iPad has quickly achieved prominent status as a sales tool in the field. In my 30 years of IT experience, I can’t recall a more significant sea change for field sales since the advent of the cell phone or perhaps the Internet itself. Most experts [now] agree that iPad is a game-changer for mobile sales executives. And there’s ample evidence that iPad-related products and services are emerging to help companies integrate the magical device for competitive advantage.

Timothy Titus, CEO of MobilePoint, a solutions provider of iPad sales force automation says:

“With the world’s leading companies capitalizing on the iPad’s unique user experience, MobilePoint is launching ForceMultiplier to give them the tools and information they need to create new revenue opportunities … MobilePoint increases sales performance by driving more effective customer interactions, capturing the resulting feedback and making it available to corporate marketing teams for more informed decision-making.”

According to RapidValue, a mobility provider, they assisted in the deployment an iPad based eDetailing/Sales Catalog solution for a medical manufaturer’s sales team numbering more than 200 sales representatives across North America.

“The solution helped the client by providing relevant sales information to the team on a real-time basis with the right level of security, thus considerably improving the sales-force efficiency.”

Some experts disagree, and when I say “experts” I don’t necessarily mean smart people. Darcy Kelly of WhatsYourDigitalIQ challenges the idea of giving iPads to sales executives citing the likelihood that iPad will create more work for sales reps. I think that’s a reasonable fear.

“The iPad has a lot going for it.  It can be effective for training and presentation purposes.  The iPad can enable digital signage.  It’s great in hospital or physician wait rooms – people can browse or search for information right in their laps (instead of staring at the clock, or flipping through a 6-month-old issue of Sports Illustrated). But – the iPad is not a practical device for sales reps. In most situations, it’s more likely to create more work for them than to improve sales effectiveness.”

With the benefit of 20/20 hind-site we can have a pretty good chuckle reading initial (but historical) reactions. This is a narrow-minded view of iPad’s usefulness and potential as a sales tool but it’s only the precursor to the jaw-dropping argument Mr. Kelly goes on to suggest — that the iPad might be suitable for field sales if (and only if) iOS were replaced with Windows so that Microsoft Office could be installed on it. Because Mr. Kelly penned these comments just 40 days after iPad was released, I’ll cut him some slack, but not much. I have a hunch that removing Microsoft Office from the grasp of sales folks – regardless of the device they use it on – will likely improve field productivity. But that’s a different debate.

iPad Presentations and the Sales Process

To be very clear – I’m not a sales expert. But I have bought a bunch of stuff from sales experts. One thing that seems obvious about iPad as a sales support tool is its capacity to organize, access, and communicate information to help people make a point. One aspect of this process is a seamless flow of answers to help a customer say “yes”.

I’ve watched lots of biz dev and sales executives give presentations and most are flailing. They hop all over the device tapping endlessly on different apps in an effort to demonstrate why their product is superior. A more ideal approach in telling a story with grace is to present content with a fluid interface or at least a carefully scripted approach that mitigates context shifting. Luckily there are tools designed tat can help your sales organization achieve this.

image Google Docs

While Google Docs provides no framework for creating seamless and fluid access to key sales information, I’ve designed database apps that integrate key sales information and even forms for customer requirements capture. For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), Docs can be an ideal solution for sales support because it’s cloud-based, pervasively available across your organization, and possesses enough collaboration and security features to be successful.

image FatStax

Fatstax was inspired by conversations with frustrated field sales representatives who faced one key challenge – they were tired of hauling catalogs, battling laptops, struggling with a slow internet connections in an effort to provide the product information that their customers needed and requested. Lack of sales productivity and operational efficiency was the driving force behind this product. The name comes from those big old “Fat” “Stacks” of paper catalogs and there’s certainly a need to make product information instantly accessible, searchable, and shareable.

imagePDF Expert

This product was my choice for building an executive style document library. This app is a delight to use and seems to provide the best overall viewing and reading experience especially if you have a wide variety of documents to manage and utilize in your business activities. Like the other apps, you can read and annotate PDF documents, highlight text, make notes, draw with your finger and save your changes direct to the PDF files and it’s fully Preview and Adobe Acrobat compliant.

image PictureLink

I’ve written about PictureLink before – it does one thing and it does it without fanfare or an over-the-top and complex user interface. It helps you organize collections of images in a way that make them logically interactive. By selecting regions (think image maps in HTML) you can create hot spots in the images that resolve to other images in the collection.

But there are some really innovative ways that this tool can serve your sales team. Customers often respond well to low-tech presentations. Imagine sketching your selling points in a drawing tool such as Penultimate and then use those sketches and notes as an interactive presentation with tap sones right in the low-tech scribbles. This is a clever way to get your selling points into your client’s head without the predictable and sterile nature of manicured media.

Custom Database and BI App

My favorite approach to building a seamless and fluid sales support solution is a custom app that has the agility to blend important sales data including PDFs, spreadsheets, web pages, and cloud-based documents. Custom solutions afford the opportunity to embrace the ideal selling process and workflow in the context of your sales requirements. By coupling business intelligence and database frameworks, you can craft custom information retrieval and rendering experiences that keep your sales force on message and on script while capturing customer attention through sales presentations. Contact me to chat about this avenue.

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