A tattered Rand McNally street atlas was once standard issue for siding sales reps. Today virtually every salesman carries a smartphone, and for many, a laptop has replaced the tattered pitchbook, providing dazzling digital flexibility and impact.

Think it's all too complicated or expensive? Those who embraced the new technologies usually found that they paid for themselves in weeks, and veteran salespeople quickly bought in as tech-savvy rookies posted big numbers. Of course, none of it compares with what the iPad can and will do to change the landscape of this industry.

Obliterate Objection With the iPad's 10-hour battery life and touch-screen navigation, there's no need to plug anything in. Touch the screen and you're running.

The screen size is perfect for two homeowners with a sales rep at their side. Content is what you need and is available when you need it. Say the homeowner worries about the crew damaging expensive shrubs. Simply touch a thumbnail to play a video showing a previous client standing before a beautifully re-sided house with elaborate plantings. Price resistance? Bring up the testimonial recounting careful price-to-value comparisons that led to a happy purchase.

We've found that the iPad can play an important role in lead generation as well. Imagine putting an iPad in the hands of canvassers, home show demonstrators, and retail intercepts. Even the most successful improve their performance when they hand the prospect an iPad and ask, for instance: “Ever wonder why your air conditioner runs long after sunset? Well, let me use this animation to show you.”

What Next? As contractors discover the iPad, smart manufacturers will begin to supply digital content along with traditional brochures, hand samples, and pitchbooks. Before-and-after transformation on video adds drama to a presentation, and animation examines the product up close and in action.

We've found that a well-crafted app can give compelling clarity to a vague benefit — such as saving energy. The salesman enters the particulars of the home, the energy market, and the installation. The iPad delivers a bar graph that projects accumulated savings, a payback date, and shows how the return on investment increases in the long term as energy rates increase.

Touch another icon and the app takes that return on investment and presents it as a gilt-edged certificate of deposit — paying 13.23% interest. “So, would you like to make that investment with a check, credit card, or payments?” ...

—John Stevens is a partner at Peterson/Stevens advertising and marketing. jstevens@petersonstevens.com, 800.270.0911.