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[By Jenny Choe, Associated Equipment Distributors, 2014 | Keywords: Business, Sales]

Before the era of the tablet, a salesperson’s tools of the trade included a smile, a handshake, a desk, a computer and a phone. Today, one example of a new sales tool is the tablet. According to recent Sales Management Association research, sales organizations are poised for a tidal wave of tablet adoption. Though only 40 percent of salespeople are currently equipped with tablets, 70 percent of executives in sales organizations using tablets are already realizing ROI, and more than 90 percent of sales organizations plan to invest more in tablets in the coming year.

And the tablet is rapidly becoming an indispensable tool, serving as the modern desktop, three-ring notebook, product catalog, calculator and Rolodex. If you sales team is not already equipped with tablets in their arsenal, chances are they will need it in the near future to effectively compete in the marketplace.

Here are five reasons why tablets are transforming sales by helping salespeople become more efficient and focused on what they should be doing: selling.

  1. Organizing a Busy Mobile Life

As the consummate salesperson, Dave Gordon, vice president of sales for AED, reaches for his iPad and starts his day each morning checking his reminders and appointments, following up on e-mails, and checking his list of current and prospective clients, essentially planning out his day – all before he even leaves his home to come into the office. He grabs his phone where he can return a phone call (hands free, of course) in his car and transitioning into his computer when he arrives to the office, thanks to the ability of syncing all these devices together. While all of these tasks can be done on a smartphone, a tablet affords Gordon the larger screen size he needs without having to start up a laptop or computer.

Like Gordon, dealership salespeople can do much of their “legwork” with a tablet device before ever leaving home and are better prepared to start their day rather than taking the passive approach of, “let’s see what happens when I get to the office or when I log into my computer.” Tablets give the user the freedom to work on the fly and be productive in any location at any time.

  1. Information at Your Fingertips

Tablets give salespeople instant access to a wide range of documents, as well as marketing and presentation materials. From full-color catalogs to fully updated product specs, technologically savvy salespeople have an exceptionally large amount of information at their fingertips. Using tablets, salespeople can access applications that allow them to place orders, monitor inventory, track shipping or provide their customers with other important insights while on the road. If you’re one who has been slow to fully embrace this technology, you risk becoming irrelevant to your customer base and you’ll find out quickly that bulky catalogs, laminated sales sheets and printed marketing materials can’t deliver the speed or quality your customers may be expecting.

In order to have data access at your fingertips, you’ll need to consider two factors: cloud storage and the ability to edit and save documents. According to Jennifer Spencer, a technology trainer for the American Management Association, when you’re considering cloud storage services you should look to see 1) which are broadly supported, 2) what your security requirements are, and 3) what your IT team will allow. The graph on page XX shows a few cloud storage options to consider.

While tablets do not have a “my documents” folder in which to save files, you can use one of the apps to store and view documents in a tablet.

Salespeople can also edit documents such as quotes or sell sheets, and save their documents in their tablet. However, at this time tablets do not have the ability to edit full Microsoft Office documents (but several apps simulate this well, as a lite version of MS office).

Tablets make it easy for sales personnel to view, track, and manipulate data on the go, thus eliminating the need for sales reps to return to the office to update the CRM software, re-evaluate sales opportunities, create presentations or perform other tasks.

  1. Tablets and Geolocations

According to Webopedia, geolocation is a term used to describe the capability to detect and record where you and other people are located. Geolocation is the wireless detection of the physical location of a remote device. As a noun, geolocation refers to the physical location itself; as a verb, the term refers to the process of detecting that location. Sales professionals often underutilize this function.

Are you one to print out driving directions from MapQuest or Google Maps? While it’s not a bad idea for a backup, an excellent GPS system is already built into your tablet (and your smartphone). GPS services such as Google Map are easy to use, reliable and best of all – free. Take advantage and integrate mapping functions to improve your prospecting opportunities by allowing salespeople to identify existing clients who are in the immediate vicinity and connect with prospective accounts. As you are stopping in an area for lunch, what would you do if you knew your very best client was only a few miles away?

  1. The Wow Factor

There is no denying the fact that tablets, when used to their potential, give salespeople a way to create “wow” factor for their customers. Impress customers with high-quality professional presentations and instant access to a plethora of product and/or market information that customers can interact with, such as product demo videos, specs, and basic presentations. By interacting and engaging with customers, salespeople achieve a stronger sense of professionalism and the confidence that they are more prepared for their meetings.

  1. The Fun Stuff

When you’re on the road it’s not all work, work, work. You need some downtime, too. When the time comes for that your tablet is ready, willing and able. Check out your favorite viral YouTube video or catch up on the movie you’ve been meaning to watch. It’s a great way to end a productive sales day.

If you have a tablet, it’s probably an important part of getting your job done and an indispensable tool for you. As technologies such as cloud storage further unlock us from reliance on the traditional desktop computer, more and more tablets will arrive on the market. In addition, while the apps listed here are just a few of the hundreds of thousands available for tablets; chances are there will be an app that will work for you. If you don’t have a tablet yet, start looking at the different brands available and educate yourself about their many functions, even beyond those we’ve covered. You’ll quickly comprehend why the tablet is fast becoming a salesperson’s best friend.

Source: Reprinted with permission from Associated Equipment Distributor’s Construction Equipment Distribution magazine, February 2014 issue.