BMW's Brand Store in Paris, among the first to use BMW Genius employees - image: BMWEnlarge Photo
If you’re a fan of Apple and its products, chances are good you’ve shopped at an Apple retail store. If you’ve visited an Apple store to look at hardware, or to deal with a technical problem on an Apple product, you’ve probably encountered a product specialist known as an "Apple Genius."
Chances are good that an Apple Genius was able to answer your question, resolve your problem and send you on your way with a (generally) positive outlook on the way Apple sells its wares and treats its customers. As computers and electronics become more and more sophisticated and capable, the need for product “Geniuses” increases.
Selling cars has gotten more complicated in recent years as well, and today’s new car salesperson must be knowledgeable about product, financing, vehicle history, brand history and a range of other subjects that customers are likely to quiz him on.
Casual shoppers often avoid sales staff, expecting high-pressure tactics even if they’re just in the information-gathering stage. If the Genius model works to help sell computers, tablets and smartphones, couldn’t the same model be employed to help sell cars?
Enter BMW’s “Genius Everywhere” program, which Advertising Age
says will be rolled out nationwide to coincide with the launch of the i3 electric
and extended-range electric
car in 2014. BMW Genius employees will be specially trained on product, and they’ll even be equipped with iPads in case the customer asks a question they can’t answer.
What BMW Geniuses won’t do, however, is sell cars. If and when the conversation progresses to that point, the Genius hands the customer off to a salesperson, who will then work with the buyer to complete the sale.
BMW Genius employees are paid a salary, not commission, so there’s no pressure to close deals as there would be on the sales floor. In Europe, where the BMW Genius program originated
, the Genius staff helps ensure that customers get the options they need and want when a car is ordered from the factory.
Most sales in the U.S., however, are from dealer inventory, which will likely require a different focus on the part of the BMW Genius. The German automaker hopes to recruit college students to fill the role, as they’re able to work flexible hours and have a mastery of contemporary technology.
While some dealerships are likely to resist adding headcount without immediately boosting sales, the program has proven to deliver results in Europe. Will it work in the United States, particularly as BMW expands into sales of non-traditional technologies? If Apple is any indication, we suspect the answer is yes.