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Oracle Puts Its Employees' Personal Social Media Accounts to Work

Software Giant Giving Social B2B Selling a Real Shot

By Published on . 9

When Oracle acquired Eloqua in December 2012, Jill Rowley was ready to head for the door. Not only was Ms. Rowley, an Eloqua sales rep, assigned to Salesforce, one of Oracle's top competitors, but she questioned the company's commitment to the cloud, where Eloqua's software lived.

Oracle's Jill Rowley
Oracle's Jill Rowley

"No way is this happening to me. No way," she recalled thinking at the time. "I had spent over a decade building this company, building this space, and Oracle, to me, did not know cloud, didn't understand cloud, hadn't taken it seriously, hadn't developed any great cloud products in my knowledge -- this was a nightmare."

Before Ms. Rowley could bolt, she received a call from Eloqua's president asking her to meet with the M&A team. In the meeting, Oracle made her a proposal: It wanted her to teach its sales reps how to use their social media accounts to sell its products. And it wanted her to do it full time.

"Oracle isn't really social," Ms. Rowley said. She viewed it as an old school company that didn't let employees talk to the press and was very controlled. "And so I was like, 'God, this is fun. I'm going to go in and I'm going to be a cowgirl, right?'"

Intrigued, she took the job.

In the 10 months since she officially started, Ms. Rowley has worked to build internal support via talks to large audiences and dispatched practical advice in smaller workshops. And she produced and stars in an internal web video series, with 10 episodes of instruction such as "Introduction to Microblogging (Twitter)" and "Social Selling Routine."

Ms. Rowley's program is a departure from traditional b-to-b marketing, which can often be a monotonous cycle of emails, webinar invites, check-ins and finger crossing. And it's taking place at Oracle, a massive company with its way of doing things. But Ms. Rowley believes there's no other option.

"A company of the size that we are, innovation isn't enough; we need disruption, we need to really rethink our business models, our go-to-market strategies, our sales team organization and marketing," she said.

Requesting sales reps to turn their personal social media accounts loose for Oracle's benefit can be a big ask, but Ms. Rowley said she's encountered little resistance. "It's way more frickin' fun than cold calling," she said.

About 5% of the company's 23,000 sales reps are using Twitter the way Ms. Rowley trained them, she said. She pointed to Twitter handles such as @nickcarter_cal and @zack_reynard, Oracle sales reps who sport photos of Oracle sailboats as their backgrounds but whose bios don't toss the brand in your face, similar to Ms. Rowley's account.

Ms. Rowley said she instructs reps to watch for keywords such as Oracle and names of competitors, as well as features of the software they sell. And when interacting, she advises them to discard an "always be closing" mindset.

"You're helping. You're bringing in your domain expertise," Ms. Rowley said. That often takes the form of sharing relevant content -- including content from non-Oracle sources -- and making the pitch later.

"By focusing on the customer, by being hashtag customer obsessed, hashtag customer centric, hashtag customer centered, we will win, because we will help our customers win."

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