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A one-time executive assistant to the chairman-CEO of Dell Computer Corp., Scott Eckert must inspire envy in struggling Web entrepreneurs. Not only did Dell CEO Michael Dell hand pick Mr. Eckert to design and launch its online sales division, but Mr. Eckert is making money at it.

Mr. Eckert opened Dell Online last summer, and by March, the division topped $1 million in daily sales. By June, it neared $2 million a day in sales, Mr. Eckert said. And that's before managers there aggressively tapped the company's otherwise mainstay corporate market, he added.

However, how many Web sales were a pilfering of customers from telephone or mail order sales? It's hard to say, Mr. Eckert said. Some certainly would have come via other means, but customer surveys report buying on the Web is the preferred method of learning about the product.

Even before Dell Online launched, Mr. Eckert realized the power the Internet could bring to its customer base. Corporate customers log on to review system configurations, receive quotes, check orders or download technical support identical to what Dell service reps provide.

Part of the online division's success can be attributed to Mr. Eckert refocusing Dell management on how the customers can benefit from online buying.

"Our goal is to empower our customers and make it easier for them to do their jobs and work with Dell," he said.

Web commerce naysayers take note: Mr. Eckert is seriously bullish on Dell Online's potential for Web sales. Dell rang up $7.8 billion in 1996 sales; first-quarter 1997 revenues topped $2.6 billion. While non-corporate consumers ac- count for 10% of the company's typical transactions, they account for 45% of Dell Online's business. Today, the company is gearing up to aggressively go after corporate customers such as Boeing Co. and MCI Communications Corp., as well as government clients.

"We're only just now starting to tap into what is the majority of Dell's customer base," he said. "There is no reason why we can't be doing 50% of business transactions on the Web within a couple of years."

Betcha didn't know: Mr. Eckert has traveled the Australian outback by camel and horseback, and today is trying his hand at writing a novel.

Vital Stats:
Title:Director Dell Online, Dell Computer Corp., Austin, Texas
Age/bio:29, born in Lansing, Mich. B.A. in quantitative economics, Stanford University, 1989; MBA, Harvard University, 1995.
Career highlights:Consultant in strategic consulting firm LEK Partnership, 1989-91; director of operations, LA Gear, 1991-93; executive assistant, Dell Computers, 1995-96; current post, 1996-.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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