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“If you could see today but be back in 1996, what actions would you have taken then?” he asked in his seminar handout. Marks titled his presentation “Key Messages for 2006.”
“There are four key things I want you to take away from this session,” he said. “First, you need strong input from your customers, since they are going to define how they are going to buy. Second, [distribution] channels evolve to solve customers’ problems, not to push products. Products flow through channels; channels do not flow through products.
“Third, the Internet will enhance, not replace, existing channels.
“Fourth, prepare for the future; don’t try to predict it.”
Marks advocates using “scenario planning” for uncertain futures. “Scenarios deal with the ‘what if’ question,” he said. By looking at current trends and forecasting them forward, Marks believes that businesses have good tools for “contingent action planning.”
THE INTERNETMarks predicted that online product ordering will grow, but will not dominate the market by 2006. He pointed out that there is a distinct difference between ordering and shopping.
“Very few cars today are purchased online — they are shopped for online,” Marks pointed out. “Ordering does not equal shopping.”
He said that simple products and routine purchases are likely to be made online, but the more complex the item, the more likely it will be purchased locally. Customers will use the Internet as a tool to search for new suppliers, request bids, or get product information. But he concluded, “Our customers will not be buying online, they will be shopping.”
Marks challenged members to define the changing role of their salespeople, since the Internet has become a useful tool for shopping. “The Internet has turned our salespeople into order takers,” he said.