Apple's retail sales chain, following in Gap's footsteps, has been enormously successful, and breaks records for metrics such as sales per square foot -- $4,406, compared with $3,070 for Tiffany & Co, a luxury store, and $880 for Best Buy. What isn't well known is its low-pressure solution-oriented approach to sales, which staff have been taught to remember using a backronym based on Apple's name. It goes like this, according to a Wall Street Journal article citing a 2007 training manual:
Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome.
Probe politely to understand all the customer's needs.
Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
The middle one is, of course, the core of Apple's whole strategy. In his keynotes, Steve Jobs always sells what he has to sell, and no more, rather than doing what Bill Gates does, which is talk up future plans. Apple has very limited product offerings, but if they can be shown to meet a customer's needs, it doesn't matter if PC World or Best Buy has something cheaper or better.
As you'd expect, everything is done with Apple's usual insistence on secrecy and Big Brother-style control. The Wall Street Journal's story, Secrets From Apple's Genius Bar: Full Loyalty, No Negativity -- backed by a 5-minute video -- says:
With their airy interiors and attractive lighting, Apple's stores project a carefree and casual atmosphere. Yet Apple keeps a tight lid on how they operate. Employees are ordered to not discuss rumors about products, technicians are forbidden from prematurely acknowledging widespread glitches and anyone caught writing about the Cupertino, Calif., company on the Internet is fired, according to current and former employees.
The story is timely because Ron Johnson, the ex-Gap employee responsible for Apple's retail strategy, is leaving to become chief executive at JC Penney, which operates a chain of department stores. According to the Journal, so many of the initial team members came from Gap that they called it Gapple. However, Apple's retail strategy is now so well established that Johnson's loss seems unlikely to make any difference.