Learn to sell like the geniuses at Apple

By Tom Searcy 

If you’ve ever visited an Apple store, you know that the friendly, low-key nerds sporting “Genius” t-shirts are not your typical hard-charging sales reps. How frequently do you hear them use heavy-handed tactics to close the sale of an iPad? Yet, somehow, Apple as a company has been able to limp along to a meager $81B cash position, the second largest market capitalization in the world, (right behind Exxon), and break sales records, including THEIR OWN year after year. They must be doing something right, but it sure doesn’t look like “selling.”

Sure, they’ve got great designs and products, but we all know companies who have great designs and products who are a far cry from Apple. So what gives? The answer is the buying experience.

The store-based experience at Apple is great. Easy access, knowledgeable sales people, pay-where-you-find-the-product ability and get an email receipt. It’s every techie and technophobe’s dream – online booking for training, help and easy, no-questions-asked repairs and returns. (Albeit, they do get a little snitty if you drop the iPhone in the toilet, but really, can you blame them?) I can go on, but here’s my point: They have a great buying experience and that’s a great contributor to their record breaking numbers.

So how does your company stack up? Are you on par with Apple or is your company a rotten orange when it comes to your customers’ buying experience? Take a quick survey and see how the buying experience you provide stacks up.

1. Finding the right product or service

a. Customers define their perfect solution based upon quick, customer-friendly assessment

b. Sales reps help customers find the best solution through assessment

c. Customers can select from a limited number of product options

d. Customers can “take or leave” your one product

e. Customers can have whatever color of black phone they want

2. Response time to issues

a. Complaints, concerns and questions are addressed immediately

b. Complaints, concerns and questions are addressed within 4 hours

c. Complaints, concerns and questions are addressed within 1 day

d. Complaints, concerns and questions are addressed within 3 days

e. All communication is handled by fax with an outsourced service bureau in Slovakia…and this month is a national holiday

3. Available information on the company, products and services

a. Information is detailed, online and organized by FAQs

b. Product information is online and organized by product name or #

c. Some product information is available online, but most is in manuals

d. All information is provided in the manuals

e. Some information is provided in the manual, but in a different language than the customer’s native tongue

4. Customer satisfaction validation

a. Customer experience is requested and posted, unaltered with scores (similar to eBay or Amazon)

b. Customer experience is posted with scores

c. Customer experience is handled by email survey

d. Customer experience is independently commented upon on blogs

e. Customer experience is the subject of Twitter digital firestorms

5. Contracts

a. Our agreements are Statements of Work with clear expectations

b. Our contracts are simple agreements written in standard language

c. Our contracts are multiple page agreements with Statement of Work

d. Our contracts always require multiple revisions before signature

e. Our contracts are draconian one-sided documents designed to trap and punish

6. Guarantees and Returns

a. Products or services are 100% guaranteed for life

b. Returns are easy, no questions asked, just present product

c. Limited time guarantees or returns are allowed

d. Restricted guarantees for broken or damaged goods are allowed

e. No returns are allowed

7. Sales and Service Staff

a. Our people are selected and trained to be friendly, knowledgeable and “concierge” in approach

b. Our people are friendly, but not technically knowledgeable, that is handled by other people

c. Our people are technically knowledgeable but not trained in the customer experience

d. Our people are relatively fast with a tag scanner

e. Our experience is on par with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, including the “take a number” personal touch

Now total the number of each letter that you have.  If you have mostly A’s and B’s — great work.  Keep it up.  Mostly B’s and C’s — not bad, but there is room for improvement.  All E’s — you’re rock bottom, and no one will confuse your customer service experience for that of Apple’s.  To get even more feedback, take the survey online to see how you stack up against other companies.

Also on stacking up – read my recent blog on how honest your competitors really are and how to get even.  Like what you read?  I’ve got a webinar this Friday morning 12/9 on the same topic – “how to throw your competition under the bus without leaving fingerprints.”