In today's fast-paced and unpredictable business environment, the traditional sales meeting is hardly a compelling event. Busy schedules, delayed flights, huge costs and ineffective results are only a few of the dangers. Bringing everyone together in a single room presents many problems: it's time consuming, expensive and logistically complicated.  The Internet, however, provides a new alternative, particularly when meeting participants are spread across a number of geographic areas. Participants can gather in a virtual meeting space to share ideas (and even computer applications), without having to navigate the frustrations of travel that often include bad food, long hours and too-small airline seat.

Time is $$$
A traditional, face-to-face sales meeting to present one hour of information might require a four-hour commitment on the part of each person involved once you consider travel time, unforeseen delays and the time to gather everyone in a single room. By leveraging state-of-the-art Web conferencing capabilities, corporate users can give customers 60 minutes of information for a mere 61-minute investment. 

Web conferencing services, for example, provide virtual space in which people can meet and share verbal and visual materials right from their own desks. Web conferencing lets any number of users, gather to create documents, discuss issues or share data. For large conferences, a streaming media approach allows for any number of attendees to listen to and see a high-impact presentation or enter into a Q&A session. Smaller groups can create a more interactive conference in which any attendee can provide visual or verbal input. 

Familiar Tool Kit
Unlike previous generations of conferencing technology, these new solutions allow participants to use technologies that they already use every day, such as a computer, telephone and Web browser. For example, by pointing their browser at the Astound Web site, a user can enter into a conference with any customer or potential customer without requiring either person to install any special hardware or software on their system. 

Through the browser interface, users can readily share information, even if the other attendees don't use that particular application. In a sales meeting, a seller might begin with a PowerPoint slide presentation, and then lead the customer on a quick tour of the corporate Web site. Finally, the sales person and the client could work together to hammer out an agreement. 

See + Hear = Remember
This multimedia approach is more effective than a telephone-only conference call. By combining multiple types of input (i.e., audio and video), participants are more likely to retain the information. In fact, when an idea or presentation is only heard, retention rates fall to just10%, compared to more than 50% if the person is both hearing and seeing the information simultaneously.

Expert Efficiency

Web conferencing also lets corporate users better leverage the time and talent of their subject matter experts (SME). Rather than requiring that a corporate in-house expert spend hours or even days accompany sales personnel on customer calls, the expert can remain centrally located and be called into Web conferences with whichever sales person needs him. The SME can readily attend multiple conferences with sales personnel spread across the country. During a Web conference, the SME can also access archived materials including keynote speeches, presentations or meetings. 

Many companies are also using Web conferencing technology as an easy and effective way to provide software product demonstrations or tours of their corporate Web site. Although a hands-on sales call may still be required to close a deal, Web conferencing technology allows the sales team to accurately pre-qualify potential new customers. The sales team can easily give potential users a test drive in order to make every personalized sales call count. 

About Steve McWilliam
Mr. McWilliam is Vice President of Marketing for Astound Incorporated. He is responsible for Astound Incorporated's marketing strategy and execution including all marketing activities, Product Marketing, Marketing Communications, Public Relations, Market Analysis and Web site Traffic Development.

Mr. McWilliam brings over 14 years of leadership experience at technology leaders including Interactive Media Corporation (iMC) and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Most recently, Mr. McWilliam served as Group Director of Marketing for iMC's North American and Australian operations.

1.The Warton Center for Applied Research.

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