Strategy. Innovation. Brand.

Want To Be A Genius? Here’s How.

Here’s the bad news: it’s hard to be a genius. Here’s the good news: anyone can be perceived to be a genius. It just takes good communication skills.

That’s the essential message of Apple’s training program for employees who staff the Genius Bar. A few days ago Gizmodo published Apple’s sales training guide. (Click here). Like most sales training, it’s all about communicating effectively and choosing your words carefully.

Take the feel, felt, found trilogy, for instance. Let’s say a customer complains about the high price of a Mac. It’s probably best not to say, “I agree with you … those empty suits back at corporate are idiots.” Rather, the training guide suggests that you express empathy and then move the customer to a new conclusion:

I can see how you’d feel that way. I felt the price was a little high, but I found it’s a real value considering all the built-in software and capabilities.

Aristotle could have written this example. Ari’s first rule is decorum – the art of fitting in. With good decorum, you demonstrate to your audience that you share their values. Thus, “I can see how you’d feel that way…” means: “I empathize with your point of view and and I share your interests”.

Aristotle recommends concession and shift as the next tactic. “I felt the price was a little high” — in other words, “I agree with you… I concede your point. Let’s not argue about it”. Notice that this phrase is in the past tense. Since we’ve agreed in the past, we can safely shift to the future — the new conclusion that it’s a “real value”.

Apple’s Genius guide has a multitude of communication stratagems deriving directly from Greek rhetoric. For instance, empathize, don’t apologize. The customer is upset because his hard drive is fried. Don’t say, “Gosh, that really sucks – that line of drives never worked well.” Rather say, “I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated.” You comment on the person’s emotional state rather than on the sorry state of your technology. Your decorum is good — you empathize and show that you share your customer’s interests. You’re on the same team.

I’ve looked at a lot of sales training programs — they’re all quite similar and they all derive from Greek rhetoric. The word “rhetoric” simply means the art and science of persuasion. The Greeks perfected it, then we lost it, and now we’re recovering it. So, Apple or Aristotle, it’s all about psychology, communication, and persuasion.

Want to learn more? Check out my earlier post on concession and shift: The Persuasive Future.  Or, just take my class on rhetoric.

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