As Madison Avenue legend David Ogilvy used to say: "The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore." And in this distracted mobile age, oh baby, it is easy to be dull -- because let's face it, most deals still get done in the "boring room": that is, the conference room. Nip the sales snoozing in the bud with this surprisingly affordable top-end projector from Runco, a division of Planar Systems ( PLNR), The LS-1. Runco has served notice to traditional business projector makers such as Optoma, BenQ or ViewSonic by making probably the best conference room presentation tool at this price. So don't cry uncle at the $4K price tag. You are looking at a unit that performs on par with projectors 10 times the price. Seriously. And this unit produces what you need to get the zip factor up: a legit movie theater-quality image in a small conference room space. I found that the LS-1 offers no-questions-asked plug-and-play installation and a fantastic user experience. Plus, if you need to get fancy and bring in a professional projection tech to optimize the image, the LS-1 has most every possible image control. Also, the thing looks simply fantastic hanging from the ceiling. This projector is so good, don't be surprised if your clients hang out to watch bootleg copies of The Hunger Games after the big pitch session. It's not bad for the Super Bowl either.
With the Apple ( AAPL) fanboys and iPad kiddies going wild over the latest Apple iPad, it's oh so easy to lose sight of what a terrific mobile presentation tool the latest Apple tablet is. This is why: With Apple's crazy-sharp Retina display, even an average idea looks fabulous. I continue to be amazed at the extraordinarily rich blacks and pristine image detail of the new iPad -- absolutely better than most HDTV experiences. And the company has taken a much-needed stab at the gross-out factor of fingerprint grease. While not perfectly hygienic, this latest iPad is much more smudge-resistant. The camera is also solid, making it a reasonable video conferencing solution. Word of warning: Do not fork over the cash for the 4G iPad. Complete waste of money. The model with Wi-Fi access is all you need for sales. And please remember, the iPad is no mobile do-it-all work tool. Basics such as printing remain a major pain. The unit is also fragile, and if you drop it even once without a case (see item 3), don't be surprised if the fat tech lady sings. Use this tool properly and you can expect even boring PowerPoint presentations to look fantastic. Factor in the overall product elegance and undeniable cool factor and the iPad is the sales tool to carry.
The iPad might be the portable sales tool of the moment, but it has a serious drawback: the unit simply does not stand up to abuse. You absolutely must put your magical new sales tablet in some sort of protective case. Most cases are aimed back at the fan boys and kiddy wannabes, though, so finding the right cover that commands professional respect takes a surprising amount of digging. Of the zillions of covers out there, I am impressed by the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover from Logitech ( LOGI). I liked the elegant aluminum construction and crafty clip-on keyboard that offers several display and typing options. The keyboard, while no substitute for a real laptop -- yes friends, you will need the MacBook Air for that -- can work in a pinch. Overall, Logitech has done a good job aiming this cover at the professional set. The Ultrathin is just the right tablet cover for the right sales pro.
As powerful a sales tool as the iPad -- or any tablet PC -- is, you will still need a helping hand. Why? Handling these, large flat computers is almost always a two-hands affair. And in selling, we are all mimes. We need both hands. So anything that frees up one's mitts elegantly is worth the bet. I have been impressed with what Leigh Ann and Andrew Green -- the founders of Apple peripheral company Twelve South -- have done with their Compass mobile stand. The elegant foldable tripod pops out three legs to form a simple, yet stable presentation display. Besides being well-designed and durable, it can help turn any space into a presentation space. And it does it all for $40. Dollar for dollar, this is the tablet presentation tool of the moment.
The trick with sales is having your message ready when -- and where -- your customer is ready. I have no idea how the perfect tiny presentation tool to meet these mobile needs wound up being made by big ol' Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. But it did. 3M ( MMM) makes a simply tremendous line of palm-sized projectors, and the best of the bunch right now is the MP180. Understand that the MP180 will not rival even modest business projectors for average corporate use. It's too dim and low-functioning for that. But this unit has other virtues: It fits in your pocket and runs on batteries, so when you need to pitch al fresco -- that is, right where you are -- the MP180 produces a surprisingly clear, roughly 10-inch image. The MP180 comes loaded with surprisingly handy features, including 4 GB of storage. That means you can take even a monstrous presentation with you no matter where you go. There is support for many Microsoft ( MSFT) software options, and I actually found the menus to be idiot-proof, so even the non tech-savvy among us should have no problem dialing up on-the-go presentations. Instead of sketching your idea on a napkin over that next business lunch, you can actually show your idea on that napkin over lunch. How slick is that?
You can't sell unless you get your client's attention, and out in the wild, with all its mobile distractions, attention is the scarcest resource. While you should not confuse the Samsung Galaxy Note for a smartphone -- this thing is far too big for that -- it makes a surprisingly effective presentation tool. Whip this baby out and people will notice. I found that Samsung's roughly 5-inch diagonal screen is crisp, bright and easy to read and its AT&T ( T) 4G LTE connectivity is blazingly fast. You will find not only the 8 MP outward-facing camera solid, but the 2 MP front-facing camera excellent as well. Plus the unit comes with a stylus and software that allows you to mark images and take written notes. The Note takes a bit of gadget jujitsu to make all the parts work, but if you connect it to a mobile projector (see item 5) and do your homework, you will have a heck of mobile presentation system. Even better, the Note has been a cosmic -- and I mean cosmic -- flop. Consumers run from this thing because of its size and complexity. So deals can be had. Start at Best Buy ( BBY) and drive as a good a deal as you can.
Sometimes you need something on paper to close the deal. But lugging around pamphlets and brochures is oh-so-20th century. Today's cutting-edge paper presentation solution is some form of mobile printer, but finding the printer for the on-the-go sales rep is no joke. Every unit that claims to be portable demands major compromises: terribly slow printing speeds, limited features and steep prices. But as of now, for the balance of best features, HP's ( HPQ) OfficeJet 100 is my pick. Keep in mind, this is absolutely not the only printer your office will ever need. In some cases, you will wait about 20 seconds for a print, and who has time for that? But for cranking out collateral such as pamphlets and business cards in the field, the Officejet is devilishly effective. It makes luscious prints and high-quality brochures. It even runs on batteries that cough up 500 prints per charge! Which means, for average business use, you are plugging this thing in once a week. You can even print a great image wirelessly from your smartphone. Ask it to do the right things and OfficeJet 100 is the right mobile printing tool.
If you think you can close that deal without effective paper business cards, think again. The trick in the modern age, though, is to get the right card to the right customers. That means customizing your cards as needed and printing in small batches. For my money, Rhode Island-based Moo offers the best on-demand card and collateral solution out there. Need a basic yet cool card for that hot new prospect? Go to Moo's site, design your the card perfect for that lead and voila ... the cards show up in the mail. It's tremendous. For better results, I prefer to hire a designer to create a portfolio of design options for a Moo account. Upload your company logos and other material and cut, paste and customize as demanded. Clients keep cool cards. Moo is perfect way to make cool cards. You do the math.
Polaroid may have bumbled into the greatest brand niche in desktop printing history. Its Grey Label printer is essentially the Instagram of printing -- a clever portable printer that renders fascinating-looking printed images basically on demand. The 15-ounce unit works with any smartphone, tablet or mobile device. Take one of those simply awful smartphones pictures, flow it into the unit, press "print" and ... poof ... out comes a terrific-looking instant print. Really, anything looks great: reference shots of product, snapshots of you and your customers, even the most basic snapshots. With a bit of imagination, you should find that a printed-on-the-spot image is heck of way to get customers to remember you. If you are looking for clever way to put a little zip in your mobile sales, printing up a bit of business memorabilia works. And so does this Polaroid.
I have saved the ultimate sales tech secret for last: great sound! Just like in the movies, the secret to a great sales presentation is the score. And while $500 might seem steep for a pair of glorified ear buds, there is no doubt high-quality audio adds real punch to your message. For the best sound on-the-go as of now, Sennheiser is simply kicking it with its spiffy new IE 80s. Elegant brushed aluminum cases, an interchangeable cable you can switch up as needed and you can even tweak the bass to punch it up for that big booming sound or dial it back for more mellow spoken presentations. Sennheiser makes my favorite legit top-end audiophile headphones in the world, and while the IE 80s do not touch that bar in terms of overall performance, there is enough attention to audio detail here to make these acceptable to even the most demanding audiophile. Just remember to travel with the spare ear canal inserts these units require, since we are talking about sticking something in your client's ears. Plug these bad boys into either a smartphone or iPod, hand em over to your customers, fire up your message and watch their ears -- and eyes -- light up. If you can't sell with the IE 80s, it is probably time to consider a life in the arts.