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3 Things Reps Love, and Hate, About iPads

Posted on  28 June 11  by 

Comment (8)

Sales ToolsWhen it comes to embracing new technology, sales reps often are the last to get on board. Attempts to introduce new technology often fail, as reps go back to their tried and tested ways of selling.

It’s no wonder, then, that reps’ recent interest in using iPads has caught most sales organizations by surprise. In fact, many companies are reporting that reps are proactively purchasing personal iPads to use in the field. Encouraged by the positive feedback from early adopters, a number of companies are in various stages of launching more pilots and arming their broader sales force with iPads, and some are even creating dedicated applications.

But, what makes the iPad such a powerful sales tool and why are reps so drawn to it?

3 Things Reps Love About iPads:

  1. Superior Sales Experience: Not only does the iPad eliminate the need for reps to rote-learn sales pitches, it also makes the entire experience more interactive and engaging for the customer. Features such as instant on and long battery life also add to the iPad’s appeal as an effective tool.
  2. Real-Time Follow Up: The ability to access live information and internal sales resources using iPads means reps can address customer queries instantly, including connecting customers with subject matter experts via web chat, rather than holding them off till they’re back in the office.
  3. Lighter Travel Bag: Gone are the days when reps had to lug sales and marketing collateral from one customer visit to another. With the iPad, travelling light becomes a reality for reps. At a mere 1.34 pounds, the iPad beats the lightest laptops in the market today hands down.

All that being said, like any other technology, the iPad has its drawbacks too, and there are several reasons reps are hesitant to use them.

3 Things Reps Hate About iPads:

  1. No Adobe Flash Support: Irrespective of where you stand on the Flash versus HTML5 debate, most reps cite the lack of Flash as a major drawback of the iPad. With most companies’ sales collateral still running Flash, reps are pressed to find workarounds or alternatives to the iPad.
  2. Compatibility with Existing Sales Tools: Companies and third-party developers have been slow to create iPad-compatible sales tools. This means reps often need to continue carrying their laptops along with their iPads to access their CRM system and complete other administrative tasks.
  3. Another New Technology to Learn: This is a common complaint from sales veterans who’ve clocked in hundreds of customer visits before the iPad was even born. Despite its friendly user interface, the iPad does require getting used to before you place your next big bet on it.

What’s your experience been with iPads? Do you consider them an effective sales tool?

SEC Members, click here to see a peer discussion on the Sales Ops Forum about other sales organizations’ experiences deploying iPads in the field and its impact on business results. Also, visit our Sales Tools Topic Center to learn more on how to drive rep tool adoption in your sales organization.

Comments from the Network (8)

  1. Scott Bell
    on June 30, 2011
    Respond

    We are trying to understand the allure of iPads. You state as your first reaosn reps love it as “Superior Sales Experience”. Can you elobaorate? Reps do not have to learn a “pitch”? Ours do not but I am not sure how the pad replaces/ enhances presenations since there is no powerpoint support, adobe support, etc. so loading a presentation can be interesting. Also, why is the “experience” more engaging for the customer? So far I have seen little real business application of a pad other than I can easily use a browser so, as long as I can poin to rep to a browser and they either have 3G connection of something running native, they cannot easliy use any business data or application – what am I missing? By the way, I love the thing as it is a cool toy but I find little real business use so far.

  2. Joel Moore
    on June 30, 2011
    Respond

    Before the IPAD we were relegated to carting around a trunk full of literature. Then bring in the pieces which we thought necessary to support to sales call. Half the time we needed additional collateral to support the needs of a particular customer. With the IPAD, we have the latest version of each piece of literature and every piece of literature accompanies us on each call to meet the customers need at that moment. Being able to email the literature to the customer while we are meeting to support thier organizations review structure is priceless.

    More importantly, instantly having the ability to share video clips of the product in use provides a higher level of validation for the product. Product videos are far more powerfull than literature. It is my experience that good product videos viewed quickly by customers in your meeting reduces evaluation and sales cycle time. Every good sales person knows getting the customer involved in your product pitch and demo in key. With the IPAD, start the video and hand it to your customer.

    The IPAD is a game changer. Throw you laptop out.

  3. Michael Petillo
    on July 7, 2011
    Respond

    We are developing our mobile strategy for our our Sales and Marketing teams and, of course, there is a lot of interest in the iPad. I would be interested to speak with a representative from any medium to large sales organizations that have successfully deployed IPads to the field sales.

  4. Dan Schleifer
    on July 7, 2011
    Respond

    Full disclaimer: I’m from SAVO and we’re a sales enablement vendor.

    We wholeheartedly agree that tablets are changing not only the sales rep’s experience on the road, but most importantly, having an impact on each and every selling conversation. Showing interactive demos, playing expert or customer videos, and being able to respond to in-meeting sales objections is setting the bar for the customer experience.

    At SAVO, we’re seeing customers at different levels of mobile sales enablement maturity, with most just starting pilot programs on tablets such as the iPad. Generally we’ve seen customers fall in to one of three categories:

    1) Build their own mobile application – customers build their own app to facilitate functions like customer presentations, CRM & ERP access. This tends to be expensive, slow, and risky. When done right, it can be extremely successful (tailored exactly to how that company’s sellers operate), but does carry an ongoing maintenance burden (new releases) and can tie you to one technology platform.

    One of the most common problems I encounter with this approach is that the apps are built around their own data silos. A well-meaning group (Marketing, Sales Ops, a line of business, etc) will have a third party build the app, without thought for which systems it needs to connect to, and they’ll just manually load it with its own content. It’s critical that you connect back via APIs to the system of record – for instance SAVO customers will connect back to our API for sales literature, access to subject matter experts/tribal knowledge, etc.

    2) Go with off the shelf tools. Many customers will use SAVO’s iPad app, their CRM vendor’s app, LinkedIn, Jigsaw, etc. While the user experience isn’t as integrated, this tends to be the most cost effective, have the quickest time to market, and allows you to easily swap out or upgrade components.

    Regardless of approach, we think it’s critical to map out all of the key activities your sellers need to do on the road (access and present PowerPoints, find and communicate with subject matter experts, update CRM records) and make sure that your initial rollout will include all of the minimum requirements so that sellers can leave their laptops at their office on trips.

    -Dan Schleifer
    SAVO Group

  5. Mashhood Beg
    on July 7, 2011
    Respond

    Scott, thanks for the comment. Let me elaborate on why the iPad is considered by some reps to deliver a more superior sales experience. First, it’s true that you cannot run presentations created on Microsoft PowerPoint on the iPad. One way is to use Apple Keynote to create presentations. Alternatively, there are some easy workarounds, such as converting the PowerPoint presentation to video format or picture slideshow or PDF file, hosting the presentation on another site, etc.

    But what makes it really engaging for the customer is the ease and interactivity it offers in delivering sales pitches, not to mention access to live information via the Internet. It allows companies to get creative in the creation and delivery of their sales collateral, providing customers with information on the entire suite of products and services in a few simple taps. It also hands the controls over to the customer, letting them drive the conversation to their areas of interest.

  6. Mashhood Beg
    on July 7, 2011
    Respond

    Michael, thanks for your interest. I’ll follow up with an e-mail to see if we can network you with a few companies that have successfully deployed iPads in the field.

  7. Ryan Draayer
    on September 20, 2011
    Respond

    Those of you who say it has little value haven’t really been using it correctly. First, let me dispell the myth here that the ipad doesn’t run microsoft. In fact, it natively converts powerpoint to a static version that you can simply flick through. If you like animations (& who doesn’t) for $9 you can download keynote and open your really big 80 page deck full of animations and they’ll run flawlessly. Second, you’re right about getting the customer involved. Draw a network diagram or how your product works on “whiteboard” (it’s a free app) or pay a buck or two for one that is more advanced and you literally can email it to everyone in the room before you leave. Or if you like big pictures, take a photo of the actual white board on the wall that you just drew on and save it to your salesforce.com opportunity.

    Watch out, ignore this sales tool at your own peril.

  8. Michael Petillo
    on October 3, 2011
    Respond

    Hello, I would like to speak with someone regarding how their company has structured the stipends(reimbursement) for iPhones and iPads for the sales force. Please let me know if you are willing to share your approach to this matter.

    Best,

    Michael

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