By Cate Gutowski
Vice President, GE Commercial Sales & digitalTHREAD
GE Digital



Trust me, it can be hard to get sales professionals excited about clean data, but that’s exactly what I witnessed Colleen Collins inspiring at a recent meeting.

How? GE’s Oil & Gas division is expected to generate more customer data in one month than Airbnb will generate in one year. So, it comes as no surprise that a modern and contemporary sales leader like Colleen Collins is energized by the new opportunities and growth that she and her team can generate by using the insights that will come from clean commercial data across GE.

Colleen is the Transportation & Enterprise Sales Leader within the new GE Capital Industrial Finance business – a business focused on providing financing for GE’s industrial customers. She works with Fortune 500 customers to present the larger opportunities that a “One GE” approach can offer. Her team focuses on articulating and demonstrating how GE can help customers unlock possibilities and savings when they use the GE Store. To deliver, we must prove (with data!) that it is valuable and convenient for customers to broaden their relationships across GE.

“To demonstrate the value of the GE Store, we need clean and complete customer data,” says Colleen. “Not just within each GE business, but across all GE businesses.” 

She shared a powerful example about how one team was pursuing a significant opportunity with a large enterprise customer and learned – too late in the game – that another GE business had an established relationship with that same customer. That led to a missed opportunity… for GE, and the customer. Unfortunately, at that time, we didn’t have clean and complete data to enable Colleen’s team to locate the right contacts and information in advance of the meeting. If we had that data, we could have proposed a more meaningful, holistic solution for that customer. The reality is that for many large corporations with multiple divisions and P&L’s, achieving clean customer data across an enterprise is challenging.

Historically, GE focused on and aligned ourselves around our products. We organized our data around what we sold (i.e. what division we are in), and allowed divisional databases to largely operate independently. Based on customer feedback, we’re making strides in how we organize ourselves. We have more teams in place like Colleen’s, focused on the One GE look across a customer. But now, we need the data to empower those teams to serve our customers with speed.

To accelerate this, we’re activating the Commercial Digital Thread across GE. The Commercial Digital Thread is a connected, digital ecosystem that will enable our sales teams to drive growth, operate with speed, and be more productive. We know that to be successful, we need to begin by transforming ourselves, especially our customer data. By providing our sales teams with clean and accurate information, the team will be more efficient, better informed, and can harness the power of the entire GE enterprise. We believe that once we transform our employee’s experience, we will continue to be better equipped to transform our customer’s experience. 

To bring this to life, we are focused on building an ecosystem of partners who can help us deliver a world-class technology stack for our sales organizations. My role inside GE is to digitally enable our sales teams so they can do their jobs simpler, faster, and better than they could before.

Beginning this summer, we will finally have what I’ve been waiting more than 20 years for… a solid foundation based on clean, complete data organized around each customer. This will make it easier, and more efficient for us to understand our customer’s business objectives and desired outcomes, and prove that GE has solutions that can help. Our end goal is to deliver a better customer experience.

Clean data is just the beginning of our digital sales transformation journey. I’ll be sharing our learnings as we continue. Thanks to our scale, we’ll be able to confront the challenges and opportunities and adjust where necessary. Our goal is to use these learnings and experiences to ultimately enhance the industries we compete in.

GE is on a journey of transitioning from an industrial to the world’s leading Digital Industrial company. We are embracing the new industrial revolution. In the 19th century, oil provided new sources of fuel for the United States. In the 21st century, clean and organized data provides new sources of growth for businesses. Based on this, we’ve concluded at GE that data is the new oil for sales. 

Cate Gutowski, Vice President, GE Commercial &digitalTHREAD, is reshaping GE’s commercial business by thinking and acting like an entrepreneur. Her experience as one of GE’s most inventive sales veterans, combined with her customer-first focus and appetite for digital experimentation, is helping guide teams that are innovating new technologies in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics to drive productivity and enhance the customer experience.

I am the leader of the Commercial Digital Thread at GE, stay informed about our sales and customer transformation by following me at: