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.


Ive been wracking my brains trying to come up with an appropriate theme for my very first Outsmart blog and then it came to me. What better way to start a blog than to tell people why anyone would want to blog anyway – from a sales and marketing perspective of course!

First of all, for the uninitiated (and there aren’t many out there these days) according to Wikipedia, a blog is “a user generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological”. These on line logs are: updated often; usually informal; tend to be unregulated and have unique or interesting content.

Many people associate blogging with personal web pages where people spout about their lives and experiences. Its true – it seems that there’s a blog out there on any subject you care to mention but blogging is by no means limited to narcissists among us. There are some very attractive benefits to be reaped for companies that blog wisely.

The benefits of blogging from a company’s standpoint are intangible and therefore its difficult to apply a dollar amount to them but they can be measured in terms of:

Increased brand awareness – the more people that read your blog the more people become aware of your offering and the more established your brand becomes.

Enhanced customer service – a blog is the perfect media to communicate messages to your customers and partners. But remember, citizens of the blogosphere don’t like to be sold to so make sure your blog adds value by giving product updates or soliciting for suggestions on how to improve your offering.

Visibility a blog is a great way to present your companies unique offering and to spread the word that you’re out there and open for business.

Open Communication Channels – a blog is a 2 way thing, its a relationship between you and the outside world. Readers and commentators can include not only your clients, customers and employees but also your competition. Its the perfect forum to measure market trends and attitudes and to communicate with key players in your industry.

Enhanced Search Engine Positioning – Internet search engines like web pages that are updated regularly so by adding a blog to your web site, your page will go up in the ratings and your site will attract more traffic to your site.

Networking– by publishing a blog you are presenting yourself as an expert in the field you chose to blog on. If your blog is insightful it will help you establish yourself within your peer group building trust within a community and in turn giving you trusted contacts that will help you build your business

As I discovered myself, getting up and running with a blog is easy; it doesn’t need to cost that much and anyone can do it (given a little time and effort). With some blogging software and a server you can be off to the races in no time.

All sounds too good to be true? Well, the number of people writing blogs online is forecast (by Forrester) to reach 100,000 people this year with another 200 million former bloggers out there. So the challenge becomes how to get yourself heard above all of the dotsam and netsam out there. Doing so will be the subject of subsequent blogs on this site.

In the meantime, you may want to check out some successful corporate blogs:

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