The iPad-enabled sales force: Boosting productivity for the enterprise

More and more sales, field service, and manufacturing departments are turning to tablets for the portability of a smartphone, but the larger display and broader keyboard handling capabilities of a laptop.

With Apple accounting for an overwhelming 89 per cent of enterprise tablet activations in Q3 2014, the iPad is clearly still king of the enterprise tablet arena.

One of the most powerful ways iPads are being used by enterprise is for sales force automation. With an iPad in hand, sales people can access and casually guide a client through the right sales presentation, demonstrate their product and then access back-end systems to generate a price quote, check product availability and confirm delivery dates, accomplishing in one on-site meeting what previously took a week or more and a dozen emails back and forth.

In fact, mobile sales forces are becoming so accustomed to using tablets that Forrester likes to tell about one company that held a competition to see which sales person could maneuver their website with the fewest mistakes while holding the iPad upside down (so the client sitting across the table can see it right side up).

Here are two examples of sales force automation applications that significantly increased sales efficiency.

Japanese Bank – upgrades from smart phones to iPads

A full service bank based in Japan offers loans, mortgages, and credit cards and also provides leasing services for a wide range of equipment for construction, manufacturing, businesses and medical institutions.

Previously, the bank had deployed a Windows Mobile sales force automation system on smartphones that was used for making contacts, schedules, and for sales performance tracking. However the bank also wanted to use mobile devices to draft and review lengthy leasing agreements and the smaller smartphone screen was too awkward and difficult to use for this purpose.

By migrating their application to iPad they were able to leverage the utility of the larger touch-based screen to create, confirm, and close sales proposals in the field, right in front of the customer. This added convenience not only reduced paperwork and bureaucracy, the elimination of unnecessary sales steps boosted productivity by 30-40 per cent.

Because the original app was developed with an application development platform and the migration was able to leverage much of the same business logic, the migration was completed in two months, resulting in an immediate increase in sales efficiency and a quick ROI.

German Mattress Manufacturer – Deploys iPad sales and service app

A German mattress manufacturer armed its sales force with iPads to function as a mobile catalog and point-of-sale application.

The sales force automation system includes access to order history and products available in stock. Sales people are able to close agreements on the move, shortening the sales cycle significantly and reducing the cost of sales.

The iPad also helps improve the quality of customer service. If a retailer complains about defective merchandise, sales people can take photographs and share instantly with managers back at headquarters. This streamlines the previously lengthy process of completing forms, and/or shipping defective merchandise back to the warehouse, while helping to build trust and a higher level of cooperation with their customers.

By using application development platform for rapid development, this wholesaler was able to create its iPad sales force automation using existing staff. In addition to reducing the initial costs for development, it is able to maintain, update and upgrade the system without relying on third parties.

According to IDC the number of enterprise applications optimised for mobility will quadruple by 2016. Where sales force automation is the closest touch point for customers, it is natural that iPads will be introduced to increase efficiencies to every step of the sales process to shorten the sales cycle, and lower selling costs.

With all of the new benefits that are still being discovered, new device capabilities, and new technical skills required, a rapid multi-channel application development platform can reduce the risks and the costs of developing, maintaining, and upgrading to enterprise iPad apps.

Stephan Romeder is General Manager at Magic Software Europe.