Adopt this world leader's great sales process


Apple is today one of the world's most powerful brands, its products are among the most sought after, and waiting lines for its new launches are now legendary. We know the fantastic product development and marketing skills of this great company - but a lesser known fact is how it meticulously trains its Apple store personnel to become Genius salesmen. Apple's leaked Genius training module, which is now quoted frequently as a great sales training manual, offers rich insights into how to effectively conclude sales. Its not enough to have a great product and bring consumers to the store - ultimately, the last mile connect - the salesman, has a job to do to convert intent into a purchase. The Genius training module not only educates Apple store personnel exactly how to do this, but also offers great insights to anybody in the business of selling, on how to sell effectively.

Learning from the Apple Approach to Selling

Steve Jobs, who is credited with making Apple a success, did more than just manufacture superior products. He succeeded in creating a demand for Apple products, using great marketing and selling techniques. The success of Apple's marketing campaign is evident from the long queues that form outside an Apple store when a new product or version is set to be launched. Apart from this, Apple has reinvented the customer experience, not just with the product, but at the time of buying the product itself.

The leaked Apple sales training manual provides valuable insights for any sales person, including those who sell financial products. While the quality of the product has to be good, better sales techniques ensure that positive intent actually gets translated into sales. This focus on the last mile connect is one of the many things that makes Apple the champion it is.

The APPLE sales process for Apple salespersons

The Apple Genius training module has a five-point checklist that every salesperson is expected to use when interacting with customers. In addition, the sales manual has broken down the art of selling and presented the key techniques in a scientific manner. The Apple approach to selling comprises of an acronym, which is appropriately called "Apple":

  1. Approach

  2. Probe

  3. Present

  4. Listen

  5. End

Approach: The first step is to approach the customer and address them by name. This is made possible as Apple has an executive take in customer details such as name as soon as they enter the store on an iDevice. This showcases the technology and also helps provide the needed information to the salesperson who will approach the customer. By identifying the customer by name, the salesperson establishes a personal relationship that helps make the customer feel acknowledged as a person.

Probe: The salesperson is then expected to gently probe or ask questions that will reveal the needs of the customer as well as something about them. Salespersons are trained to use external clues such as the type of clothes worn, the type of bag being carried, and so on to place the customer. The gentle questioning also helps identify potential needs of the customer - do they travel for work, will the device be used for work or entertainment, and so on.

Present: Once the salesperson has identified the needs, desires, insecurities, and wants of the customer, they move on to the next step - presenting the solution. These are a choice of products that will meet the customer's requirements. The customer can then choose from them.


Listen: Once the customer has been presented with choices, the salesperson has to listen to their response. When hearing them out, the salesperson will have another opportunity to understand the needs and insecurities of the customer. The salesperson will then empathize with the customer before concluding the interaction.

End: When ending the interaction, the salesperson is expected to put the customer at ease and not openly pressurize them into making a purchase. Instead, gentle persuasion is used and the customer does not feel forced to make a purchase decision immediately.

Expressing Empathy

Throughout the interaction Apple salespersons are also expressed to be empathetic towards the customer. For this Apple advices them to use three F words: Feel, Felt, and Found. Getting the conversation towards the customer's feelings and away from technical product specifications engages the customer fully and at the same time shows that you care about what the customer feels. This also gives the salesman a great insight into doubts and objections that may be in the customer's mind but are often not fully expressed, which gives him an opportunity to handle these doubts and objections effectively.

No Negativity

Apart from this an Apple salesperson is advised never to use negative words and to never openly disagree with customers. This ``customer is always right'' approach does not mean that new ideas are not presented to the customer. The salesperson introduces new ideas or suggestions by beginning the statement with ``it turns out that.'' The phrase "it turns out that" is used in English language to acknowledge that there was indeed a belief about something, but it was later found to be incorrect. Rather than correcting a customer's belief about a product with "No, that's not the way it works", Apple salespersons are trained to say "It turns out that this is the way it works".

No Sales Quotas

While many retailers use sales quotas and commissions to inspire their retail staff to increase sales, Apple follows a counter-intuitive policy of no sales quotas. Instead, supervisors are only expected to comment on the sales approach used by the salesperson.

What can we learn from Apple's sales training?

Everything that Apple teaches its salespersons is equally applicable in the world of selling financial products as well. The 5 step APPLE process (Approach - Probe - Present - Listen - End) is a classic needs based process that seeks to strike the right balance between selling and counseling. Think of any goal based financial plan that you would like to sell, and you will notice that the APPLE process is a great way to ensure higher sales closures.

The Apple credo of no negativity is indeed a great philosophy in our business. In our business, we sell hope and dreams - of a comfortable lifestyle, of fulfilling children's aspirations. Consciously building positivity in your talk and cutting out all negativity helps keep a positive frame of reference, which helps close sales far more effectively.

Focus on sales approach rather than sales quota is indeed a wise move - one that we hope asset management as well as distribution firms across the country will embrace increasingly over time. This is clearly an inspired move, one that createshappy customers and therefore eventually perhaps generates more sales than monthly targets can achieve.


All content in Marketing Wiz is created by Wealth Forum and should not be construed as views of Kotak MF.

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