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Oracle Adopts an Inbound Approach With New Focus on Social Sales

social-salesWhile enterprise businesses have been notoriously slow to adopt inbound marketing, we’ve noticed a definitive shift in the conversation at the executive level. CMOs and industry leaders have started to talk about “Customer Obsessed Marketing,” “Modern Marketing,” and “Demand Generation.” Whether or not they’re calling it “inbound marketing,” heavy hitters are starting to catch on and pay attention.

Notably, Oracle has pulled out in front of the crowd as being a vocal advocate for changing the way CMOs, CIOs, and industry leaders think about the role of marketing in a company. Now, there’s no coincidence that much of this newly found enthusiasm for inbound-like thinking falls on the heels of Oracle’s acquisition of Eloqua. But over here at HubSpot, we're just excited to see mainstream, enterprise-level adoption of the concepts we’ve been championing for the past eight years.

We were interested to see how Oracle would begin to implement inbound strategies. It’s one thing to buy into inbound, but it’s another thing to actually practice what you preach. From an outsider’s point of view, Oracle’s website, blogs, and online content seem to take a pretty traditional approach -- focusing primarily on products, features, and services. Oracle is doing a pretty good job from a social media perspective, with a wide presence on all of the major social media networks -- but again, the conversation seems very Oracle-focused and less “customer centric.”

Earlier this month, however, Ad Age reported that Oracle was starting to adopt social selling by integrating social media into its sales process. Specifically, Oracle has started to encourage its employees to use Twitter to engage with prospects in meaningful, helpful dialogue during the sales process. While this is not a new concept from an inbound sales point of view, this is certainly a drastic shift for large B2B enterprise businesses that has relied on traditional sales and marketing tactics to date.

Now this was interesting -- this is inbound.

While only about 5% of the 23,000 sales reps were actually using Twitter for selling at the time the article was written, there are still a few things we can learn from how Oracle is approaching this impressive strategic shift.

Demonstrate Commitment

Oracle’s first move was, wisely, to demonstrate commitment from the top. It did this by putting a former Eloqua employee, Jill Rowley, in the driver’s seat as the official “Social Sales Evangelist” at Oracle. In this role, Jill created an entire program around social selling to help educate, train, and get folks excited about using Twitter to sell. 

Conduct Formal Training

Oracle’s second smart move was to develop formal training to help salespeople understand how to use Twitter for selling. It’s definitely a departure from the traditional cold calling and emailing. Oracle approached the training by building out large scale training sessions, as well as small support-style workshops. Jill also produced and starred in an internal 10-episode webinar series that focuses on social selling. 

Get the Right Tools

The article didn’t divulge what tools Oracle was using to help its sales force with social selling. But, since salespeople don’t have all day to waste watching a Twitter feed, we’d venture to guess that part of the internal webinar training included how salespeople can use social tools to schedule tweets, find relevant keywords and hashtags, and respond in a timely manner. 

HubSpot's sales team uses our own tools for social selling, which takes it to the next level by allowing someone to not only find and respond to relevant conversations, but also see context around our relationship with the person. That way you're not mistakenly talking to a customer the same way you’d talk to a new prospect or lead.


It will be interesting to see how Oracle continues to adopt an inbound approach to sales and marketing as it navigates new acquisitions and ventures into the world of big data. Our eyes will be on Oracle to see how the social selling initiative takes hold in a more traditional B2B enterprise. Certainly, Wall Street’s eyes will be on Oracle in March when they report their Q3 FY14 earnings after a less-than-perfect 2013.

In the meantime, we can definitely add Oracle to the growing list of enterprises like NEC, ShoreTel, ThermoFisher, and LinkedIn, who are leading the way with inbound adoption for the enterprise business.

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