Tablet Computing and the B2B Sales Force
Tablet: Posted by Joe Galvin on Thu, Feb 24, 2011
Is there a tablet in your future? Salespeople will know soon enough, as several organizations charge down the path of adding a tablet computing device to their existing smartphone and laptop computer.
Whether it’s an iPad or an Android, the new generation of tablet computing is creating a lot of excitement. Sometimes it’s a mandate from CXOs; in other cases, it’s an enterprising marketing or sales enablement team trying to gain an edge. In all cases, the decision to deploy a tablet to the sales force is an expensive and resource-intensive proposition.
Taking the emotion and hype out of the discussion, tablet computers replicate some of the capabilities of the fully functional laptop already being used by salespeople. Lighter to carry, quicker to boot up and currently very fashionable when shown to a customer, the actual presentation capabilities of the smaller tablet are no different than the laptop. It accesses the Internet through the same network, but it lacks the document creation and storage capabilities of the laptop and currently few applications have been optimized for the tablet experience. When compared to the smartphone, the tablet offers a larger screen that makes Web applications like email easier to use and accessing traditional Web sites a better experience, but it’s not a phone.
Simply deployed as a cool presentation and Web access device, it may be hard to justify the tablet’s average $500 device cost and additional monthly access cost per rep in its current iteration. There are also the associated IT support resources/costs and unit replacement budgets to consider, not to mention that the device you deploy today will be obsolete in 18 months.
What’s feeding this excitement? Potential. As cloud computing takes hold, the device becomes a telescope into the cloud; with that, the tablet becomes:
- An exciting, dynamic customer interaction and presentation tool. With the development of multimedia, tablet-specific video, audio and virtual content/destinations, along with real-time video connectivity, sales reps will be able to carry with them a window into everything and everyone they need on a call. They can access and interact with any internal or external Web application.
- A platform for custom-built tablet applications. The dynamic way people interact with this generation of user interface suggests an incredible productivity/user satisfaction upside — redesigning or developing tablet-specific business applications for customer data collection, capturing sales call notes, pricing or quoting, availability…the list goes on.
- The silver bullet for SFA adoption. Salespeople still hate sales force automation (SFA); they just hate the new version less than the old one. As opposed to tabs and pull downs, what if there was an app built for that? What if the SFA user experience was redesigned based on the tablet’s unique interface, making it super easy for salespeople to access and enter customer data (e.g. contacts, sales calls, opportunity status, forecast, customer interactions, decision maps)? Take the “data entry/too hard to use” issue away, reset expectations, and the long-imagined benefits of SFA would begin to materialize.
There is a tablet in your future, and the IT organization will again be a critical partner as we all migrate to cloud computing; that’s not the issue. The question is, in 2011, on this side of the recession, is it better to spend $1,000 per salesperson on an exciting but immature device than to invest $1,000 on sales force development and training? Our recent pipeline and forecast survey found that high-growth companies outspent their peers on sales force development and training by 41 percent.
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