Technology is also playing a major role in how sales professionals reach prospects and existing customers. While audio/video conferencing has been available for many years using high-end telecommunication hookups, it has only been within the last few years that improvements in Internet access speeds, computing power and meeting software have made this method for reaching customers a practical alternative to face-to-face sales meetings. These options include:
- Online Video Conferencing – Online conferencing essentially acts in the same way as telecommunications videoconferencing, with one big exception; it is delivered over the Internet. Anyone who has an Internet connection knows that trying to deliver video over the Internet can be a trying experience as video often appears to be slow, jittery and sometimes not even recognizable. But these problems are quickly disappearing and while real time Internet video conferencing (i.e., television quality video and audio) is still not routinely accessible to most salespeople, this is expected to change.
- Web/Phone Conferencing – To offset the problems associated with Internet delivery of real time audio and video, many companies deliver sales presentations using a combination of web and telecommunications. The most widely used services use the Internet, to deliver visual material (typically a slide presentation) and telecommunications, to allow for voice conversation. The process has a salesperson arrange for a conferencing time with a prospect who enters the conference by: 1) using their web browser to gain access to the visual presentation and 2) using their telephone to call into an audio conference. Splitting the visual and audio feeds allows for smoother presentations since the conference participants’ computers need only process the visual material. It should be noted, that while audio access is now being carried out over telephone connections, the emergence of telephone over the Internet (i.e., VOIP – voice over Internet Protocol) may soon help resolve some of the problems that have been encountered when delivering both.
- Online Text Chat – Online chat allows for real time communication between multiple participants using text messaging. While this form of buyer-seller communication may not be very effective at getting customers to agree to make a purchase, it has proven very effective in building initial product interest. For example, potential customers visiting a website may use the chat feature to ask a few questions about the company’s products. Engaging a customer this way can then lead to the customer agreeing to receive a phone call from a salesperson to further discuss the product.