Selling with iPad

We’re headed towards Q2 like a freight train and companies are looking deep for ways to boost sales and make projections. For some companies, it’s time to readdress whether or not to go mobile for the sales team and distributors. Of course, this leads to the inevitable question of do we have enough funds to buy iPads for field reps this year?

After all, companies reason, if our competitors are using the device to be more productive, why can’t we? Meanwhile, in case you hadn’t noticed most of your field reps are using iPads already, so why not take advantage of that too. (You did know that right?)

Logical request? Yes, but it’s also reasonable for companies to do their homework before leaping on the iPad for field reps train. In a recent post, we focused on The Top 5 Reasons that Companies are Buying iPads for their Sales Forces. It was so popular we went ahead and created a downloadable version.

In our daily conversations, we hear a lot of objections and concerns about adopting iPads for field reps. Some have the ring of truth, some smokescreens.

At the end of quarter, some companies will get on the “iPad for field reps” train, while others will remain at the station. For those that are waffling, here’s the top 5 excuses we hear NOT to buy iPads for field reps. We’ll rate them as “True” or “Smokescreen” to help you deal with the excuse.

1. “iPads are not secure enough for our company”

What you really mean – “We don’t trust our sales team to take care of their iPads.”

There is a concern with devices that make it easy for field sales to take corporate information with them outside the office. For the iPad specifically, we hear the reluctance more with companies that do not currently support Apple products. Even if there are fewer actual security issues with Apple products (seems that there are), knowing what you are dealing with is more comfortable than the unknown.

Smokescreen
Most sales forces currently have laptops and mobile phones that probably contain more information than iPads. The security concern has been around forever and will continue not just with Apple products. With the additional security in the new 7.0 upgrade, the arguments seem to be more and more like an excuse to stay put.

2. “We just don’t have the budget, right now.”

What you really mean – “We don’t think that buying iPads for field reps will make us more money.”

It’s not so much buying an iPad itself, which is seen as relatively inexpensive and a one-time charge. In many cases, adding to an previously negotiated  phone contract will reduce the charges.  If not, companies may have some extra negotiating power with their current supplier.

There is also the additional expenses for IT support – setup, deployment, updating or adding systems, maintaining, training, etc. that are included in the considerations.

True

It’s true to an extent. Companies need to weigh the costs of ownership versus the benefits. It’s always easier to document costs than the benefits of a new technology. Piloting new technology and tracking the results will give answers to these questions. Stop guessing and potentially overweighting the costs and underestimating the benefits. However, if you want to put together some hard numbers, check out Nancy Nardin’s article about the cost of not using iPads. Her numbers are mind numbing.

3. “We are waiting to see how other companies will use them.”

What you really mean – “We don’t know enough in order to deploy and train using a new sales tool.”

Most companies are followers – looking at leaders in their industry to emulate what works and avoid what doesn’t. By nature, most companies take a wait and see attitude towards new technology. Admitting it is the first step toward fixing it.  How about a pilot to see how YOUR sales team will use iPads with YOUR sales process. Choose a few of your most tech-savvy reps and give them support to use iPads. Take the findings and apply them to the entire sales force as appropriate.

True
To be fair, most companies want to know exactly what apps their field reps will use and how to integrate the iPad with their current sales processes. In that way, waiting is prudent. However, if companies aren’t actively investigating the how and why of adding new mobile tools like the iPad to their sales forces, they are avoiding the issue, hoping it will go away. It won’t.

4. “It’s just another toy for sales, not a tool”

What you really mean – “We think our sales force will not use this new sales tool as a sales tool.”

Sales representatives are sometimes known for complaining about not having enough resources and, when they get them, they complain about not having enough resources. Remembering previous cries for wolf, the company ignores another request. “The iPad is just the latest toy that sales wants but doesn’t really need.”

We never actually hear those words. What we hear is that “we have bigger priorities” or we are going after ‘low hanging fruit” with other projects. The mindset is that there is little additional value to providing this tool to the sales force.

Smokescreen
Not putting a device in your sales force’s hands because there is a possibility they might occasionally play a game or movie on it is pretty silly. For those that really want to do spend their time that way, they can do the same with a laptop or smart phone that is already provided. Also, most reps are already using their own devices in their jobs in some way. Surprise!

5. “They already have Laptops – Why should we buy iPads?”

What you really mean – “We don’t really understand why our field reps need information instantly and how it can impact their production.”

Creating or editing documents on The iPad is now pretty easy with tons of apps to run standard PowerPoints, Word docs, and more. However, field technical support or sales specialists that need to work with specialized software or create multiple documents locally are not the best candidates right now for the iPad.

Smokescreen
Laptops are mobile but they just aren’t FIELD devices for field sales forces. The vast majority of sales people that focus on generating sales and converting prospects do not use their laptop regularly in the field, even if they carry them.

Conversely, iPads ARE field devices that can be used very effectively in the selling process. In that way, these devices are complimentary. Would you take away a smartphone just because you can get Skype on your laptop?

The Bottom Line

The common thread is that the costs of ownership outweigh the returns. Expenses are usually easier to document than benefits. If your plan is to wait until the benefits are so apparent that it’s a no brainer, you miss an opportunity to plan effectively and will need to scramble when your competition starts seeing how iPads for field reps make them much more productive.

If you don’t have a plan in place to document the expenses and benefits, in practice, then these objections are just excuses.

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.