Tablet Transformation

November 15, 2012

How iPads and tablets are changing the face of sales and marketing

IPads and tablet devices have become important to sales and marketing professionals in home products and many other industries, according to a recent survey of business professionals.

Late last year, Huthwaite Inc., a sales performance improvement organization, undertook a study of sales professionals and their use of tablets. The global survey revealed that tablets, along with smart phones, are enabling sales representatives to gain a competitive edge in communication and collaboration. Of the 8,500 managers, directors and associates who took part in the worldwide study, 47% cited faster communication as the greatest benefit derived from use of these devices.  

The survey revealed that about half of the sales representatives who reported benefiting from this faster communication met their most recent quarterly sales targets.      
Huthwaite President and CEO John Golden noted that quick and efficient information is the secret to converting prospects into sales, observing that when salespeople are given appropriate tools, they are able to focus on the single person who matters most: the buyer.

Huthwaite found that, of companies that gave tablets to their employees, 85% provided them with iPads. The pharmaceutical industry had the most sales representatives using tablets—about 18% of survey respondents.

Successful Sales

According to Tom Pisello, a blogger and self-proclaimed "ROI Guy," the iPad and similar devices show great promise in helping revolutionize selling. Imagine being able to sit down next to a buyer with your iPad, have the prospect answer a few simple interactive questions and then produce a customized configuration and cost comparison just for him or her. That is possible when sales presentations are entirely customized and personalized with the iPad.  

The tablet is ideal in a new world characterized by buyers who want shorter, more personalized content that is 100% relevant and optimized for channels that include iPads.

Early concern existed that if iPads and tablets were used in sales presentations, those presentations would come across as too "canned." But, in fact, just the opposite has occurred, said participants in a webinar focused on iPads and tablets as next-generation sales tools sponsored by the Sales Challenger, a blog focusing on sales executives.  

Rather than appearing canned, more customized and tailored discussions have resulted, according to Shelley Lawrence, director of sales operations at ENDO Pharmaceuticals. Ben Calfee, vice president of sales operations and enablement for LexisNexis, added that, rather than yielding canned presentations, iPads and tablets have resulted in sales efforts becoming more nimble.

According to ReelSEO — a website providing information on online video marketing — referencing Forbes, the ways companies communicate internally and interact with customers is changing as a result of the iPad. RC Auto, a Phoenix-based independent automobile dealer, uses iPads in almost every facet of the sales process. Because the iPad is easy to carry, it is as convenient for dealership sales representatives to do business with a prospect in a restaurant as it is in their own dealership offices.   

On the iPad’s screen, representatives can show photos of available cars, as well as spotlight options, calculate payments and total cost, do appraisals, explain depreciation, or even complete a sales transaction. Using iPads in the sales process, RC Auto has tripled used car inventory and also tripled sales of that inventory.

Another company that has witnessed success with tablets in every aspect of business is Champion AC, an HVAC contractor in San Antonio.  According to spokesperson Allie Benson, Champion AC technicians can use their iPads to show customers videos or answer questions via the Web, and authorize customers' applications for credit. The Square application is used for credit card applications, making payment a one-stop process.

Using iPads has allowed Champion AC to virtually eliminate use of paper products, Benson noted. The company has saved more than $11,000 in paper costs so far. Moreover, the company has not had to reorder paper since it made the switch to iPads more than a year ago, Benson said.

Another success story is San Diego-based Keco Pump & Equipment, which sells pumps and pump accessories through both a marine division and a municipal and industrial division. At the company, salespeople have been using iPads for two to three years. "When we're visiting a client either in person or at a tradeshow, it's a much more intimate way to display our products and features, as opposed to a client sitting behind me as I use a laptop," said CEO Andrew L. Bleier. "You can sit alongside the client, and also feel much more comfortable giving them the controls and allowing them to scroll through the offerings."

The iPads are used to show clients short videos and animations of how the company’s pumps function. From there, a sales representative can quickly begin showing additional accessories of ancillary products that complement the pumps.

"We're able to take in customers' contact information, plug that in in advance [of the sales call] and generate a formal quote on site," Bleier said. "That reduces the need for salespeople to review notes and put together a quote when they return to the office. They can essentially create a quote with the customer, allowing them to be very transparent with that customer. It really gets the buyer invested in the process."

Practical Tips

The following are strategies recommended by experts when leveraging iPads and other types of tablets in sales and marketing.

Thoroughly test all tablets, apps and connectivity before iPads and tablets are sent out on the road with sales team members. Some customers are less than forgiving about hardware or software breakdowns that could have been avoided, advised tech writer Will Kelly.

Provide your sales team with tablets they can use to plan and prepare for sales calls and sales meetings, said Huthwaite’s Golden.

Use a standard suite of productivity and sales applications across all the tablets provided to your sales representatives, then make sure those apps are loaded on each, Kelly said. SAP, Salesforce, SageCRM, Sybase and other major customer relationship management (CRM) providers offer iPad or Android client apps for their CRM applications. In addition, sales force automation and other contact management tools allow sales representatives to gain complete access to customer data in the field.

The best sales representatives are always out in the field, where they can use their tablets as communication hubs for video conferencing, instant messaging and file collaboration, among other needs, Kelly said.

Because sales teams tend to be among the most enthusiastic trackers of sales metrics, representatives should measure the effectiveness of the tablet, focusing on such issues as length of sales cycle, time between advances and preparedness for sales calls. "Look for ways to account for their tablet usage in any sales team productivity metrics management already tracks," Kelly said.

Take full advantage of applications that help sync information on the tablet with office computers. This may include CRM, LinkedIn or third-party applications, Golden said.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, sales and marketing must work together to make sure the content that sales representatives present on tablets is both mobile friendly and compatible with both the representatives' tablets and most tablets on the market. Writes Kelly: "Moving traditional marketing and sales collateral to the tablet opens up opportunities for interactivity that salespeople didn’t have before with glossy sales brochures."

Mary Lou Denny is executive vice president of Walt Denny Inc. Denny can be reached at marylou@waltdenny.com.

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