Key Sales Lessons from Oracle’s 4th Quarter Miss


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Oracle Key Sales Lessons

Oracle just missed its 4th quarter number for the first time in a decade. They missed because they did not ramp 500 new reps fast enough. Their words not mine. Here is the announcement.

If you do not want to miss your 4th quarter, read on.

Allow me to explain.

In B2B sales, activity leads to results. The correct time to add sales people is when business is soft. More sales people means more sales calls. This means your sales force will be in more deals. This is how your pipeline gets built. In a soft economy, close rates will drop due to cautious customers. To offset this, your company needs to be in more deals. However, you probably do just the opposite. You reduce the number of sales reps to cut costs.

You will have a problem surface when the economy recovers. Your short-sightedness means you will have to hire quickly and play catch up. In contrast, forward-looking, courageous companies, like Oracle, hire into the soft economy. When demand returns, you can capitalize on it, usually catching the competition flat footed. This results in market share gains.

Why is it taking Oracle too long to ramp the new reps?

Oracle’s onboarding program is based on the waterfall method. It is slow, sequential, and activity focused. It should be based on the Agile method. Agile would make it fast, iterative, and results focused. How do we know this? We have spoken to several recently hired reps. We have also spoken to reps who hired on, and left inside of 12 months. Let’s not beat up Oracle. Most sales teams are still using yesterday’s onboarding program. Ironically, Oracle’s development team is considered best-in-class using the Agile Development Method to build products.

You don’t want this to happen to you. If you adopt the Agile method of onboarding, you will get these benefits:

  • New rep ramp time will be cut in half
  • New rep tenure will double
  • The cost to ramp a rep will be reduced a 1/3rd

Are you skeptical you will realize these benefits?

Consider this: Buyers are buying differently today. You know this. You are hiring a new breed of rep and implementing a new sales methodology in response. This dictates the need for a new onboarding approach. The approach you need is called Agile OnBoarding.

If you agree, you are asking “what are the deliverables?” of this new process. There are 12 major deliverables. Do you have them built? Use this tool to rank yourself on the Agile vs. Waterfall scorecard. This tool will save you a ton of time.

12 Agile Onboarding Deliverables

  1. Layered content. No standalone modules.
  2. 3 levels of content- beginner, intermediate, and advanced. No topic is covered to completion.
  3. Pre-work issued 4 week before start date. No waiting for the “next available class”.
  4. Metrics based on capabilities demonstrated. Learning activities completed is useless.
  5. Training organized in “sprints”.
  6. Start to finish in 13 weeks.
  7. Content is video based. No printed material.
  8. Frequent quizzes lead to certifications.
  9. The sales manager owns the process and is paid on average ramp time. L&D is a support function, not the owner.
  10. Reps engage with customers day 1. No incubation period.
  11. Training happens in the field, not in the class room.
  12. The program is gamified.

Building these is a lot of work. This is a blog post which means I had to summarize. If you want more information on this go here and here.

Special Notice: Gamifying the onboarding process is producing outstanding results. My colleague, John Kenney, published a post yesterday dedicated to this subject. Be sure to check it out here.

Call to Action:

Prospects are taking meetings again. Projects are getting funded. Your 2014 quota is going up. You are going to need to hire new sales reps.

Don’t miss your number because of poor onboarding. Convert your process from waterfall to Agile. Download the Agile Onboarding Scorecard.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Greg Alexander
Greg Alexander serves as CEO of Sales Benchmark Index (SBI), a sales and marketing consultancy focused exclusively on helping B2B companies exceed their revenue targets. In 2012, Alexander was named as one of the top 25 sales minds online by OpenView Partners. Sales and Marketing Management Magazine named Alexander "Sales Manager of the Year".


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