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Developing iPad Sales Apps vs. Buying iPad Sales Apps: Which is better?

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Depending on where your company is in the mobile sales platform decision process, we recommend starting with Why companies deploy iPads? or the Guide to Launching iPads; two free ebooks that will get you primed and ready.

Are you looking into developing iPad sales apps for your company?  Where to get started? How do you hire developers?

Many companies seem overwhelmed by the possibilities. They don’t know that they can buy an iPad sales app platform off-the-shelf, much less what the differences are between developing and buying iPad sales apps.

Perhaps you’re thinking . . . my cousin’s best friend’s uncle’s sister developed an app, pushed it out to the app store, and made a million dollars. She wasn’t a full-time developer and did it in her spare time. If she can do it, our IT department can too …

“How do I develop a customized iPad sales app?” is a question we hear often. For some organizations, developing their own iPad sales apps can be effective. But for others the costs and roadblocks will make them wish they chose the more convenient option.

The key to success is in understanding the differences between developing an iPad sales app vs. buying an iPad Sales platform. So let’s compare and contrast the two.

Developing an iPad Sales App:

Let’s start with a clarification.  Using Dropbox or iBooks is not developing an app.  Building an app means you are hiring developers to write software code to produce a functional iPad sales app used by your sales team.

To see some of the most common features of iPad sales apps read this first.

So by developing an iPad sales app, you are hiring coders.  Some of the advantages of hiring software developers are:

  1. You have complete control over the features and functionality. Sounds good, right?
  2. Your sales app will be uniquely matched to your sales process. No other companies will have an iPad sales app quite like yours. The features and user interface are uniquely yours too. Customizations? The sky is the limit.
  3. You can add features and launch them when complete. With developers, you create new features and deploy them to your app without Apple’s approval or submitting them to the App Store.

Be cautious–developing your own iPad sales app has a share of drawbacks, too.

Disadvantages of developing your own iPad Sales App:

  1. Direct Costs. Ballpark – $25,000-$300,000 depending on features needed and integrations required for your sales process. (Storydesk wrote a very informative article on this recently that’s worth a read.) Any developer worth their chops will cost $100-200,000 to hire full-time. Expect to pay $150-$450/hr for enterprise class talent at a development shop.
  2. Support Costs – includes the recruiting process and code support costs. Ongoing maintenance of the code includes accommodating iOS updates (keep in mind, Apple’s pushing multiple ones per year). Don’t forget the cost to develop new user features–to keep you on the cutting edge.
  3. Time to launch. Three companies told us it took about nine months to design, develop, test, and launch their iPad sales apps. Add another three to six months to get it right while your team adapts to it the field. Ouch.
  4. Bug fixes. These are inevitable. Expect bugs in any software–large and small. Remember that tiny bug in a game you loved to play that reared its ugly head after Apple released a new iOS update?  Your game no longer works and the software on your iPhone or iPad was also affected. Since you are responsible for the code now, you have to pay to fix it.

Maybe developing an iPad sales app is for you, maybe it’s not. Let’s look at the advantages of paid iPad sales apps.

Buying iPad Sales Apps

As before, let’s clarify.  Paid iPad sales apps are pre-built off-the-shelf platforms ready for your files and information.

Almost all iPads sales apps are sold as Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS. For those not familiar with the term, check out this article. Think of it as though you are leasing software.

Advantages of buying an iPad Sales platform off-the-shelf

  • Overall Cost. In comparison to developing you own app, it will cost ~$5,000-$85,000 annually to deploy an off-the-shelf iPad sales app depending on the size of your sales team and features you need. SaaS companies like us or are responsible for updating the features and iOS compatibility for all customers–spreading and reducing the cost of monthly/annual fees.
  • Speed to launch. Many off-the-shelf iPad sales apps are launched in a month or less. Deploying the app to the field is the only way you’ll know it works.
  • Bug fixes. Paid iPad sales app and software developer services are forced to fix bugs quickly to keep clients smiling.
  • Customizable. You have options to quickly customize them to your brand and your sales process.
  • The best ideas may come from other industries and other sales teams. With thousands of users across various industries, iPad sales app companies integrate customer feedback into features that you never knew you needed.
  • Quit when you like.  Most iPad sales platforms offer monthly payments or yearly payments-no long-term obligation. This means you can try them for a few months and learn a lot about how successful the project will be for your sales team.

Decision time. Which is best for you?

A larger corporation can absorb the costs, seek developer talent, and spend the time to deploy an iPad sales app.

But if you are looking to launch quickly and at a fraction of the cost, buying an iPad sales app may be the way to go–even if your cousin’s best friend’s uncle’s sister did develop her own app.

About J. Rusty Bishop, PhD

I've spent the last 5 years helping great brands create amazing experiences for their sales teams during one on one sales interactions. Helping sales people do their job is my passion. When I'm not working, I am on the ocean fishing in San Diego, Ca.