Since the introduction of the iPad in early 2010, tablets have emerged as a happy medium between smartphones and laptop computers.
In just three short years, they’ve graduated from novelty status, becoming established, legitimate platforms for both leisure and business.
And, they’re gobbling up larger shares of the market: Today, it’s estimated that over 22 percent of Americans own tablets — up from 11 percent in late 2011.
And, a report by Javelin Strategy & Research forecasts that tablet adoption is expected to grow by about 40 percent by 2016.
It is no wonder, then, that an increasing number of companies are embracing tablets as the way of the future, subsequently distributing them among their sales representatives.
Even in the JanSan industry — a realm that is notoriously slow to adopt new technologies — we’re seeing more and more distributors invest in tablets for their sales representatives.
However, the question remains, “Are tablets a must for today’s sales representatives or can they conduct business without them?”
A Significant Asset
Much has been written about why every sales representative needs an iPad or similar tablet computing device, so we won’t spend a lot of time singing that same chorus here.
Still, it’s true that a tablet offers a distinct advantage to sales representatives, and it’s worth at least glancing at the reasons why.
- It stores a vast amount of information
Give him or her a tablet, and your sales representative may never need to open another product catalog or price book again.
Because tablets can store vast amounts of data — including images, text, spreadsheets and just about anything a typical computer can host — that can be accessed whenever and from wherever, they can be invaluable to sales efforts.
- It streamlines the sales process
With the right applications, sales representatives themselves can access databases and see current pricing, inventory quantities and myriad other minutia.
In addition to allowing sales representatives to view a complete array of product information, tablets also allow for order entry and tracking without having to be in the office.
- It makes a dynamite presentation tool
House all of your product information on tablets, and sales representatives have everything they need to present product, service, tool and equipment options to clients.
The long and short of it is that a portable tablet computing device can help close the sale.
- It’s a potential money saver
The amount of capital saved, of course, depends on how the tablets are utilized and a slew of other factors.
But, if you’re no longer printing off reams of paper for your sales representatives to carry around, and if you streamline your sales process to make things run more efficiently, then you’re poised to save money.
Not A Silver Bullet
Despite what has been written about why every sales representative needs a tablet, comparatively little has been written about what tablets won’t do for sales individuals or a company.
It’s key to remember that a tablet is simply a tool.
Having useful tools — and, more importantly, the right tools for the tasks at hand — is foundational to a sales representative’s success; but, equally fundamental is the sales representative him or herself.
After all, a tool is only as good as the person wielding it and a computing device is only as accurate as the information being input.
For instance, let’s say I’m going to build a chair.
Well, to do so, I need tools like a saw, a hammer, some nails, etc.
But, the tools in and of themselves won’t build the chair for me.
Similarly, a tablet won’t close the sale.
It can be a powerful and useful tool that will help move the sales call or meeting in the right direction, but only if it’s being operated by a competent representative cognizant of what he or she is doing.
The Basics Still Stand
When it comes to sales, portable computing technology in the form of tablets has changed some of the rules, but it hasn’t changed all of them, meaning the fundamental still apply.
- Representatives must know their customers
Maintaining interpersonal relationships with clients and prospective customers is paramount.
Tablets will impress some customers, but a sales representative who exchanges pleasantries and takes the time and the effort to foster excellent customer relationships wins the day.
- Representatives must know their products
Again, knowledge of company offerings and understanding the factors driving each unique market segment is crucial.
A representative’s tablet may hold thousands of pages of information, but if he or she doesn’t know and truly understand that information from top to bottom, a client or potential customer will likely sense it.
- Representatives must maintain customer relationships
A tablet can go a long way towards improving a representative’s productivity and making customer relationship management easier.
But, the tenacity required to stay on top of accounts, to follow-up and to solicit feedback must personally come from the representative.
Nothing More Than A Great Tool
So, does every distributor sales representative need a tablet to achieve optimum success?
Well, need is probably too strong a word, as the best representatives can succeed without one.
Conversely, representatives who consistently underperform won’t be transformed into superstars simply by purchasing a new technological tool.
A tablet can be a fantastic device to help enhance a representative’s productivity and sales closing ability.
Give a tablet to a representative who’s already a strong seller — making sure he or she knows how to use it to its maximum potential — and his or her numbers will probably shoot even higher.
But, a tablet alone will not work miracles.
Give a tablet to a struggling representative and you’ll probably find he or she still struggles; a tablet won’t compensate for deficiencies in the representative’s own skillset.
So, in the end, it’s still about the sales representatives.
Companies with a solid sales force would do well to consider investing in tablet technology; in doing so, they would be adding powerful tools to their representatives’ arsenals.
But, companies with weak sales representatives should focus on re-training those individuals in the basics before considering any investment in tablet technology.