Tell us about your role at Oracle and the team/technology you handle.
I lead the Oracle Customer Experience Product Management team responsible for SaaS-based sales applications, including Oracle’s Engagement Cloud, Sales Performance Management, Customer Data Management, and Partner Relationship Management.
How do you see sales roles evolving with the maturity of Automation and Intelligence tools?
First, let’s talk about how buyers have changed. Today’s buyers do most of their research online before reaching out to a salesperson. They don’t need sales reps to get basic information.
In fact, many buyers are not confident that sales reps understand their unique challenges, or that they’re prepared to answer their questions. They are also less willing to respond to sales reps or accept in-person meetings.
According to WBR Research, 73% of B2B buyers prefer buying “low-consideration” goods and services online — skipping a salesperson altogether.
So, the challenge for sales professionals today is to demonstrate immediate credibility to build trust with prospects. To do that sales reps need to understand their prospects, not just the products they are selling. They need contextual information that illustrates a prospects’ previous interactions with the company, whether that’s marketing or service related. From there, they can pick up the conversation without having to probe for basic information.
Furthermore, sales reps are also utilizing prescriptive intelligence to optimize their engagement with customers. AI-powered suggestions provide logical next steps or content to keep interactions relevant and value-added.
Gone are the days of the three-martini lunch sales calls when buyers talk about what keeps them up at night. Modern sellers must be digitally enabled to engage with prospects on their terms and in their preferred channels, whether that’s through chat, apps such as Slack, or screen sharing. Against that backdrop, we see the role of inside sales getting a promotion.
Insides Sales is shifting to “digital sales”, where reps are assigned quotas and are responsible for the entire sales cycle. This new breed of sales reps need to engage digitally, socially, and intelligently with their prospects. They need prescriptive tools that provide them with insights on their prospects as well as to guide them through every stage of the sales cycle.
How do you leverage Sales and Marketing Technologies to achieve ‘Sales Mastery’?
The largest friction between Sales and Marketing revolves around lead management. Sales reps complain that marketing-sourced leads are no good, and marketing complains that sales reps ignore their hard-won leads.
At Oracle, we’ve helped our customers solve that problem. We designed Oracle Marketing Cloud to work seamlessly with our sales applications so that sales reps can see and understand what actions prospects have taken to qualify as a marketing lead. For example, a sales rep can see that a prospect attended an online webinar about a specific topic or product.
This is just one example of understanding a prospect or customer’s digital body language; that is, how they have engaged with you and your brand through various digital engagements. That context is passed to our Sales Force Automation application and enables the sales rep to engage with the prospect about, say, a webinar they attended — thus making the outreach more contextual, personalized, and relevant.
How has the Sales Force Automation trend taken over Digital Transformation journeys for businesses? What changes do you see at Oracle around Sales Force Automation?
Earlier, I talked about how customers or prospects, even in a B2B world, are increasingly engaging with a brand on digital channels–whether that’s to research or buy products or services. This shift means that sales reps must understand a customer’s entire engagement with a brand. Needing to understand customer context across all lines of business spurs digital transformation.
Furthermore, digitally-savvy customers are elevating the need for B2B Commerce and Configuration, Pricing, and Quoting (CPQ), all centered around the customer experience, which again requires digital transformation across all departments.
Additionally, the definition of sales, service, and marketing is blurring, especially in a digital world. The customer’s journey with you is anything but linear or predictable. Thus, brands need to put the customer at the center of engagement and enable them to interact with your brand via their preferred channel, at their preferred time.
What are the gaping holes in Sales and Marketing alignment? Which tools and technologies can fill/close these gaps?
In addition to my response to question three, marketing needs a closed-loop process with sales to clearly understand the conversion metrics from a marketing-qualified lead to an opportunity conversion to closed-won or lost deals. This enables Sales and Marketing leaders to measure ROI of marketing contributions and to fine-tune marketing campaigns, programs, and tactics.
Furthermore, by applying Artificial Intelligence or lead scoring against leads delivered to the sales organization increases the likelihood delivering of quality leads, which reduces the friction between sales and marketing.
Oracle CX Cloud provides end-to-end lead management capabilities and includes the closed-loop functionality leaders need to run their business more profitably.
What are your predictions and observations on the “Role of Chatbots, Virtual Assistants, and AI Conversations” influencing sales journeys?
In the near future, AI-powered digital assistants will not only free up B2B sellers to be more productive on the go but they will also provide sellers with “just in time” buyer intelligence ahead of their sales calls. Digital assistants will automate more of the sales process and free up sellers to focus more time on selling and understanding their customers’ unique needs.
Compared to other sales technologies, do you think CRMs are the least attended stack in the technology industry compared to analytics, email, and ABM, etc.?
Not at all. At Oracle, we continue to invest heavily in advancing cloud-based CRM technology that will help our customers improve the experience they deliver to their customers. Our focus on customer-centric innovation has paid off in both the CX and individual solution domains (i.e., Sales Force Automation, Marketing Automation, Customer Service and Commerce). That focus means we’re consistently rated as market leaders by Forrester, Gartner and other leading analysts firms.
What message do you have for young sales professionals? How should they plan their sales training and coaching modules?
I would tell young sales professionals to forget the saying “Always Be Closing.” Today, the mantra is “Always Be Relevant.”
Establish yourself as a “Trusted Advisor” with your prospects and customers as fast as possible. That means you’ve got to do your homework and always be prepared to tell customers something they don’t already know about their business or industry.
Use the emerging set of sales tech tools to work smarter, not harder. Enjoy the journey.
How do you prepare yourself for an AI-centric world?
Don’t blindly trust AI.
Start small by testing and evaluating a tightly defined set of capabilities. Ensure that you are working with a vendor who understands that good data (from transactional systems in your company and/or third-party data sources), means smarter AI. Adopt what works and move on to the next set of capabilities. Rinse and repeat.
Tag a person whose answers to these questions would like to read from the industry?
John Bruno, a wickedly smart Forrester Analyst who covers Sales Technologies.
Fortuné Alexander is the senior director of product strategy for Oracle CX Sales solutions. He’s a tech industry veteran with 20 plus years of product marketing experience. Prior to Oracle, Fortuné has worked for leading technology firms including Dell, Sony, and EMC.
Oracle offers a set of AI and data-driven features that help drive sales results and improve customer satisfaction by delivering personalized, seamless experiences and guided actions.