A New Kind Of Selling Tool

A New Kind Of Selling ToolWhen O.E. Meyer Co. Welding Division President Craig Wood witnessed IT Manager Mike Fishbaugh using his iPhone to remotely connect to the company’s asset management software during a meeting, an idea clicked. What if O.E. Meyer’s salespeople were equipped with this ability? Or, better yet, what if they were equipped with this capability on the larger interface of the iPad? How much more efficient could it make them?

Fast forward one month to May 2011, and the 12 employees comprising O.E. Meyer’s outside sales and automation sales teams are sitting for a three-hour training course delivered by Fishbaugh on their new iPad 2s. Since the launch of the iPad in April 2010, the tablet device has rocked the worlds of both mobile and portable computing. It has quickly gained favor for its versatility and ability to combine many of the tasks of smartphones and laptops into one device. And the business world has begun to notice, with Apple reporting that 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies are either deploying or testing iPads for business use.

Much of the iPad’s utility lies in the seemingly infinite expandability of function through apps, or applications. Along with built-in applications like Internet and email, the Apple App Store provides quick access to third-party software for productivity, finances, entertainment and more. As of July 2011, there were over 100,000 apps in the App Store designed specifically for the iPad. At O.E. Meyer, salespeople use remote desktop and virtual private network (VPN) apps to remotely connect to the company’s intranet and asset management program.

Before, laptops with WiFi handcuffed salespeople to restaurants and coffee shops to access the Internet away from the office. Laptops also take time to boot up, making it inconvenient for quick answers. Now, iPads equipped with 3G mean salespeople can take care of business anywhere they have a cell signal. Salespeople are able to take advantage of the Internet to show product literature and videos on the iPad’s 9.7-inch display.

Paul Dackermann with iPad

O.E. Meyer Outside Sales Representative Paul Dackermann (right) goes over a recent sale with Sales Representative John Voight.

“Laptops are more cumbersome and slow,” says Eric Wood, O.E. Meyer Co. regional vice president of sales. “The iPad has given our salespeople the ability to instantly pull up everything they need, and they can pull it up in front of a customer.” Pre-iPad, if a salesperson wanted to know how much a customer was paying for wire or how much wire was in stock, they called an inside salesperson to find out. “It tied up time and resources to get simple questions answered,” says Wood. Now, a salesperson can check prices, inventory levels, customer account balances and more from anywhere.

Where salespeople previously hand-wrote orders and relayed them to inside salespeople over the phone, remote access to the company’s asset management software allows them to enter orders and draft quotes while they are sitting across from the customer. This reduces the opportunity for errors and allows the salesperson to serve the customer more efficiently. “Before, the conversation might be, ‘I’ll be back in the office tomorrow. I’ll send you the quote or product literature then,’” says Wood. “Now they can take care of it right then and there. It saves time and eliminates unnecessary mileage from racing back to the office to fire off a quote.” Likewise, credit applications, tax exemption forms and other documents can now be accessed through the company’s intranet and instantly emailed.

One of the most tangible returns on O.E. Meyer’s investment in iPads came when the sales team was working on a large welding project for an engineering customer. “We were testing a micro resistance welding process at the supplier’s site,” says Wood. “Although we were hundreds of miles away from the customer, we used the iPad’s camera to document the tests through video and photos, which we then sent to the customer. Being able to show the success we had welding the customer’s parts helped us secure the job.”

So far, the investment in iPads is paying off. “Having the ability to remotely connect to our system has begun to make us money right out of the gate,” says Wood. “It’s enabled our salespeople to be more self-sufficient, and it’s taken a load off of our inside personnel. Our customers are happy because they’re getting what they need more quickly.” And a happy customer is a loyal one.

iPads for Business

  • 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies are deploying or they are testing iPads within their organizations.
  • From the launch of the iPad in 2010 through June 2011, Apple sold more than 28.7 million iPads.
  • The iPad continues to gain in popularity, with 9.25 million sold between March 25, 2011 and June 25, 2011, the highest quarter yet for the device.
  • Good Technology, which provides mobile device management services for 49 of the Fortune 100 and 182 of the Fortune 500 companies, reports that iPad is the second most popular mobile device among its clients, trailing only the iPhone. iPad accounted for over 95 percent of all tablets activated at these businesses in the Second Quarter 2011.
  • The number one aim among enterprises using iPads and other mobile office devices is an increase in employee productivity, followed by reduced paperwork and increased revenue, according to a survey by Frost & Sullivan.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association