Genius: Sales Lessons from Apple’s Employee Training Manual

A page from Apple's training manual
A page from Apple’s training manual

Last week Gizmodo got its hands on an Apple training manual for retail store employees, and they ripped it to shreds. Writer Sam Biddle seems generally freaked out by how specific the manual is, and took issue with the retail giant’s emphasis on catering to customers’ feelings, saying “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.”

He’s wrong, and Apple’s right: sales is good vibes.

Apple has figured out that customers want to feel good about their purchases, and while that’s partly a consequence of the product itself, it’s also a result of the buying process. When customers have a positive experience at an Apple Store, they come away feeling good about their new computer, Apple as a company, and about themselves. And happy customers are repeat customers.

But what really sets Apple apart in the retail space is making it easy for all their employees to give customers that “good vibes” experience, knowing that that’s what sells.

The acronym they give new employees is (A)pproach, (P)robe, (P)resent, (L)isten, (E)nd. The idea is to try to find out what customers want (Approach & Probe), explain their options (Present), get their reactions (Listen) and try to come up with the right product for them (End).

Gizmodo finds that disingenuous, but what it sounds like is a fool-proof way to make sure customers get some attention from store employees. After all, a lot of big-box retail employees are less than helpful. Apple is just trying to make customer service fool-proof, and can you blame them? They have thousands of employees, and they can’t all be actual geniuses.

So what lessons can small businesses draw from Apple’s employee training manual?

1. Sales and customer service are the same thing.
2. Sales is about making clients and/or customers feel good about your organization. That’s part product, and part process.
3. Sales is about empathy, listening and trying to provide a real solution to clients.
4. Everyone is your organization contributes to a customer’s experience.
5. Don’t assume everyone is  good at sales. Creating very specific guidelines can help employees represent your brand the way you’d like.

For more on the Apple training manual, including the actual phrases they want employees to use with customers, read the full article on Gizmodo.