Why the iPad is the most important sales tool since the cellphone

30 June 2010

John Appleby

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

Either the title got your attention, or you thought "Yawn. Another article about the iPad. How boring, it's just another boy's toy". And this is what happened when I took my iPad home to my mother. But, you can't deny how easy it is to use - give an iPad to a 3 year old child and you will see how long it takes to get Cinderella up on YouTube.

And this epitomizes the problem - the iPad signifies a paradigm shift in thinking for those of us in Generation X, which is where most of the people in the enterprise software market sit. For Generation Z (aka Digital Natives) like my niece, there's no paradigm shift to be had - the iPad is wired into her brain already and there was no World Before YouTube.

Life before the cellphone

One of our sales execs, Nick, remembers life before the cellphone. He remembers leaving a sales meeting and having to drive down the road to get into a Red Telephone Box, where he would spend 30 minutes feeding coins into a silver phone. The perceived benefit of the carphone was contactability and a feeling of control from the sales director.

In fact the business benefit that was eventually realized was much more interesting: appointments could be made and changed on the move and if one customer was unable to meet, another appointment could be made at short notice by means of a simple call. No more travelling from one end of the country to the other only to find out that a meeting had been cancelled, 5 minutes after leaving home.

So what?

So what does this have to do with SAP and the iPad? Well with the cellphone, the salesman was ready to grab technology with both hands. That was in 1988 and 22 years on, salespeople have technology overload. They have their cellphone and laptop and numerous IT based sales tools. Technology is frequently problematic and SAP CRM is complicated.

This is where the iPad comes in.

1) It's always there for you when you need it

I hate using 3G on my laptop, and I'm an IT person. I get my laptop out, open it, switch it on, login, fiddle around with my 3G card, login to 3G, usually several times before it works, and then go to Google to look up my train times.

Or, I pull my iPad out and open a train time app. I can have the answer from my iPad before I've even got onto the internet on my laptop, and with a lot less hassle. It just works.

2) It's always there for you when you need it - with power

I missed a step last time. I get my laptop out, open it, switch it on and find out the battery is dead. On a good day I get a few hours out of my laptop. More if I get an extension battery that weighs my bag down. Then I get the power out, scurry in the Virgin train for a power point, only to find out that the power points have tripped today. We've all been there.

I usually get 2 days of normal use out of my iPad. On a heavy day I come home with 20% battery left, having used it all day long. It is designed to be power efficient from the start and so you don't have to worry about finding charge.

3) It's kind to your back

When did we end up carrying so much stuff around? There are days when I come home and my back is literally aching from the piles of stuff I carry around with me, and most of it is technology. There are other days when I go to sales presentations with just the iPad and its projector cable, and those are much nicer days! And remember there's no point in taking a power adapater with you, you won't need it until the evening.

Fundementally you are more likely to take your iPad with you, more of the time. Which means it's there when you need it, and you won't need physiotherapy.

4) It is a social device

This is harder to quantify and probably something that you need to see to believe. Have you ever sat with a laptop between two people? It is a strange experience because it is a barrier to communication. As if like "this is my laptop, leave well alone". Looking at someone else's laptop is prying, it is very personal.

You don't get this with the iPad. I've done sales presentations using the Keynote software on it and you can open the presentation and flip it around to a small group of people (2-3 max). Let them tap through the presentation, and talk at their pace. The iPad becomes a point of social communication and not a barrier.

5) Even your Chief Exec can use it.

I ended up with a spare iPad on the first day of its release, don't ask why. Our friends in Sybase were kind enough to give me a copy of the Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP CRM - beta, for iPad. In addition I loaded up the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer software onto the iPad.

So I gave this to our Chief Exec, meaning that he had an iPad with his SAP CRM 7.0 accounts on it, as well as his management reports from SAP NetWeaver BW. I've not seen the iPad since.

But actually he is a poor example, because he's pretty tech savvy. I was at a CRM Special Interest Group last week and I homed in on two representatives of a well known global drinks manufacturer that runs SAP. There was mixed feelings as I handed the device over to them, and clearly an apprehension that this was Technology and Technology was for Technologists.

This illusion was shattered seconds later when I just asked them to try to interact with it by guesswork. A minute later they were flicking between account screens, through their sales process in their mind and they had transitioned into my 3 year old neice.


The iPad changes the game, fundementally. It isn't about features and whether it has a camera or if the screen is big enough or if it's a bit too heavy. It doesn't matter that it will be improved and replaced, and every other organization will try to copy it. That's just normal in the technology world.

The point is it shatters some universal paradigms of mobile technology. It is easy to use and it fulfills the needs and wants of the sales force. Just imagine being able to sit in front of a customer and tap through the different clothing ranges you have to sell. You create a quotation on the spot, tapping through sizes, colours and other configuration variants. Tap a button to calculate pricing - including all the complicated pricing routines you have in your ERP system - and include customer specific discounts.

And then you close the sales order.

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About the author

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

I've always been passionate about new technology. I cut my teeth helping global financial services and consumer goods companies build data warehouses to manage their business - especially when they wanted to run faster.

These days, I travel weekly across continents, helping clients differentiate themselves using analytics technologies. This then involved building a team to design the solution, make it work and lead it through to successful completion.

I believe that in-memory computing is radically changing the face of business so you can ask me about SAP HANA, or about any other data platform like DB2 BLU, Hadoop or MongoDB for that matter.

I'm passionate that giving back to the community reaps long-term rewards and this has shaped the last few years of my career - being a contributor to knowledge sharing websites as an SAP Mentor; and a sometime advisor to Wall Street investors on emerging technologies and those companies bringing to market new innovations.

When I'm not busy designing in-memory apps, you may find me pounding the pavement to the beat of music in the hilly suburbs of Philadelphia, or traveling the world to meet new people and new cultures.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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