Any sales team knows that efficiency and effectiveness are keys to optimizing sales. Jason Faulkner, U.S. sales manager for Degelman Industries, says that Apple's new iPad has helped him greatly in advancing his iron-selling process.
Filling the gap between the laptop and smartphone, both in size and capabilities, the iPad is forging a new path not only in the world of technology but in the business realm as well.
Cleaning up sales pitches
Faulkner purchased his iPad in early April of last year and began integrating it into his sales pitches immediately. One of the first things he did was transfer all of his product and business literature to the mobile device. "Instead of taking this 4-inch, 3-ring binder with me when I visit a customer… I take it all with me on the iPad. I know where everything is, and I am able to e-mail literature we were just looking at right from it," says Faulkner. He also pointed out that leaving the binders that are stuffed with product literature behind presents a cleaner, more professional image that could prove to be an advantage for salespeople trying to make their way in with new clients.
Using GoodReader for iPad ($2.99, app2.me/2924) and QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite for iPad ($14.99, app2.me/2534), Faulkner can open, edit, and manipulate PDFs as well as Microsoft Office files and PowerPoint presentations. Quickoffice also allows Faulkner to open e-mail attachments directly from the native iPad Mail client and attach his own documents to outgoing e-mails. The latter is a particularly useful way to give a potential client product literature and other information. Faulkner says that everyone is so used to digital communication now that e-mailing product literature to a client is commonplace. It's also another reason to follow up with the client, to see if he or she received the information, and ask them if they had any questions.
The competitive edge
Showing up to a visit with a brand-new iPad can also give customers a sense that both the company and the salesperson representing it are high-tech and forward-looking. In addition, the iPad is a great conversation starter. Faulkner says that people react instantly when they see his iPad, asking questions like: "Oh, is this one of those new iPads?" "How does it work?" "What else do you do with it besides show videos?" And it's easy to demonstrate the features of the iPad using material related to the products or services you're selling.
The iPad's features can reinforce the perception of high-tech competence and help a salesperson gain an edge over the competition. For example, during a sale visit, a client may ask how your product compares to the competition. With the iPad, you can instantly access the competitor's website, review their products, and look at video demos. Of course, it's still up to the salesperson to dispel the client’s concerns and help them choose the right product.
Charged and ready
Although the iPad has certainly improved his sales approach, Faulkner says that he appreciates it most as a computer replacement. "The biggest advantage of the iPad over any type of computer—even if it’s a laptop computer—is its quick startup. You can go into a customer's office, turn it on, and it’s going."
The instant-on feature coupled with the iPad's long 10-hour battery-life help make a salesperson’s day more effective. You can not only get your presentation going quicker, you don't have to worry about running out of power on busy days packed full of sales appointments. In addition, the iPad is an enticing marketing tool. Literature can answer many of a client's questions, but the ability to show them your product in action makes it a lot easier to sell them on its benefits. And though laptops provide the same capabilities, the iPad's size and weight allows for a less cumbersome experience—and one that clients can hold in their own hands.
Faulkner uses the iPad to show clients his company's website, but he uses it most often to show product videos via the pre-installed YouTube app. In addition, Faulkner suggests that salespeople store their most important videos on the iPad itself. That way, they are available when an Internet connection is not.
The least expensive way to connect to the Internet is via Wi-Fi, but that's not always available during a sales visit. Salespeople interested in staying connected beyond the reach of Wi-Fi should consider the iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G. ($629-$829, store.apple.com) This version of the iPad allows users to connect to the Internet wherever AT&T coverage is available through a month-to-month data plan (250MB for $14.99 or 2GB for $25). Note that Verizon is now offering a 3G iPad solution.
Besides Internet considerations, Faulkner says businesses should consider some of the iPad's shortcomings before making the investment. He points out that the iPad has not eliminated his need for a laptop or desktop computer to create the literature and videos that he shows during sales pitches. Also, he says that the iPad's inability to show Flash animation limits what he can show the client from his company's website.
Every salesperson should have one
Before you buy one, you need to consider how you plan on using the iPad and determine how its options can best meet your needs. Most importantly, consider the apps you intend on using. A variety of these cater directly to salespeople and are available in the App store. Faulkner listed KAYAK Flights (free, app2.me/3055) as one of his favorite apps. It allows users to quickly check airline ticket prices and purchase them at their lowest rate.
Other useful sales apps include the built-in Maps app, which provides directions to clients’ locations with both satellite and street view maps; TweetDeck for iPad (free, app2.me/2537), which lets salespeople quickly access Twitter and other social media sites; Keynote ($9.99, app2.me/2481), an app for making slide and video presentations; Pages ($9.99, app2.me/2412), an app that lets salespeople work with documents and create product literature; and Numbers ($9.99, app2.me/2480), a spreadsheet program that lets you record product orders, service statistics, and other numerical data.
With prices starting at $499, Faulkner says the iPad is definitely worth the price. Though he hasn't had the trendy tool long enough to see how its integration into his sales approach has changed his sales numbers, he’s very positive about its effects on his business. "I personally think every salesperson should have one."