Six months ago, at Oracle Live, Oracle talked about its plans to bridge the sales and marketing gap with the help of AI and automation. During that event, Larry Ellison talked about how the CRM (or sales automation system) needs to evolve, arguing:
The sales automation system has value. It keeps track of your opportunities, keeps track of your contacts. It allows you to communicate with management and say, 'I expect these deals to close in the quarter.' It's really a management tool for individual salespeople and their bosses to make estimates: how many deals will close in the quarter, and figure out what revenues will look like in the quarter.
Now, that has value. But the sales system does not increase sales. It doesn't automate sales. It automates sales, forecasting and improves communication. But what we want to do is actually build systems that help you sell more.
To get to this point, Oracle started by creating a new way for marketing to generate qualified leads to send to Sales with the launch of Oracle Fusion Marketing. I'm not going to dive into the details of Fusion Marketing because Jon did a great job of that himself. But what happens once Sales gets those leads? Something needs to change to help them work with them - that's the concept at the heart of the release of Oracle Fusion Sales.
Removing the manual steps in the B2B process
At an Oracle Live event: The Future of CRM: Engineering Connected Sales Experiences, Rob Tarkoff, Executive VP & General Manager, Oracle Advertising and Customer Experience, talked about the need for a tighter hand-off between Marketing and Sales (and how rare that is today). For that to happen, a transformational approach to managing sellers is needed.
Tarkoff referenced an Oracle study of 200 sales professionals that found 86% want s
Sales and Marketing to work more closely, and 88% need the tools and technologies to make that happen. It's true that there are plenty of marketing technologies to help Marketing and a growing number of sales technologies to help Sales, but the integrations between the two are not always that ‘integrated’ or indeed useful.
Not only are sellers wary of the leads passed on by Marketing, but they are spending a lot of their time going in and out of different technologies to manage routine processes in addition to the work they need to do to work with prospective customers properly.
Oracle's answer to these challenges is Oracle Fusion Sales, dubbed “the next generation of CRM”. So what does the next generation of CRM look like? Katrina Gosek, VP, Oracle CX Product Strategy & Marketing, took me through the details.
Gosek said that Fusion Sales shifts the CRM from a system of record to a tool that will help sellers sell more. It does this in a few ways.
First, a new user interface makes it much easier to see what's happening with an opportunity. If you're accustomed to the busy interface of Salesforce, then you might appreciate the simplicity of this one.
The opportunity screen provides a high-level look at all the data around this opportunity, from activity by the account to sales activities, contacts, products purchased, services, billing, and more. The Sales rep can drill down further if they want to see more detailed information in any particular area.
The left-hand side of the screen provides what Gosek calls “guided selling”. These are guided workflows based on best practices and past deals (or built from industry templates). Guided selling is a useful feature for new salespeople coming in to help them learn faster and smarter, but it's also useful for more seasoned salespeople.
As Gosek pointed out, sellers still struggle with a predictable path to success because the models are continually changing, the groups involved are changing, and there's no one right now to move forward. But data can help make the process easier.
Underlying Fusion Sales is data - data from existing deals and opportunities, as well as past deals. Leveraging AI, the application can bring forward the best recommendations that help sellers move the opportunity forward. So, for example, it can recommend the next step in the process, whether that's making a phone call or email, creating a quote, or scheduling a demo.
And then there's the automation that takes the mundane, manual processes away from the seller. For example, Zoom meetings can be launched from within the Fusion application, and all notes, transcripts, and replays are automatically added to the activity for that opportunity. If you make a phone call from within the application, that call and any call notes are added. Let's say you made a note to schedule a demo meeting for a specific date and time. The application guides the seller to schedule the meeting as a next step and automatically fills in as many of the details as possible based on information in the notes.
Another automation feature is the creation of quotes and proposals based on customer data and past deals. Gosek explained that historical deal data related to similar closed deals, similar price points, and the combination of products sold together is used to help automatically generate a proposal or quote that the seller can review and customize.
The AI provides an estimated closed win rate and can suggest changes to increase the potential of closing the deal.
Other features in Oracle Fusion Sales include:
- Content recommendations - A native integration with the CMS helps surface the right content to share with an opportunity. The seller doesn't have to search for content, instead selecting from content recommended based on the past activity of the opportunity, similar opportunities, and other data.
- Digital Sales Room - The seller can create a sales room for an opportunity that includes everything from recommended content to the contracts and quotes, meeting transcripts and demo replays, and so on. This information is automatically added to the salesroom; the seller requires no manual work.
- Advanced Analytics - Oracle Fusion Analytics provides a wealth of data on sales and marketing performance, pulling in data from all parts of the organization, including sales, marketing, and service/support. Gosek said Fusion Analytics enables cross-engagement visibility to revenue leaders and pulls forward insights early enough in the quarter to support adjusting things sooner instead of reacting after the fact.
The overall goal of Fusion Sales is to give sellers one place to work that can perform many of the manual, mundane tasks and let the sellers focus on the work needed to win new sales. An action bar discretely hides additional functionality (like creating a deal room), so the seller isn’t overwhelmed with the interface. In addition, the tight integration with Fusion Marketing surfaces what Gosek called the 'conversation-ready' opportunities, so sellers spend their time with the best potential prospects.
I've helped salespeople with their processes. I've worked in Salesforce and helped set up different sales technology. It's often a convoluted process, working through multiple tools with little to no integration. Oracle Fusion Sales changes that, and I was pleasantly surprised with the clean, easy-to-understand UI and the guided selling.
The digital sales room didn't surprise me. I recently covered Drift's new Deal Room, and the two are very similar. And there are others too. This sales experience is so late in coming, but at the same it, it's timely. As Gosek said, a lot more selling is happening virtually, and even when we get back to more in-person meetings, that digital experience isn't going away. These deal rooms will become much more popular and widely used, especially when the buying team is large and distributed.
I'm all for AI and automation if it allows us to focus our efforts on the more critical work in marketing and sales. However, I am also keenly aware that for AI to work well, you need the right data. Oracle is pulling together a lot of data from different applications to ensure its AI is providing the best insights and recommendations, but a company needs to have a sufficient amount of customer data to work with for the AI to work well.