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Sluggish sales? Might be time for IT to shift realities

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With so many people remote and physically out of work, the sales process for companies in nearly every industry is now frustratingly out of whack. How is this IT's problem, exactly?

One of my team’s managers recently relayed his concern that many of our employees can’t see our customers, which is a big challenge for the sales operation team. Creatively, how do we overcome that? Our answer has been to innovate and think outside the box, try new things, and experiment.

Simple, right? Well, it can be with the right technology in hand. In a world where it’s harder to get customers to come to us, augmented- and virtual-reality product showcases are an easy way to demonstrate a product. And they carry the added convenience of being accessible from the customer’s living room. This AR and VR capability is enabled through the latest generation of smartphones, but surprisingly few companies and IT teams are taking advantage of it. And that means they’re missing big opportunities for better sales enablement.

So many applications for AR and VR

AR and VR capabilities offer so many applications to enhance sales processes, and the art dealer industry is one of many great examples. Consider an art gallery that uploads different paintings and sculptures to allow customers to browse and enjoy works of art virtually in the contact-free era we’ve grown accustomed to. Those customers could see which piece they like, order it with a few clicks, and either have it delivered or ready for pickup. This ability changes the dynamics of the sales cycle and the sales process. Instead of customers coming to us, we can now bring more realistic experiences directly to them. This can be done across many retail markets, from clothing to food.

Similar to these product showcases are AR and VR product demos that could be incredibly helpful for companies that sell large machines and systems (e.g., large medical devices or large manufacturing products). Because people can’t travel to trade shows, these companies could create demos in virtual reality that recreate the machine or equipment. Drawings and 3D renderings can effectively pull things apart to display in granular detail how the product works, highlight the different components, and demonstrate the essentials of the product. To amp up the engagement level, the sales team could pre-record a video in VR and send it to the customer, or leads could join the sales team for a virtual demonstration if they have headsets.

It’s important to reiterate that this isn’t expensive to implement: The investment pays off multifold. Imagine that a customer could put on a headset and experience a product. Many of these experiences are enabled by someone’s phone; they don’t require extra hardware or fancy $2,000 glasses. With AR and VR, a $400 headset will do the job — not exactly cost-prohibitive, considering that capturing that experience can lead to higher sales conversions. Creating the most compelling experience possible differentiates a company from the competition, especially in the current climate.

IT teams need to be aware that when sales team members (new and established) can’t actually go to the corporate workspace, their companies can also use AR and VR to augment product training. In a way, IT becomes the sales team when arguing for or against certain technologies within the budget. AR and VR are well worth the investment, as the actual salespeople could use the technology to get a sense of the product or put on a headset and learn how the product works. Virtual reality could basically recreate the experience of the product without requiring much logistical work like navigating travel restrictions.

Two key steps for early adopters

To be on the bleeding edge of technology and get ahead of the competition, consider two key steps:

1. Start small and get buy-in. Smart IT teams know that as tempting as it may be to cannonball into newer technologies with abandon, it’s wise to dip in a toe first. AR and VR can transform companies in dynamic ways, but a little trial and error can go a long way toward sustained success. Once a few small victories are won and the technology’s worth is proven, start taking bigger swings and allocating bigger budgets to the cause. At first, however, make small bets that are guaranteed to pay off.

2. Build a proof of concept. Once IT gets the validation necessary for selling this internally, create a proof of concept that showcases the technology’s feasible deliverables. Done correctly, a proof of concept validates that the proposed products, features, solutions, etc., can be achieved. Many people think VR is just for gaming, but a proof of concept can shed light on other practical applications and use cases.

What we'll see is more experiential things taking place in virtual reality. Because it's more accessible and there are more consumers in it every day, brands and businesses will start thinking about how to engage with those consumers in VR first.

Being able to perform our jobs in virtual reality will very much become a possibility for people over the next couple of years. There's going to be a lot of development to make it possible to hop into VR and do work. People are tired of video conferencing — they find it frustrating because people are always distracted and it's hard to pay attention. Virtual reality offers a compelling alternative for virtual sales meetings that doesn't require you to physically be there.

Ultimately, AI will eliminate a lot of tedious manual stuff in ways we can't necessarily predict or even understand yet. But that future awaits right around the corner. As the world gets more complex by the hour, advances in automation will simplify how you do a lot of everyday things.

There’s definitely some novelty to augmented and virtual reality. If we can be first and be successful, there’s no question we will win the hearts and imaginations of our clients. The company that does this well will be perceived as an innovator and will set the new customer experience standard. There are always early adopters to every sort of technology cycle, and they’re the ones that leap out in front. A lot of businesses could benefit from these technologies, and those IT teams that commit to experimentation will help secure more sales and win the day.

Saagar Govil, chairman and CEO, Cemtrex (opens in new tab)

Saagar Govil is the chairman and CEO of Cemtrex Inc. (Nasdaq: CETX), a world-leading technology company. His latest project is the Cemtrex SmartDesk, an innovative workstation designed to increase productivity.