August 18, 2011, 2:03 PM

Out of the way

One example of not letting technology interfere with good salesmanship.

Lead Photo

Today's consumer often wields a smartphone even while in a store.

It had been a while, at least a year, since I last stepped inside an Apple store. Prior to my visit to one this week, I recalled finding help was not much different from similar retailers. You stood and looked around, hoping to get the attention of a salesperson.

But this time was different. This time, Apple demonstrated it had figured out how to put its own products to work inside the store. It was a lesson in enabling technology without letting it intrude on a potential sale.

The first employee to greet me held an iPad in his hands. Asking me what he could help with I explained I was considering buying an iMac desktop computer or a MacBook Pro laptop, but I had some questions. He asked my name and said someone would be with me after he typed my name into the iPad.

No more than 15 seconds later, Summer showed up. I explained that at five years old, my current laptop is due for a replacement, but I yearned for the better graphics capability of a desktop. Summer said she understood. She asked a few questions about how I use a computer. All the while I held my iPhone in hand with the app open. Amazon had the same machines for about $100 less. But I couldn’t decide which one to buy or who to buy it from.

Summer said nothing about my frequent checking of my phone. I should take my time, she offered. Back and forth I went. Do I buy in-store, do I purchase via my mobile phone, or do I head home and order the computer online? I chose to postpone my purchase, which is more of a want than a need at this point.

Aside from my inability to make a decision (don’t ever enlist my help in buying beer; the choices paralyze me), I left that store realizing that one of the richest companies in the world knew the connection between the customer and the salesperson was not to be impeded by technology.

While Apple, with its money and technology prowess, may be unlike many retailers, it appears to have trained its sales staff not to be concerned about a consumer in the store with a smartphone. Having my smartphone was one key in my deliberations, and Apple knows that its salespeople have to accommodate the new smartphone-toting consumer.

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