Talking Heads

Virt2go wants to virtualize the sales force by offloading the heavy lifting to Web presentations; analysts think it might be part of the future of sales. Virt2go has released Virtual Specialist, a sales and marketing virtualization system that uses video, Flash animation, and interactive content to make interactive sales presentations that can be played over a Web site or mailed on CD. The application is especially useful for explaining complex products or services to potential buyers. Salespeople usually need extensive background in the products they sell, and virtualization is one way to get around that, says Bentley Radcliff, CEO of Virt2go. Rather than spend time training them in all the product's nuances, salespeople can simply point potential buyers to the Virtual Specialist-enabled site. According to Radcliff it's a growing trend--see Second Life, the popular 3D computer world built by its residents. Players, or residents, literally have a second life within the game, though Virt2go isn't going that far. For instance, Hewlett Packard is using the product to explain its Blades line of servers with a site that looks rather like an on-screen DVD player. Press a button and the initial saleswoman sitting in a conference-style room gives an overview of the server line, listing benefits and explaining how they function. She next offers a pull-down menu of particular business benefits. Want to hear about how the servers work for your particular industry? Click on the appropriate pull-down button and she further specifies her presentation. Another option calls up Blades customers and analysts who speak directly to the viewer. Standard fast-forward and rewind buttons are situated on the console as are four option buttons including virtual store and business solutions options. Click on business solutions and the viewer enters a conference room--where another representative greets viewers and welcomes them inside for a sales presentation. In other words, viewers can tailor on-line sales presentations to their needs via series of pull-down menus and special options. "We want to help improve the Web's relationship with sales," Radcliff says. "You can't have passion in a brochure. Video communications a little bit video. So we've combined interactive video and animations to make a sales call more effective." He envisions a one-day-soon Virtual Specialist in which an actual sales person--at least the avatar of that person--greets prospects. "Instead of a pre-built system there might be someone waiting for you," Radcliff says. "The representation would be an avatar, but for the real back-end call-center person. You'd have the ability to socialize with this person, which is a big thing you don't get on instant messaging." Gartner Group believes such virtual spaces are opening up to companies like Radcliff's. The analyst firm has advised its enterprise clients that they should investigate and experiment with business in the virtual world, but limit substantial financial investments until those environments stabilize and mature. Gartner analysts looked at the hype around virtual worlds during Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2007: Emerging Trends, which was held in April. "The collaborative and community-related aspects of these environments will dominate in the future, and significant transaction-based commercial opportunities will be limited to niche areas, which have yet to be clearly identified," said Steve Prentice, vice president at Gartner, at the event. "However, the majority of active Internet users and major enterprises will find value in participating in this area in the coming years." Related articles: Material Living in a Virtual World
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