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Are My Distributors and OEM Partners Using iPads to Sell?

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For the past few years, we have been working with several multi-national corporations to support their iPad-based mobile initiatives. Inevitably, they reach the conclusion that their iPad sales app could be a great way to support sales people at their distributors and OEM partners.

Or their distributor partners see their sales app in action and directly ask for access.

This leads to major dilemma. 

How do you know if your distributor sales team partners are using iPads to sell?

Sure, you sprung for iPads for your internal team, but there’s no way you are going to get budget approval for buying iPads for distributors, too. Right?

Many of you have 1000s or 10,000s of distributors across the world making this even more impractical to think about or budget.

(Note: This brings up the second dilemma.  If some of your distributors are using iPads, how can you know if the app you are providing them is being used at all? We’ll cover that one in another article, since it is critical…)

Having worked through several of these the past year, it’s clear to us that just giving an iPad sales tool to your distributors is not for every company, but for those that are serious about bridging the communication gap between their parent company and their distributors sale people it can be AMAZING.

In this article, we’ll show you four (4) practical ways our customers have successfully worked with their distributor partners to launch iPad selling tools that drive revenue and facilitate better communication with their selling partners across the world. All by using iPads to sell!
Ask your distributors directly about iPads
It may surprise you that many of your OEM partners are already supplying mobile devices to their employees, or are planning to in the near future.

According to a ChangingWave Research poll, more than 1-in-5 companies say they will be buying tablets for their workers, with 84% of those purchases to be iPads.

One of our customers recently found out that 4 of their 10 biggest distributors had already deployed iPads and were anxious to get apps from their suppliers.  They actually found this out through us when their distributors started calling us and not them directly.

The bottom line is ASK THEM.

Most companies have partner managers and regular communications with their distributors.

Run a pilot program with a few iPads

Do you know the saying “the proof is in the pudding”? This is a good way to show the proof iPad sales apps can be a great tool for communicating with partners before spending a dime on devices or expensive app roll-outs.

One of our customers sent a mass email to their distributors asking for volunteers to pilot an iPad sales app for their engineers.  The response was so overwhelming that they had create four pilots instead of one.  After piloting the app with reps and their own iPads for two months, the manufacturer polled the participants to get arrive at a go/no-go decision on their app.  In this case, the manufacturer was able to show a direct ROI from the pilot.

It wasn’t all roses, though.  One group of distributors responded very poorly to the pilot.  After some digging, we determined most of the distributor reps were using WiFi-only iPads and were unable to access a key tool on the manufacturer’s website from the app.  Bummer, we could have solved that too!

Incentive programs

If you’re willing to cover some of the device costs for your distributor partners but not all, implementing an incentive program can be a good way to get started. Offering to pick up a portion of the iPad cost will offset some company costs and give partners an opportunity to purchase a tool they can use both professionally and personally. Or even a contest to surpass sales goals to receive a free iPad!

It could be your distributors and OEM partners have wanted iPads for some time, and your company’s mobile initiative gives them the excuse, and incentive, to make the purchase themselves. A win-win to incentivize distributors to use your iPad sales app and want to win iPads too.

Buy iPads for everyone

This can be an expensive venture based on what budget you’re working with or how wide your distributor network stretches, but this is the only sure way to get iPad in the workplace for each and every employee. Many times if you order directly from Apple they can give you a discounted rate when ordering multiple devices. Just make sure your budget can accommodate for the upfront cost of devices.

And please, please, please, run an iPad sales pilot first!

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.