The iPad is going on four years old, but it’s only in the past couple of years that I have seen the technology replace existing business processes. Now, change is accelerating. Just in the past few weeks, I’ve interacted with an iPad in a business setting many times. A row of tablets facilitated coat check at an event. Small exercise studios use them to check people in. And the little cupcake shop on the corner has you sign for your purchase on their iPad point-of-sale system. In the sales world, iPads are becoming an increasingly common way to present materials and manage a business on the go. Sure, most people are still toting in their laptops, or handing out printed materials, but soon those assets will be a complement to a tablet presentation. It’s safe to say that the iPad is a rapidly maturing technology. It’s also got a psychological hold on us.
According to a survey conducted by Brainshark, which offers sales enablement tools, salespeople would rather go without deodorant (32 percent), brushing their teeth (27 percent), or their underwear (47 percent) than their tablet. Given how impeccably groomed most salespeople are, it’s probably a bigger sacrifice than most of us realize.
From a practical perspective, iPads can often go where laptops and printouts can’t. While 81 percent of the reported giving presentations in traditional business settings, salespeople rarely turn down an opportunity to make a pitch. They also gave presentations places where the consumer-friendly devices are more in place, like restaurants (63 percent), social events (54 percent), coffee shops (45 percent), bars (35 percent), and sporting events (21 percent).
Salespeople also prepare for their calls on the go. Popular locations to review notes include a car (64 percent), plane (58 percent), parking lot (44 percent), or as a last-ditch effort, the bathroom (27 percent). Imagine how much easier it is to look at a tablet in the car than opening up a laptop, where the steering wheel gets in the way.
Tablets may change the way salespeople interact with and present their information, but they haven’t been able to solve many business challenges sales reps continue to face. One, the technology can’t help you if it doesn’t work, something the majority (56 percent) of salespeople have experienced. Half have struggled with giving a presentation to a room without the decision-maker present, and a third deal with distracted audiences. If only iPads had the same effect on adults as they do on small children.
Tablets aren’t a panacea. But the speed and fervor with which salespeople have embraced them suggests their usefulness, as well as a little something else. Using a tablet makes a salesperson look good in front of the customer. Professor Jonah Berger, who spoke about his book Contagious at the Shop.org Summit earlier this month, noted that one reason ideas (or brands, or devices) catch on is if using them makes the person look good. And who doesn’t look chic and cutting-edge with a tablet at their side? Eventually, tablets move from cool to status quo. But by then they will have become way more indispensable than…well, let’s hope people don’t have to make a choice between deodorant and their tablet.