The magic box Featured

9:59am EDT July 22, 2002

In an effort to stay competitive, many companies have given their sales forces laptop computers as a powerful tool to make selling easier. But some of those same companies have neglected to train their people how to use the laptop, effectively investing several thousand dollars in something that will probably never show a return.

"Don't fall into the trap of believing that because they've had computers and are technically good at using them, that they know how to use them on a sales call," says Dick Elder, president of TEAM Marketing Group, an Englewood, Colo.-based sales consulting firm. The key is knowing not just how to use a computer, but how to use it on a sales call.

Laptops can help break down many of the barriers between salesperson and prospect, including the physical "wall" of the desk. In a traditional sales call, the salesperson hands literature across the desk or table and reads upside down as he or she highlights the benefits of the product or service.

"With a laptop, the opportunity is different," says Elder. "You are able to get around the desk and get shoulder to shoulder and go through the presentation together. It's a different selling environment. People are excited about looking at something new and different and it really says something about your business. It shows that you are in tune with the speed of business."

A laptop also helps your company give a consistent message, because every salesperson is working off the same presentation. While the elite salesperson may have excellent communication skills and be able to paint a picture with words, the lower group of your sales force probably doesn't have that ability. The laptop presentation can strengthen your sales force by allowing the computer to make up for their deficiencies. With the proper training, a company can start seeing a return on laptop investment in a few months.

"I think the small business owner is always working to compete with large corporations," notes Elder. "The laptop levels the playing field. It's an investment they can afford and it puts them on par with larger competitors immediately."

Product spotlight

TEAM Marketing, a sales consulting firm, sells "Shoulder-to-Shoulder Selling," an interactive training program that explains how to use a laptop to present your products and services, answer questions and overcome objections.

Each $199 kit comes with a video, CD-ROM and reference book. The training can be self-study or done by a trainer.

Sales calls are broken down from preparing for the sales call to ending it. A few points from the program:

  • The presentation should be ready to run when the laptop is opened. The salesperson should boot up the machine and load the presentation before beginning the call, then put it in suspend mode until it's needed.

  • Learn when to close the lid of the laptop to keep the attention focused on the message and not the technology.

    For more information, call (800) 262-6992, or go to

Why issue laptops?

Laptops can make your sales force more effective by:

  • Demonstrating complex or nontransportable products or services through the use of multimedia presentations.

  • Allowing a more personal feeling by bringing the prospect out from behind the "wall" of the desk to sit beside the salesperson.

  • Standing out from the crowd with a presentation that is far more exciting than printed literature would be.

  • Sending the message that your business is in tune with the fast pace of business today.

  • Increasing the ability of the less-talented salesperson to communicate complex ideas.

But sales training must include the use of a laptop during a call or you may have purchased a $4,000 paperweight.