Show, Don't Tell: Interactive Tools on Tablets Are Key to Salesforce Success

By  Gavin Finn — March 31, 2011

The term “road warrior” has taken on new meaning. It’s no longer just about traversing the country to keep current with customers, but more than ever about bringing home the deal. Competition continues to up the ante for companies, and globally dispersed sales channels make for an even more fragmented selling environment. Fortunately, driven by a set of technologies, sales teams now reach customers in ways they’ve never been able to before. Armed with smart devices, sales teams can now not only conduct business anytime and anywhere, but they’re also leveraging these technologies to showcase products and solutions to close deals.
 
The extreme mobility that wireless devices afford enhances the salesforce’s ability to stay connected. Further, today’s devices offer more advanced capabilities to also serve as dynamic marketing tools when on the road. And, as we all know, face-to-face engagements are more important then ever. According to a recent independent study by Sales & Marketing Management, 40% of prospects are converted to new customers through face-to-face encounters, and companies reap $12.50 for every dollar they invest in business travel. 
 
But even face to face with his customer, the road warrior won’t always prevail, which is why B2B marketers continue to struggle to provide sales with tools that make a tangible difference in selling situations. With the availability of the Web for customers to inform themselves–often ineffectively–it’s increasingly incumbent on marketers to empower their sales organizations with more engaging and persuasive sales solutions. This increasingly means something more than traditional tools such as slide presentations, videos, and brochures. 
 
The tablet cure
Enter the iPad, which is fast becoming a game-changing technology. Executives in telecommunications, consumer electronics, industrial machinery, and medical device manufacturing are turning to tablets such as the iPad to help their sales teams tell their product stories to customers. According to a December 2010 Wall Street Journal piece on the subject of the proliferation of the iPad with medical device sales teams, “The tablet computers offer new ways to display product information…and help eliminate time wasted on issues that don't drive sales…. Their quick start-up times mean the salesmen can jump into their presentations before doctors lose interest.”
 
The iPad’s success in B2B isn’t just based on portability. As products become more and more complex, the difficulty for salespeople to effectively convey core product features and benefits is exacerbated. That’s where the iPad, serving as a presentation device, lives up to its reputation. The iPad enables use of interactivecontent as the primary engagement vehicle between a sales organization and the prospect or customer. 

It has been definitively proven that the more engaged a customer is in the sales process—through direct interaction in the delivery of the message a sales team presents—the better informed they will be. Rather than telling them about what products do, devices such as the iPad let them engage in hands-on learning about how the advantages of the products will help them solve their business problems.
 
Using touch-based tablets, for example, sales teams can encourage customers to explore product and solutions portfolios by turning the tablet over directly to the customers to use themselves. This puts the prospect in the driver’s seat of the experience, resulting in an extremely customer-centric encounter rather than one in which the customer is merely a passive audience member. Prospects can then explore only the features that are of interest, without losing them by focusing on features that aren’t relevant.
 
The level of engagement delivered through interactivity does not need be confined to product detail alone, however. B2Bs sell solutions, with hard goods often being only one part of the offering. A discussion that is also layered with peripheral software and services can get even more muddled. Traditionally, marketing provides sales with a multitude of presentation collateral to try to deliver valuable information to support the solution sell.

However, presented in disparate formats, there’s no cohesiveness to the message, or clear, concise way to see how the solution can work for a prospect. What’s been missing is a platform to deliver a sophisticated solution story crisply, which clearly communicates strategic messaging, product and solution overviews, and detailed information surrounding features and benefits. While the iPad acts as the delivery device, without compelling, interactive content, it’s not particularly useful.
 
Interactive content is key
So, the iPad is the silver bullet, right? Wrong. While the iPad is clearly gaining ground as a winning marketing and sales tool, audiences will continue to seek out other channels for information. The iPad is far from the only platform that sales teams should employ to tell their stories. Once dynamic and cohesive content or the “virtual experience” is created, it should be made available on all platforms that drive audience engagement, including iPads, iPhones, other mobile tablets, laptops, and Web sites—essentially though all channels available to the mobile professional.

If executed correctly, content created once can be delivered across all sales and marketing venues without having to re-create platform-specific versions, which results in greater costs and cause significant configuration management issues. By creating a reusable application (not just an iPad/iPhone app), the marketing organization gives its sales team the ability to consistently deliver highly engaging experiences for its prospects and customers, which reinforces not only the brand messaging, but yields customers who are better informed and more satisfied.
 
Use of interactive, 3D product catalogs, for example, to deliver comprehensive, consistent, and compelling virtual demonstrations of entire product portfolios can lead to selling success. Marketers are finding that use of 3D product catalogs containing interactive photo-realistic representations of each product that offer the ability for users to rotate, zoom and measure, are supporting unparalleled sales differentiation.

Additional functionality can enable the user to see how the products work, or how components can be removed, upgraded, or maintained. The animations provide the marketing and sales teams with the necessary tools to show what the benefits and value of their products and solutions are, rather than simply telling them.
 
Interactive product catalogs can offer the mobile salesforce:
 
  • The ability to include key selling and marketing content (messaging, videos, collateral) alongside each component or animation in the model, clearly articulating why a feature is better, and what the advantages and benefits are to the user;
  • Photo-realistic product models, providing a life-like representation of exactly what the product looks like, and how it works;
  • A limitless repository for any number of products–every sales interaction becomes an opportunity to explore "endless aisles" of entire product portfolios, not just those that are physically present;
  • Cross-platform utility–the ability to use these on the iPad, laptop, desktop, and the Web, making the application useful at anywhere, anytime, and consistent.
Now that technology has evolved to the point where sales teams can be effective in a highly mobile environment, marketers have the ability to deliver the most compelling, engaging customer experiences through interactivity—everywhere.
 
  
Gavin Finn is president and CEO of Kaon Interactive.

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