Corrections or additions?
This article by David Salowitz was prepared for the September 20,
2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper.
All rights reserved.
In a world of gee whiz, jawdropping technology, there
is one ingredient few wired businesses can do without: Old-fashioned,
flesh and blood salespeople.
Even in an era buzzing with electronic transactions, there are
"when you need to look someone in the eye and shake their hand
on the deal," says Michael Gersten
International’s senior vice president of strategic accounts in
Gersten is the keynote speaker at the "E-data Warehousing:
Your Customer" conference to be staged at the Newark Airport
on Thursday, September 28, at 1:30 p.m. by the Global Electronic
ContactX (GetcontactX) Association. Also featured are Paul Weber
of Oracle Consulting, Kelvin Hubbard
Technologies, and Mark Uncapher
of America. Cost: $199 for non-members. Go to www.getctactx.com/events
or call 609-844-0880.
Gersten will discuss E-data warehousing as it relates to increasing
sales and revenues. "No matter how good your systems are,"
says Gersten, "if they are ahead of your ability to transact,
whether it’s business-to-business or business-to-consumer, then that
is where you need the personalization of the sales force."
Data warehousing enables companies to take use computers to retain
large amounts of information about consumers and businesses. The data
can be used to enhance relationships with customers and suppliers,
increase market share, lower costs, and boost profits.
When linked to the Internet, the process is called E-data warehousing,
and the information becomes readily available online. E-data
uses the Internet to shorten the transaction cycle by sending an
instead of a letter, to a customer, Gersten says.
Through a website, a company can track customers as they encounter
promotions and product offers. In a technique called data mining,
the business can analyze a customer’s behavior and offer goods and
services tailored to fit the person’s profile.
By analyzing transactions and data files, companies attempt to
revenues by determining trends and finding value, says Gersten. For
instance, every time you use your ATM machine you leave a record,
and banks can monitor when a customer gets salary checks and is likely
to withdraw money. "That would suggest to them that if you only
take money out on Fridays, and then go out and spend, then we can
market to you a line of credit for a quick trip to the Bahamas. That’s
what E-data warehousing and data mining are all about," Gersten
Technology can influence you to spend more of your income through
your bank. For instance, the bank can find out that its customer is
using a wireless device or a web browser. "If a customer checks
his bank balance every Monday morning on a laptop computer, the bank
could send an E-mail at that point and make an offering. It’s a way
of increasing the profitability and the amount of transactions you
can get from your given customers," says Gersten.
Despite the marketing opportunities of E-data
says Gersten, "I personally believe the technology is way ahead
of most organizations’ ability to absorb it right now. It is very
difficult to implement. That’s why they’re going to this conference.
The vendors will be talking about tactics to allow organizations to
take advantage of it."
Some companies, including Charles Schwab, Citigroup, E-bay,
AOL, and Time Warner, implement E-data warehousing very effectively,
Gersten says. He credits the enormous size of some businesses or the
lack of internal corporate politics for their success.
"But once it’s done, it’s still of no value until you can sell
more and that requires sales tactics and leadership," he says.
Whether your specialty is technology, management, or human relations,
"we’re all in sales."
While business literature and corporate America suggest that
companies, emulating the likes of Amazon.com, can eliminate
brick and mortar retail outlets, and the need to warehouse inventory,
Gersten says that many outlets will survive by reinventing themselves.
But, he cautions, "in the business-to-business environment, with
long-term contracts and partnership arrangements, salespeople will
"My best skills are empathetic, dealing with people on a
basis," he says. "I still believe in the world of intangible
sales. That’s the only thing they can’t engineer out of the sales
cycle, the salesperson," says Gersten, who sold computers for
IBM after he received an accounting degree from the Wharton School.
He also earned an MBA from the University of Michigan and worked for
Anderson Consulting and Cambridge Technology Partners before moving
to Computer Associates on Long Island. He lives in Caldwell with his
wife and child.
The issue of privacy concerns Gersten. "I think E-data warehousing
will become so ingrained that it’s going to be hard to escape it,"
"E-data warehousing exposes and limits your privacy and it takes
you a while to regain it," he says. All these freebie magazines,
junk mail, and junk E-mail are the result of efforts, constantly
to identify an individual as part of a group that can be targeted
for sales whether you like it or not.
The only reason companies are giving away personal computers is so
you will use their service — which enables them to collect data
about you so they can more efficiently target you with other
There’s "no such thing as a free lunch."
"You are losing your ability to hide, you’re exposing yourself
— not unlike the `Big Brother’ television show where people will
allow them to put a camera in their home," Gersten says. "I
would suggest the government is very hesitant to allow the merger
between AOL and Time Warner to go through because of the control it
would give one company."
"One would suggest that in years to come people will pay for
to avoid pervasive intrusion into their lives, he says. "I think
the number of people in our socio-economic class who fantasize about
having enough money to move to an island and live their lives is
of the fear of others encroaching in their lives."
Another speaker at the conference, Mark Uncapher, is an expert on
online privacy. Vice president and counsel of the Information and
Technology Association of America, he specializes in the area of
services and electronic commerce for the trade association. A resident
of Bethesda, Maryland, and a graduate of New York University Law
Uncapher is a lobbyist involved in legislative and regulatory issues.
"There’s a heightened sensitivity for online uses of
Uncapher says. "If you get an E-mail from somebody with an offer,
it may raise your hackles about how did they know that, and yet if
you got a catalog through the mail you wouldn’t think twice. So there
is very much a double standard that exists. Maybe that’s unfair but
it’s a reality."
"A lot of times I’ve noticed that, when companies get themselves
in trouble, it’s because somebody in marketing or in communications
has a neat idea to link this with that, generally with good
and what frequently happens is it ends up with the worst possible
spin to what the company or organization really intended."
Uncapher uses the examples of an estranged spouse having access to
information intended for the spouse, or the involvement of minors,
or embarrassing information unintentionally released about the wrong
"In the brick and mortar world the information might have been
available but when it goes online it’s that much faster," he says.
"Companies are sometimes caught scratching their heads saying
`how did we get ourselves in trouble,’ and it’s because of the speed
of the Internet."
The use of E-data warehousing is growing and whether or not there
is government legislation in the future regulating the industry, the
major Internet business-to-consumer companies are beginning to
third party sharing. This means corporations must rely on their own
information because they may not be able to buy or share information
with other companies, he says. Limiting opportunities to gain access
to data may present problems for small to medium-size companies but
not to giants like AOL or Citigroup because they have huge amounts
of data about their customers,
Says Uncapher: "As companies develop their own internal privacy
policies, and as those policies turn into practices, from an on-line
perspective it’s going to have an effect on what companies can and
— David Salowitz
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