Assistant Vice President, Practice Development

13 ways to make an iPad your sales force’s WM(b)D

In this era when mobile computing is ubiquitous and fewer people are traveling with their PCs, many companies are using iPads as their “Weapons of Mind-blowing Demonstration.”  While on the surface it seems like developing a sales-specific iPad app is a no-brainer, there are many factors to take into consideration when creating an app and putting it into active use. Too easily the development of an app can become a showboating exercise for your design team and stray from its primary goal – to help close the deal.

A dedicated iPad app can be a great asset for your remote sales team. It can show off your products or services in a visually dynamic and interactive way, and can deepen the initial engagement with a prospect or customer.  However, a sales presentation still needs to provide a timely and relevant message to the customer regardless of the tools used to deliver it.  Here are a few key questions to ask yourself when deciding whether developing a function-specific iPad app is right for your company:

  • What materials will be needed to most effectively demonstrate the value of the services or ideas to the prospect?
  • What is the most efficient way to present the information and impart understanding?
  • What kind of user experience will be most impactful or memorable to the prospect?
  • How will the sales staff use the application and tailor it for the appropriate audiences?

Here are 13 tips for a developing an iPad sales app that will please your sales force and WOW your customers.

1)      If you are creating an app that demonstrates the use of a tool, the functionality presented in the app needs to reflect the most common transactions sought by the sales prospect (for example,  a tax processing demo app should include all of the most common transactions – how to post wages, how to  batch and export tax forms etc.).  The nice-to-have features are great and should be considered, but you need to avoid putting functionality into the demo that will overwhelm the customer or dilute the primary sales message.   

2)      The demo should be easy and flexible so that the most relevant functionality can be quickly reached and so your presentation can be dynamic based on the needs of your audience.

3)      If the app you are creating is an interactive brochure, simply reformatting your printed materials to fit within an iPad application may not make the best use of the device technology.  Consolidate the copy and rethink the messaging of your collaterals. iPads present all kinds of exciting visual and interactive possibilities – to make a great impression on your customer, it’s important that the experience is not boring and text-laden.  You should certainly include details where necessary, but create a core experience that will allow your prospect to see in general what you have to offer and then identify where they want more information.

App Design Considerations

4)      The design of your interactive sales app needs to be compelling but simple so that the representative can quickly get to the information that’s most relevant to the prospect.   Use the iPad’s gesture interactions to quickly highlight information (e.g., zoom) or move on to something else (swipe) for example when a customer has a question.

5)      Depending on the size and complexity of your application color can be used as a kind of “visual breadcrumb.” By having each section or topic associated with a specific color scheme, your salesperson can quickly identify where he/she is within the app and react more quickly to the specific needs of the customer.

Use Color as Visual Breadcrumb in iPad Sales App

6)      Another key factor to consider is how the sales demonstration will look when the iPad is being viewed in portrait or in landscape orientations?  If this were a consumer app you’d want to craft the layout in both orientations to guarantee a great user experience, but since in this case you have a dedicated internal audience, you can force the app to the orientation that most effectively meets your sales presentation needs.

App Content Considerations

7)      One huge advantage of creating a iPad sales app is that the corporate branding and the sales message can be tightly controlled; sales pitches and presentation formats can be locked down and managed.  Legal or Compliance departments will be pleased to know that all of your sales representatives are delivering approved messages and staying within appropriate guidelines.  Changes in branding or messaging – as well as changes to the app – can be made centrally and pushed out to the entire sales force easily by creating a new app release.

8)      Inclusion of videos can be visually stunning and impactful, but if the video takes a lot of time to load and run, it could interrupt the pitch and dilute the sales message.  We have certainly worked with clients in both camps as far as video is concerned, but in each case have made recommendations to the client to best meet the needs of the sales force and prospects.

9)      The content needs to be kept fresh.  Consider updating the application every 3-6 months to that any relevant research or new ideas get incorporated at the appropriate time.

Device Functionality

iPad sales applications can also offer other advantages, such as the ability to leverage native device level features, like:

10)   Access to the calendar, address book, and camera which could enable users to schedule appointments, manage contacts or leads, and conduct video-conference meetings directly from the application. 

11)   With the touch-screen interface and wireless connectivity, your sales force can take orders, collect signatures, and sign deals on-site and have them instantly recorded to the customer’s database file.  

12)   As time moves on, the range of mobile payment options that can be offered through the iPad are growing. Currently there are third-party helper devices like the Square Card Reader that allow instantaneous on-site processing of credit cards. Future iterations of the iPad will certainly be equipped with NFC which will allow for even more seamless mobile sales transactions.

Adoption by the Sales Force is critical

13)   The degree to which sales staff buys in to using the tool you create is obviously important.  Some factors impacting adoption will include the following :

  • Easy to download and install,
  • Easy to access and navigate,
  • Helpful in making the sale,
  • Up to date and comprehensive of all products and services

If those qualities can be achieved, you can smooth the transition of the sales staff into leveraging the application.  One client reported a nearly 60% adoption rate within 4 months of releasing the application to its remote sales staff.  Of those who have adopted it, 90% found it easy to set up and 87% report that it was easy to navigate.

Though there are many factors to consider when building an iPad app for your sales team, the possible advantages of having a powerful interactive sales tool in the hands of your representatives will make the time and effort you spend worthwhile.  Most importantly, your marketing and development teams should work closely with your sales team to accurately pinpoint your primary target personas and the features and functions that will be of most use in making the sale. It’s all well and good to come out with a beautiful interactive app that showcases your designers’ and developers’ talent, but at the end of the day if it’s not helping your salespeople to close deals then it’s just whistling into the wind.

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