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Strategies for using iPads in sales

By Ashley Furness, Guest Blogger and Market Analyst for Software Advice.
Photo: (c) Apple Inc.
With Mercedez Benz, General Mills and other huge labels buying into iPads for sales, it's easy to imagine the device as some sort of silver bullet for sales. In reality, the technology will only live up to its full potential with careful mobile strategic planning. 
Surprisingly, one recent study 
found that while 78 percent of employers plan to buy tablets for their organization (83 percent of which will opt for the iPad), more than half have yet to define a clear deployment strategy. 

Here are three expert tips for approaching iPad strategizing for sales.

Set Goals for Usage, Monitor Results 

Myriad companies have developed sales enablement solutions specifically for the iPad. This software breed helps reps serve up the right information, at the right time in the right situation. It also gives managers oversight on sales activities.

Dan Schleifer, senior marketing director for iPad solutions maker SAVO Group, recommended writing a “governance plan” before rollout--or setting specific goals for how the team should use the device. For instance, first consider whether you are using the iPad primarily as a presentation and sharing tool, CRM productivity tool, or both.

“A classic example [of a situation where you would measure usage] is launching a new product. For many of our customers, this is their biggest revenue growth initiative, and one that often fails in the field due to low adoption,” he said.

Team leaders can use such oversight tools to see whether a sales rep went through product launch training, viewed competitive analyses, or downloaded relevant sales assets.

“If a sales rep hasn't done these things, I can guarantee that they’re not out pitching the new product,” Schleifer said.

Go Beyond PowerPoint

Using the iPad to run standard PowerPoint presentations is a “missed opportunity,” according to Gary Galusha, vice president of sales for Upsync, a content management, presentations and integrated business application developer.

One of the iPad’s most powerful assets for sales is its vivid display. Marketing and sales should work together to create selling materials that make full use of the ability to swipe, flip, pinch and more.

Companies such as Upsync, Showpad and Mediafly have created applications that can pull various marketing materials, analyses and other tools together in an instant. This enables reps to personalize presentations depending on the clients questions or unique needs. These presentations can combine images, videos, PDFs, HTML 5 and other digital materials.

For Boston Scientific–which rolled out more than 4,500 iPads to field sales teams in 2010–the touch screen allows users to spin, zoom and rotate complicated device models and run through interactive simulations.

“Trying to show innovative therapies in a way that is easy to understand and see was challenging in the old world, particularly as health care professionals’ time was increasingly difficult to come by,” notes Rich Adduci, Boston Scientific’s Chief Intelligence Officer. “When we saw Steve Jobs walk out on that stage with the iPad, we all thought, ‘that’s it!’”

Think Big

Many companies make the mistake of thinking about their mobile strategy in pieces. First they mobilize their CRM system, then they roll out an app for sales, another for accounting, another for data storage, and so on.

“Companies that build a bunch of disparate apps find it’s not sustainable, then have to rebuild one platform and end up spending way more then they should,” Excellis Interactive Marketing Director Molly Maple explains.

She described one medical device client that wanted to unify processes in this way for their 2,200-person sales team. The $3.5-billion company was using Dropbox for storing, a calendar app for scheduling, and mobile CRM. Users were frustrated. They needed a way to integrate all three applications with activities where the sale happens in the presence of the customer, Maple said.

So, Excellis created a single application that allowed reps to schedule meetings, manage account information in CRM, check inventory, place orders, collect payments and sign contracts. This centralized all of their sales activities and eliminated the manual processes of sending orders and invoices separately.

When implemented into the selling process with some careful planning, the iPad can be a useful companion for a sales rep. The bottom line here is don't just continue business as usual.

"Transitioning your field sales team over to an iPad platform is more than just an upgrade of their technology. It represents a key shift in the engagement between sales representatives and their customers,” says Meghan Lopresto, vice president of multichannel marketing and sales force analytics for The Cement Bloc.

(c) 2012 Software Advice, Inc