You probably know this, but we just wrote a great strategy guide for launching iPads for sales reps in the field. We strongly suggest you check that out after you give this post a read.

This post is a result of several conversations with extremely frustrated B2B marketers that failed to understand the difference between iPad sales technology apps designed to share sales presentations and iPad sales technology apps designed to share product information (details, specs, catalogs or price lists).

For example, last week at AACC in Houston we met with a prospect in the chemical manufacturing industry. She talked at length about their “Sales Presentation App for the iPad” that was great for sharing videos and PowerPoint presentations about their chemicals and processes. The problem was her sales team now was asking for pricing information so they could deliver soft quotes from their iPads. Their sales presentation app did not have this capability, so she asked the developers to build the code to add it to the app.

6 months delivery time and at a cost of ~ $45,000.00. That’s painful and definitely not in her budget.

On the other hand, quoting and soft quoting are the main capability of iPad catalog apps, but they aren’t designed to show supporting collateral.

So, many are left wondering:

Do we need two separate sales technology apps? A sales presentation iPad app and a sales iPad catalog app?  Or do we need an app that does both?

The answer is it depends on how your sales team sells.

If you read our article on piloting iPad apps and what to measure, then you’re off to a great start. Here we’ll compare and contrast sales presentation apps for iPad vs. iPad Catalog Apps to help you further decide which is best.

Sales Presentation Apps for iPad

Advantages: Sales presentation apps are like PowerPoint on steroids. They enable you to share videos, PowerPoints, and PDFs on the fly in a sales situation.

They’re designed, in general, to support product and service offerings with collateral. Sales presentation apps are especially powerful when you only have a few products to sell or want to get extremely detailed on product lines such as clothing or cars. These apps also can be deployed quickly because most companies already have digital copies available of their collateral.

Most sales presentation apps for the iPad have the capability to email the presentation to a prospect directly from the device. Of course you need an Internet connection to email a PDF from the iPad.

Finally, sales presentation apps for the iPad are typically low cost (like Prezi) or free (like the Videos app that ships with the iPad). Here’s a good list, though it’s a bit dated.

Disadvantages: Sales presentation apps are focused on PRESENTING and are typically not designed to do quoting or take orders.  Also, many sales presentation apps are not built to handle more than a few presentations — meaning you won’t be able to load them up with a 1000 brochures and 50 videos.  Finally, the search function is not a key feature of presentations apps.

Catalog iPad Sales Apps

iPad catalog apps are almost the exact opposite of sales presentation apps.

Advantages: Catalog apps are mostly order-taking apps. They are designed to hold tons of products and their supporting information like price, SKU, quantity, and perhaps, even images. I like to think of these apps as “at the bottom of the sales funnel”.  With catalog apps, you’re able to quickly share pricing and make an actual sales transaction.

Additionally, several catalog apps can be directly interfaced to backend ordering systems like Oracle ERP or similar product databases. A few examples of catalog apps include Handshake and SupeRep, or truly transactional apps like Square.

Disadvantages: Catalog apps are designed more for transactional-type selling, so you won’t find the ability to show a PowerPoint or video to support a product. In order to handle so many products, they often have a rigid structure so you won’t be able to get creative with look and feel.

In closing before you choose an iPad sales app, look at how your team sells to better understand the materials needed to support the selling process. Is it just SKUs and pricing or, is it PDFs and PowerPoints?  Don’t forget to ask your sales team what is needed most.  After all they are the end user that has to use the app everyday to sell your stuff!

What’s been your experience with Sales presentation apps for the iPad? or Catalog Apps?  Which is best for your sales team?