So You Bought iPads for Sales – Now What?


CRM Market Analyst, Software Advice

Two telecom sales reps recently stopped by my office to pitch executives on their latest solution. Both toted iPads, which I assume were loaded with dazzling interactive presentations and other tools for elevating the pitch. But neither rep turned on their device.

This got me wondering, did they plan for how they were going to use their iPads? And if they did, what did that plan look like?

“We talk to companies all the time where they literally purchased iPads for their team with no idea of what they were going to be doing with them,” said Matthew Suggs, vice president of enterprise sales at Mediafly Inc., a company that develops iPad sales tools.

Apparently this was not an isolated incident. One recent study reported that while 78 percent of employers plan to deploy tablets across their organization (83 percent of which will opt for the iPad), more than half haven’t articulated a clear adoption strategy.

With this in mind, I wanted to offer a helping hand to readers wanting a ride on the iPad-for-sales bandwagon. I asked some mobile strategists what tips they would offer sales managers looking to maximize their iPad investment.

Keep an Eye on Usage

Just as you would with any major investment, a successful iPad strategy should include clear usage goals and key performance indicators for measuring those benchmarks, according to SAVO Group Senior Marketing Director Dan Schleifer. What you measure with this “governance plan” should be led by stated goals for the roll-out, he said. 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,” Schleifer says.

His company’s sales enablement solution–recently named one of “The Top 11 iPad Apps for Sales”–offers governance tools that monitor 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

One of the iPad’s most powerful assets for sales is its vivid display. But just using it to run standard PowerPoint presentations is a “missed opportunity,” argues Gary Galusha, vice president of sales for UpSync, a content management, presentations and integrated business application developer.

UpSync offers easy-to-use and deploy apps for making and sharing sales presentations on the fly. Users can combine images, videos, PDFs, HTML 5 and other digital assets to quickly assemble a presentation that’s relevant to a particular client. Existing presentations are easily searchable with meta tags and can be readily shared with the customer using a custom link.

“One of our clients said they were in a lunch with a major corporation who asked about a particular product. The rep put together a presentation in about three minutes,” Galusha boasts. “He closed the deal before lunch was over.”

Presentations made with UpSync, or similar products like Showpad and MediaFly, should leverage the unique capabilities of the iPad. 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.

Her company specializes in devising big-picture mobile strategies to prevent or compensate for this kind of fragmented development. One medical device client, for example, came to Excellis to unify processes 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.

Another company, Novartis Vaccines, went to The Cement Bloc when their disconnected mobile strategy began to impact usage. The company ended up creating one solution that integrated CRM with marketing and interactive presentation tools.

"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.

When implemented into the selling process with some careful planning, the iPad can be a useful companion for a sales rep. But don’t expect the device to be a silver bullet for your team. Without proper strategy, your investment could be doomed to dormancy like our recent telecom visitors. As Barry Sherman of PEPworldwide recently noted, "a good salesperson will always outsell sell a bad one, regardless of who has the iPad."

Thumbnail image created by Blake Patterson

  • Gavin Ingham

    Ashley. This is an interesting article and concurs with my teaching about activity and results. I have an iPad and it is one of the best investments I ever made. Yes, it is great for playing videos. Yes, it is good for a quick game of Chess on the plane. Yes, you can stay up with social media etc on it…

    AND… it is also a fantastic productivity tool but it does not necessarily do this right out of the box. On my travels as a speaker I have seen an increasing number of iPads being carried by sales and business professionals. Some make good use of them. Some do not.

    Life and business are hectic today. To be successful you have to work out where to spend your time to get best results and you also have to recognise what eats up your time yet delivers minimal results. The iPad can fit into either category.

    If you bought your iPad as a toy that allows you to watch videos etc and any business benefit it delivers is a bonus then fine but if you want results from it then you need an approach and a strategy. When companies are handing them out they need to help salespeople to use them effectively.

    And, of course, Barry Sherman is right… No amount of fancy gizmos will make a bad salesperson a good one. And top salespeople take responsibility for getting top results, iPad or no iPad.

    • Sales Graphics

      I agree with everyone above. At Sales Graphics we often deal with clients who have made the hardware leap to iPads and then come to us to help leverage it properly.

      Our CustomShow solution does just that. 

  • Anonymous

    To augment the comments above…
    Ensuring the tool works for the user community is the key to the adoption of any tool. The ipad is a great example. The tool must make it possible for the user to do their job faster, easier, better.

    Going beyond PowerPoint… in the world of sales, too much time is spent creating a nice plan for management once a quarter. The problem is that the emphasis needs to be on having a plan that is clear, guides action and produces better results. Too often the focus is checking the box; getting the plan done and then doing something else.

  • Pingback: Sales Utilization Tools like iPads Can Close Business Faster |

  • Pingback: Calculate: Is That Tech Investment Worthwhile? | Invoice Factoring at Light Speed

  • David Friedfeld

    Great short article. And the comments are right on. We are having a sales meeting in three months. I thought it was easy to say, ” let’s just add some app seminar ” and be done with it. Nope. We ‘ll have to be more strategic. You all ave me some great ideas.

    • Ashley Verrill

      Thanks so much for the kind words David.

      Your thought to “just add some app seminar and be done with it,” was exactly why I wrote the article. I think a lot of companies have that assumption, hence our experience with the sales reps bringing in iPads and not even turning them on. I just thought, “wow, what a waste of an investment.” We can do better.

      Thanks again for your comments! Best of luck with the roll out!


      Ashley V.

  • Blogs by Market:
  • Subscribe to the Software Advice CRM Blog

Popular Blog Posts