to serve you” also entices people to buy more.

3) Memo To Salespeople: Get Selling

What else accounts for Apple’s retail sales magic? Cue Gizmodo: “Maybe it’s because the products sell themselves. Maybe it’s the zealot fan base. Or maybe the blue-clad [Genius] agents really are inside our heads when we walk away from the Bar.”

Of course, sales are the Genius Bar employees’ ultimate remit. Despite heavy use of such words as gracefully, empathetically, persuasively, and respectfully, the Genius Training Student Workbook continually hammers home that “Everyone in the Apple Store is in the business of selling.”

4) Make Selling Easier

But it’s essential to note that Apple salespeople aren’t going it alone. Furthermore, the Apple Store isn’t succeeding just based on empathy, product design, store design, or customer service, but a combination of all of these factors. Viewed another way, these factors help salespeople be more productive. The same goes for CRM and SFA tools, which are designed not to replace salespeople, but rather to help them sell more.

Never underestimate the power of a highly motivated–and properly trained–salesperson to close more deals. But the last lesson from Apple is also that the best way to help salespeople sell more is to build a product or service that people want to buy.

Learn More

What’s the best way to implement a sales force automation (SFA) program? Or would you like to know the top sales effectiveness or marketing automation questions–and answers–you should be asking, to make your current CRM program even better? For all this and more, check out our Innoveer’s CRM expert videos.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Randy Lemoine.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.

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