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iPad for Sales Reps – WiFi vs. Wireless Carrier in the Field?

Wifi vs Wireless

Depending on where you are in the process of deploying iPads to your sales reps, we recommend starting with Why companies deploy iPads? or the Guide to Launching iPads; two free ebooks that will get you primed and ready.

Buying the right iPad for sales reps is a true dilemma for many of our customers, especially with larger sales forces. Is WiFi-only the right type with its lower initial price point? Or should you invest in one that has wireless carrier capabilities as the best iPad for sales reps since they may need more reliable connectivity  to close a deal?

There a many different flavors of iPads but I’m referring to a WiFi-only versus a carrier-equipped iPad (3G, 4G, LTE).  The price difference is roughly $100.00 plus the data fees (not inconsequential for a large sales force), so the decision on the best iPad for sales reps is important. For example, with Verizon Wireless here in the US, you generally pay an additional $10-$30 for a monthly data plan. For AT&T, you’ll find roughly similar pricing. Outside of the US, the cost varies.

Most of our customers use the WiFi-only iPad for their sales reps and get by just fine. They balanced the lower initial purchase price with lower data costs against the more reliable coverage. So if you want the fast answer, there you have it.

The Problem with WiFi-Only

Let me share two quick stories–hopefully, you can’t relate to either of them.

1.) During a recent FatStax iPad app pilot, a user was on-site to work with engineers at a large construction project. He was able to show the engineers the installation manual for a piece of equipment, but couldn’t email the document because his iPad was WiFi-only and there was no WiFi available.  Being a clever guy, he drove to a nearby Starbucks, sent the email, and came back to the job site to make sure they had what they needed. Ideal? No. Creative? Yes.

2.) I was working with a customer at a trade show was using WiFi-only iPads that was paired with a MiFi card from Verizon. This enabled them to use WiFi through their wireless carrier.  All was working great on day 1, but they accidentally forgot to charge the MiFi card the second night.  Due to the terrible WiFi in the convention, they were able to share collateral on the iPad with prospects, but could not send it because the MiFi was dead. Oddly enough, Starbucks saved the day again with a short walk that afternoon.

So, after reading these two real-life stories, how important is Internet connectivity for your sales team?

Or is cost the real issue?

Four Questions to Consider

Here are four quick questions that we think can help companies get to the bottom of the issue and pick the right iPad for sales people.

1.) How often does your sales team need the Internet?  Occasionally or is it critical to have access at all times?

2.) Can the sales team access your collateral when their iPad is not connected to the Internet? Most iPad sales apps, including FatStax, can solve this problem.

3.) Are online tools needed for a typical sales transaction? For example, an order form, a ROI calculator, or a configuration tool. CRM information is another online tool that field sales people often need to access.

4.) Does your sales team need to send email from the iPad immediately? In other words, do customers NEED information now or, can they wait until your sales rep finds Internet service?

Before making these investment decisions on the right iPad, work in the field with reps to answer these questions and identify other issues that might impact your sales process and success.  Deploy a small pilot program with some of your best reps to see what they actually need, not what they tell you they want.

In the end, the best iPad for sales reps is the one that fits your business and how your team sells. Is it worth spending an additional $300 a year to ensure a sales rep doesn’t lose a sale?

Hopefully, your sales rep doesn’t end up in a location without Internet connectivity (and no Starbucks in sight!) when they need to send an email to close a deal fast.

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.