On a roll: Sara Silfvast

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Sara Silfvast, 40, was appointed VP at BDS Marketing last December, helping oversee the Irvine, Calif.-based field marketing agency's 1,200-plus employees who promote clients' brands at computer and consumer electronics stores. From 1989-98, she held various roles at Canon USA, rising to senior manager-retail channel solutions. Through October 2000, Ms. Silfvast was a principal at E-Plus, a retail marketing consultancy.

Top client: Canon, which was a pioneer in bringing manufacturers' representatives into stores like CompUSA and Best Buy. BDS employees rove the aisles answering questions and introducing customers to Canon brands, wearing shirts differentiating them from employees.

Insight: Retailers can no longer keep up the training needed to describe the complexities of fast-changing products. Brand representatives can augment a retailer's sales force and make the cash register ring.

Opinion: Technology products are becoming commoditized. The winning marketers are using creativity and innovation to differentiate their wares beyond price and rebates.

Prediction: Retailers' margins are so thin and technology products are so competitive, we may see a move toward a cosmetics-counter type of sales environment, where manufacturers will rent space from retailers or create "virtual" stores to save on overhead.

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