I believe tablets are ready for use as sales tools. They are small and light, making them easy to use. The struggle is the lack of software … or is it? The software is catching up quickly and there are very few things I can’t handle on a tablet now. Will it replace a laptop? Not for everything a laptop will do, but let’s face it, most sales people use their laptops to look up a piece of information on occasion and to enter orders. This and more is something a tablet is very good at.
Much has been written about using mobile devices at work, but from what I see, most only use them for looking at their Facebook page, Tweeting something, or posting a picture to Instagram. Is that all that mobile devices are good for? Not even … and I’ll cover some of my uses next, then later we’ll look at going heavy duty with work.
Selling is hard work, not doubt about it. I’m always asking myself, how can we make it easier, better, more efficient. I believe one way is by using technology for the tools they are. Technology itself does not make sales easier, but it can make it more efficient.
Today I am writing this article on my Nexus 7 tablet to see if a salesman could enter information into a tablet quickly and easily. Some will say I’m cheating because I have my Verbatim blue tooth keyboard connected, but again, I say, use the tools. A very inexpensive keyboard turns this tablet into a data entry machine. Still not a full laptop, but remember, most information a salesman enters is short notes about a planned meeting, short notes after the meeting, or adding something to the to-do list.
I know this isn’t the end all, be all, but it shows a proof a concept once the appropriate software is made available. So now the question is about software. What can you use? How can you use it? I’m glad you asked because that will be next.
Are tablets ready for business? This is a question asked more each day. Here is how I answer that question. While businesses are asking the question, sales people are carrying their own tablets on sales calls.
I first witnessed this almost four years ago when a salesman I was working with left his big heavy laptop at the office when we left for a day’s work in the field. He did, however, carry his iPad under his arm, which I thought nothing of at the time.
At our first stop, he jumped out of the car, iPad in hand and I watched closely. As we talked with the customer about different products he needed, the salesman recorded each item on the tablet. When asked about a particular item, he brought up a picture from the web, showed the customer, and recorded another sold item on the order for he used.
Did the company issue the iPad? No, it was his own device and was not formally vetted for use in the field by anyone from IT. It was light, fast, easy to carry into an office and it instantly caused a reaction from the people in each office. I was hooked.
Normally between calls, my conversation with the sales person is about the previous call. What went well, what could improve … but not this day. I was asking questions about how he used the tablet in his work day. How did customers and prospects react to it when he was by himself? (It’s always different when two people go in together) Had he witnessed an increase in business by actively engaging the customers with this technology?
That was when I knew the tablet would come into business. It was a natural tool to use in front of customers. It was instantly on, it was easy to hand to the customer to look at a picture or watch a video, and customers were talking and asking questions. This is a customer engaged … a huge plus for any sales person.
I have begun using my Nexus 7 in my daily workflow at the office. I’ll write about the details in another article.
How does your company look at tablets? Has there been any discussion? Are people using their own equipment like they do with their cell phones?
I’d really like to know how this is playing in other industries. Talk to me …
Everyone is looking for the “Next Big Thing” and I have good news … it is closer than you think. It started slowly a few years ago and is picking up speed rapidly. I see more and more evidence the explosion will happen soon and you should be ready.
What is the “Next Big Thing?” Tablets. That’s right, tablets. They have taken off in the consumer market and are beginning to move to the business market. The normal progression is underway and it will follow the same course as the laptop and cell phone, with many companies living the value of these devices.
Cell phones slowly moved from consumer to business and really began the BYOD* movement. As with all things, business is hesitant to implement new technology until it has proven itself in several arenas. Those being;
Tie-in to existing systems
Ease of transition
The first two points are being addressed as fast as the manufacturers can move. Security has to be a number one priority for the devices before any IT group will take them seriously. Pricing is important when calculated against existing expenses for outfitting personnel. The software for most modern software is either available as an app or web-based, with the later making almost any application available on mobile devices. Ease of transition, training, and implementation only involves a rock-solid project management plan and team.
The big hold up is the ability to tie into existing systems. This is the one keeping IT departments up at night as upper management pushes to rush tablets into the hands of outside sales people because of all the Pros for doing so. How do you make it so the new device can talk to legacy hardware in the corporate office? That is the big deal that will soon be as irrelevant as how to move a cell phone into the workflow.
Are you ready? Is your company? I suggest you get ready because the train has left the station and is picking up speed.
In early 2004, I dreamed of a single device for computing. I carried a cell phone, Palm T5 PDA and a Dell laptop for “on the go” access and had a desktop computer at the office. No matter what I wanted, it was on one of the other devices. I wanted one piece of hardware to be all that was needed.
I thought it happened in early 2005 when a customer came by the office to show off his OQO Model 1 computer. It was larger than my Palm with its 5” screen, but was still a handheld computer running a full version of Microsoft Windows. With the slide-out keyboard and the desktop dock, I thought this was it. Not exactly.
The hardware just couldn’t handle the bulk of Windows XP. It was slow and awkward with little memory and not enough room for all those big PC programs we ran on our desktops. The price was pretty steep at almost $2000. No, this wasn’t the ONE and I would have to wait a few more months for my one single device.
Android is the Bomb
A few months turned into a few years and now seven years later, it seems the promise of my dream is closer. Yesterday on Droid Life, they linked to a video out of the UK where a Galaxy Nexus was being used as a desktop computer. I’ve known this was possible for some time, but it is awful fussy. It’s still fussy, but the process is getting better.
Galaxy Nexus as a desktop engine
Using the right adapter and a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, you can do almost everything on it. With cloud computing and the availability of great apps, one device can be your only piece of hardware.
We now have mobile versions of Mint, Evernote, Documents to Go, along with thousands of others. And if no app is available, just fire up the browser and do your computing from there. With a 20+ inch monitor it will be just fine.
With just a bluetooth keyboard, it makes an awesome mobile computer. Fire up Documents to Go and start drafting a business proposal, or open WordPress and get started on an article with pictures and videos posted straight from your phone.
Now I’m off to order the usb to mhl adapter for my Nexus.
Most people are familiar with Google’s Gmail application. It is lightweight, easy to use, and accessible from any computer with an Internet connection. It has redefined the word webmail for those of us using it daily. Some reasons: Conversation mode, search, and labels are a few of the tools that make it the killer web-application for most businesses.
Gmail might be the application that launched Google into the web software business, but is certainly wasn’t the last. With more than a baker’s dozen of applications, Google has jumped into this market completely. A few applications overlap with the Zoho list from yesterday, but others are solely Google’s.
The more you look at the features of this new breed of online software applications, the more you see the value. They are very robust and combined with other packages, make up a comprehensive collection of business software. The best part … the cost. All of these Google applications are free to use, even for a company.
I use many of these daily, and find them more than adequate for business use. The newest application I use is Google Alerts. I have set up searches for my name, company, and product lines. Google scours the Internet, gathers every instance of matching criteria and sends me an email with links and brief descriptions of the articles. This keeps me in touch with what is said about me or the company, allowing me to respond or ignore at my discretion.
Are you starting to feel overwhelmed with the choices out there, just waiting for your company to try? First, determine what company processes can benefit from the advantages of online software. Second, run a limited, controlled test with the application to make sure it is capable of doing the job. Third, put together an implementation plan for bringing the application to the rest of the employees.
Next, I’ll show you how the products from Zoho and Google map to your current products. It will give you a better picture of which applications you want to look at first.
Are you following the buzz on web-based applications? More and more companies are wondering if this form of software might be a good fit. I’d like to explore these application with an eye toward business use.
What is a web-based application? It is software that runs on a remote server rather than your desktop computer. Consider word processing software. Most companies have Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect installed on the local desktop and employees access that copy of the software to write documents.
Web-based software is not installed on your local computer, and employees access the software remotely to write documents.
Questions to ask
Are web-based software applications ready to use in a business environment?
Does your business require installed software?
Can you ditch expensive software installed on every computer?
Will web-based software meet your needs?
What business software is available on the web?
What choices do I have with providers?
Stuck in a Rut?
While many small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, they continue to think every employee needs a copy of Microsoft Office Professional to conduct business. With a retail price tag of ~$500, Microsoft Office Professional is an expensive investment for any business, but is it really needed?
What about this proliferation of free and low-cost web-based solutions? Can you run a business on these applications without spending a lot of cash?
The answer is not simply yes, because some businesses do need the extra features available from installed software, but the features gap is shrinking as web applications become better, faster, and more feature-rich every day.
They are a very real option for many business, and by examining them closely, a small business owner can make a good decision.
The next article in this series answers the question, Are web-based applications for real?
Have you developed a strategic technology plan (STP) for your business? Have you decided what technologies to consider? Do you know when to implement a new application, and how to judge a viable and valuable return on investment?
Who is Your Technology Consultant?
Most companies get their technology advice from a commissioned sales person who can rarely see and understand the long-range goals and planning needs of your company. That sales person’s goal is to sell you something—today. The phrase, "If you sell hammers, every problem looks like a nail" seems to fit here. The failure of this approach is that each problem is looked at in isolation, rather than as an overall part of a business strategy.
Consider these questions as you look at technology.
Is the source of the problem identified?
Does the STP include a method to determine the best solution?
Is there a mid-range and long-range STP in place?
Does the solution fit into the long-range STP?
Does the process provide a controlled testing environment?
Does the STP include a provision for this problem?
Does this solution provide the BEST fix for the problem?
Who benefits the most with this purchase?
Who is looking out for the company’s best interest?
Is the solution a hammer looking for a nail?
Mistakes are Expensive
What happens if the wrong technology is installed? What if you needed a screwdriver, not a hammer. Implementing the wrong technology is a costly mistake. Costs associated with a bad solution are:
The cost to purchase and implement the wrong technology
The training cost associated with the wrong technology
The lost productivity from the wrong technology
The cost to re-evaluate the purchase decision
The cost to re-evaluate the right technology
The cost to purchase and implement the correct technology
The new training cost for the right technology
The learning curve for the new technology
Put the right technology in place the first time, and work according to your strategic technology plan.
Technology is too important and too expensive to leave to chance.