Laptops for Sales Presentations

Some cabinetmakers get good results by bringing a laptop computer with them to client meetings. April 20, 2007

I'm a cabinetmaker and furniture designer. I do my own CAD and build what I design. I need to upgrade my desktop computer (Mac) and I'm looking at a laptop (17" MacPro) that I can bring to client presentations, etc. I can't afford two systems. Does anybody here use a laptop for presentations and also office? I'm also thinking of putting my portfolio on it, so I'm probably answering my own question. So, is having a laptop to present drawings, etc. to clients worth getting one for?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor S:
Have you tried doing the CAD in front of an audience? Are you/it lightning fast? Can you do it without a mouse as you walk around a room, talk to the customer and take measurements?

Some may be able, but not me. An audience that keeps asking questions is a drain on my already slow speed. The touch pad is not the same as a mouse, so a table or countertop would be needed to work at (nothing like setting up an office somewhere other than your office). A laptop is like carrying around a baby, hard to hold, can't just be left anywhere and best not to drop.

All the negative points being said, I would still try it (practice it a few times before you go out to try and land the big one). I have always wanted one of those Notepad type PCs and wonder how different CADs would work on one of them.

You could get a Bluetooth printer and keep it plugged in out in the truck to give the customer a rendered drawing and printed contracts. What CAD are you using?

From contributor O:
I have tried using my wife's laptop to do CAD drawings and I don't like it at all. The smaller keyboard, the lack of a number pad, size of screen, are all strikes against it. Wearing bifocals doesn't help much either. I looked at a laptop with a wider screen but I think it would have to be taller as well to be of any benefit. In my office I use two monitors - one is a 20", the other a 19". I can have two different programs on screen at the same time. I don't use a computer to show to clients, so not much use for a laptop anyway.

From contributor B:
Get the Macbook Pro, wireless keyboard and wireless mouse! Use a separate monitor, too, if you want to replace your desktop. My wife has one and it is very fast (she does sales). The display is incredible. I don't do CAD on it, but you already know the iPhoto program and the other included applications will make it so easy to put together a great portfolio for display on screen, printing or uploading to your web site. I presently use e-cabs on a PC and intend to replace the PC with a Mac shortly (running Parallels so I can keep e-cabs).

From contributor R:
Get the laptop. I have used a laptop exclusively for the past 10 years and would never look back. If you are prepared with your presentations, it will impress your clients with professionalism and attention to detail. I have a docking station at my office with a 22" widescreen monitor for all my heavy CAD work... best of both worlds. I would love to switch to Mac. What software are you using for design?

From contributor H:
I have a laptop that I was using mostly for presentations and it did add an air of professionalism, but clients with time on their hands were wasting my time as they would ask to move the cabinets around to see every possible view. I do have two portfolio DVDs with sound that I show clients with the laptop, but a DVD player at 125.00 could do the same thing. Most of the time I do the drawings on my large computer and e-mail the drawings after getting a deposit. Clients that are busy appreciate that they can review them on their terms and answer me back in the middle of the night if they want to. I get back to them the following morning and things move quicker this way.

From contributor S:
I said Notepad, but meant tablet PC. Any free cabinet software out there?

From contributor K:
Whenever most of us do a sales presentation, we get to the point of needing to measure and focus and not be distracted by a bunch of questions. One thing you can do is have a DVD (no longer than 15-20 minutes) for them to pop in while you are measuring and estimating (for those who do first-call estimating), so that they are involved in doing something related to your company, creating a professional environment, and not letting them cool down from the sales cycle. The laptop afterwards will just reinforce this... I do hand renderings while they are involved, and follow up with a computer-generated layout. I never leave drawings, hand-drawn or computer generated, without a check in hand.

From contributor T:
I use a PC laptop. Have been for 4 or 5 years. I use a wireless mouse and keyboard - works dandy. I'm told by other designers that I'm very fast. I can also design and carry a conversation at the same time. I like having the customer there to ask questions about what they want here or there, their thoughts on this or that. It really impresses the customer. If I have found out beforehand (which I usually do) that it is an upscale kitchen (usually is), I try to take my wife along. She is a color specialist, and also a kitchen designer. She carries the conversation at a secret sign from me, which gives me a little time to put some bells and whistles into the drawing. I often walk away with a check, since KCDw has the ability to print to screen (I think most do), and I bring the quote up on my screen so they can view it. My contract is attached, and if I can't get a wireless connection to email it to them, I put it into my jump drive (so easy to use), and they plug it into their pc and save it to their desktop. If they have given me a check, I print the drawing to a PDF and do the same thing. Then I print two copies from their computer, have them initial each page and I'm on my way to the bank.