Sales in a Virtual World

It seems to me that there is a buyer/seller discord like never before. The Internet has made all kinds of product and service information available to the buyer at a click reducing their reliance on sales people whilst at the same time sales people are recognizing that the only way for them to differentiate themselves is through developing relationships with buyers. Companies are exploring new and innovative ways to develop relationships with their prospects in order to boost sales.

Last week I talked about using blogging as a means of enhancing relationships but there are other new media innovations that could change the way we do business in the future. One very interesting development is the potential use of virtual worlds to conduct sales and marketing interactions and to develop buyer seller relationships.

There are many virtual worlds out there catering to a variety of interests. These on line environments are set up to allow interaction between individuals in a simulated “real” world situation. Users have their own identities or avatars that they create and use to interact with other avatars in the community. The most popular of these communities in North America appear to be: Second Life; The Sims Online, There and Entropia.

The idea of conducting real life relationships in a simulated on line world was pioneered by educators as means to enhance teacher student communication. Its an idea that is now being paid more than service by some major organisations.

One Canadian example of the virtual world approach is Telus (the Canadian telecommunications company). The corporation launched a store front on the Second Life virtual world last year. Telus avatar “Sparkle Dale” develops relationships with Second Life inhabitants with a view to selling replica cell phones and virtual services.

Other big corporations involved in avatar based sales, marketing and advertising in Second Life include American Eagle, Dell, IBM, Toyota and Coca Cola.

It is too early to tell if the addition of a Second Life presence is having any impact on the bottom lines of these global organisations but with over 4.5 million residents registered and almost 9 million transactions taking place in February alone, Second Life presents an opportunity thats growing at a much faster rate than opportunities in traditional sales channels.

Now, I am not suggesting that you go out and fire your sales force in favour of a simulated sales force tomorrow but virtual worlds can help to bridge the buyer sales discord by meeting the perceived need of buyers to automate the sales cycle whilst at the same time enhancing the sales relationship in a non threatening environment. If your company targets the cyber demographic then setting up a presence in the virtual world is definitely something you should, at the very least, consider.

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