A New Approach to Customers


The sales team can also draw on the industry-focused business units. These are global groups made up of experts in specific industries. "You name the industry, we have people who are experts, and it helps us have meaningful conversations with customers," Block says. "On top of all that," he adds, "we have a world-class consulting organization that can help customers realize long-term, sustainable, and measurable benefits."

Customers React

Judging from customer response, the transformation is paying off. "It's night and day," says Barry Libenson, CIO of Ingersoll Rand, a multibrand commercial products manufacturer headquartered in Montvale, New Jersey. "There will always be challenges, but our relationship with Oracle has improved dramatically over the years. There's accountability, there's communication, and there's a sense of trust." Steve Prince, CIO of Pella, Iowa-based door and window manufacturer Pella Corporation, agrees. "It was rocky back in the day. We'd see Oracle reps at the end of a quarter, and they'd resurface exactly three months later. That's a thing of the past. Our relationship is now about collaboration and long-term partnership. That's a good place to be."

Customer outreach is another crucial element. The organization does quarterly customer satisfaction surveys that show clients that are very happy with both the strategy and its execution. "Customers love the way they are being treated," says Block. "It's not perfect, but they do believe in the strategy."

One particular area of interest is integration. Oracle has focused on helping customers simplify integration through the Oracle Application Integration Architecture initiative. "Our message is simple: Don't be in the integration business when we can provide you with best-in-class solutions for your industry. We'll do the integration for you, and you can take that integration money and apply it to something else," says Block. In keeping with the customer focus, Oracle turns to customer groups to help prioritize the creation of integration packages. "Some customers even help us build them," he says.

Block believes that Oracle's sales transformation has been instrumental in Oracle gaining mind share and market share across the board. He adds, "We're incredibly excited about having increased our lead over our competitors. Especially SAP!"

But the work is not done. Block believes that the next level for his organization involves yet another transformation: from a traditional sales force to one that truly functions collaboratively with its customers as a trusted advisor. He adds, "We've acquired our way into the hearts and minds of many companies. Now we have to earn the right to stay there and improve our impact on customers. We will do that only by being in it for the long term."

In fact, he has challenged his organization to achieve this next level. "For us to declare success, customers have to think of us as partners who will help them, advise them, and work with them on their vision. When we can have a customer invite us into the boardroom and share business challenges and we can respond with impactful advice, we will have arrived."

Block says that Oracle is just at the beginning of this shift to trusted advisor, but he predicts that the effort will pay off as customers benefit exponentially from this type of relationship. "We're not just selling software but advising them on how to grow their enterprise and thrive. If we can demonstrate that and help them unleash their business potential, that's powerful."

Carol Hildebrand is a freelance business and technology writer.

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