Sellers´ Little Helper
Ask any sales professional: Not two sales talks are ever the same, yet all successful sales show similar patterns. The salesperson has to get and steer attention, explain solutions in comprehensible terms, refute objections and propose an attractive deal. Differences may arise from relations between the involved persons, company types and company cultures. That notwithstanding, the process will end with a sale. At least, that is the intention.
Salespersons need to overcome numerous hurdles to succeed. From the challenge to explain complex products to the last push that overcomes the doubts of a skeptical buyer, the risk of failure lurks at every step of the way. To beat it is the task of a huge variety of sales support instruments like brochures, product samples, forms and questionnaires, demo applications, explanatory videos and many, many more. Scripted stories provide topics for conversation. CRM offers background information for customized talk. Many sales professionals drag a suitcases full of gifts and stuff to meetings, not to mention their notebooks with all those powerpoint presentations and quicktime videos.
But in spite of all the material thrown into battle, success still depends largely on personality. „This will not change in the foreseeable future“, says Stephan Beck, Netural Germany´s managing director, stressing the importance of competence and experience. His digital agency has long engaged in the development of app-based sales support solutions for international brands. „But the arrival of the tablet in sales support is a small revolution: An iPad on the table will not create barriers. It provides helpful support without disrupting the dialogue. These devices are small, lightweight, wireless and elegant objects to hand to buyers. - Which makes things quite a lot easier.” Tablets add a haptic dimension to presentations, putting content, and more importantly, the control, at the viewer´s fingertips. The viewer controls the pace of the presentation while the app steers the flow of the discussion. The customer is literally „in touch“ with the content and reaches the intended conclusions in his or her own good time.
Tablet cameras open many additional possibilities. A striking example is Salzburg-based industrial shredder builder Untha: Live demonstrations of industrial shredders present often unsurmountable logistic challenges: The machines are huge, heavy, extremely noisy and too unwieldy for transport to even the most important trade fairs. Netural solved this problem by creating an augmented reality app virtualize the products and support Untha´s sales team.
The Art of the Perfect Combination
The focus of an app solution depends largely on strategy, product properties and the needs of the sales staff. Types vary from company and product presentations and service information to customer relationship management and online ordering and on to knowledge management and training. An interesting example is international baking ingredients producer backaldrin, who put his complete recipes and baking know-how into an app to update the product knowledge of his worldwide sales staff.
A smart bundle of app functions will support customer meetings from preparation to debriefing, including face-to-face talks. Sales apps provide structure, streamline processes and simplify administrative tasks. Their database helps to make selective offers: „A buyer wants, for instance, references, but not the whole list, just the three most relevant for his own case,” says Stephan Beck, exemplifying the advantages of smart solutions which use customer-specific data to customize sales presentations. Peter Jungblut-Wischmann, who described the rise of the iPad in sales and service in 2013 in his book „The Revolution of Sales“, cast the term „closed loop selling“: „iPad-supported sales talks yield by far the best, most reliable data about the individual customer and also, if “politically” convenient, about the individual sales person.”
Gone are the limits to volume and size: Swarovski´s „Crystal Collection” app, launched in 2014, connects with SAP, giving access to more than 20.000 single products, and this even in locations with weak or nonexistent internet connect.
All content not drawn from third party systems can be updated centrally, providing reliable latest information on e.g. availability and prices without shouldering sales persons with additional updating tasks. An often dramatic reduction of printed materials comes with the package.
Towards a smooth launch
Creating a sales app is a cross-department project and may therefore run into difficulties, especially in large companies. Introducing app-supported sales involves at least four players: Executive board, sales, marketing, IT, and, more often than not, international branch offices and sales partners. This is an unkind environment for solo attempts. An experienced agency, systematic integration and clear responsibilities will prove most helpful.
Peter Jungblut-Wischmann, Cornelia Englert: „Die Revolution des Verkaufens. Der Ratgeber für die erfolgreiche Einführung von iPads in Vertrieb und Handel“ (Mediengruppe Oberfranken, 2013)
„UX, Combined With Refined Technology: The Swarovski Crystal Collection App“ (2014)
„You have to stay in touch with the trend.“ (Interview with Klaus Sickinger, SAP Austria, 2014)