Why the iPad is a salesperson’s best friend

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Recent studies from Forrester  and Good Technology show that Apple’s iPad is doing very well in the enterprise, with new activations soaring. One company just deployed 1,300 of the Apple tablets across its sales force, because combined with the right software, it believes there is no better tool a salesperson can carry.

A recent report at InformationWeek details the story of Level 3 Communications, which recently equipped its entire sales workforce with iPads loaded with apps that provide access to pricing information; presentation creation; and display, corporate email, customer records and inventory checks. The iPad proved more than up to the task of supplementing and mostly replacing laptops.

InformationWeek goes into much more detail about what the iPads meant for Level 3, but the advantages for salespeople on the ground can be boiled down to three main categories:

1. Instant on. The iPad’s ability to instantly wake from sleep and pick up right where a user left off exceed that of even the fastest SSD-equipped notebooks, and it only sips power in tiny amounts in order to provide that functionality. That, combined with its superior portability, makes it the perfect tool for doing “quick checks between meetings, at an airport, or in a taxi,” InformationWeek says. With a laptop, five minutes in a taxi might not seem like enough time to make powering up worth your while; with the iPad, that’s a nonissue.

2. Connectivity. The iPad (at least the 3G models) provides always-on cellular network access, as long as you are within coverage range. Some laptops can offer that, but the process is still often more complicated than just tapping the wake button and being ready to surf, email or chat. But it’s not just cellular radios that make the iPad great for sales; built-in GPS positioning means salespeople can get locally relevant information, like clients or potential clients in the immediate area, in only a few short steps via task-specific software.

3. On-device demo. A laptop is an ineffective replacement for a catalog, and presenting a slide show on one is awkward. Using an iPad as a presentation tool, on the other hand, is natural. The tablet is easily passed around, can be read like a magazine, and can also output to external displays with less hassle and fewer steps than a laptop. And apps like OnLive Desktop and Iongrid make it even easier for iPads to sub in for notebooks capable of running desktop presentation tools.

Level 3 isn’t the only company to realize the value of iPads in the hands of a sales force. Sears, of all companies, announced in October it would begin rolling out iPads in 450 stores that same month, and TUAW noted at the time that Lowes and Pacific Sun were also expanding iOS deployments.

InformationWeek thinks 2012 will be a breakout year in terms of actual iPad deployments, just as 2011 saw a huge uptick in pilot programs. If that indeed comes to pass, we should see Apple easily beat the 40.7 million iPads it sold in 2011.

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