"I don't see anyone going out of business or being completely disintermediated in the set of [sales] channels that we deal with today," Wayne Flaggs, VP-strategy and business management, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp., told a packed house at a recent MIT Enterprise Forum in New York.
"We're all going to grow," Mr. Flaggs said. "We've got to know how to use the Web, find new customers and keep them. Lastly, don't tell your salesman friends they should be looking for a new job because I think the blue-suiters and others like us will be around for a while."
Beth Enslow, senior analyst for the Gartner Group, Stamford, Conn., said the companies most in danger of disintermediation, or the elimination of intermediaries such as sales staff, are those whose product can be digitized or who sell to computer-literate buyers.
However, those companies can stay in business by making changes to accommodate the Web. In fact, they can use the Web to enhance the flow of goods, to get out information cheaply and quickly, and to help sell more products, Ms. Enslow said.
"The main message here is that companies that are flexible, companies that are very adaptable to changes and consumer demands and changes in business conditions seem to be surviving," she said.