One of the most satisfying things about writing a book is meeting and interviewing incredibly talented sales executives who are always experimenting with new, innovative approaches to their jobs. Much to my delight, I continue to hear from many of them about their latest ideas. Norman Gennaro, a VP of Sales Consulting at Oracle, regularly sends me updates, letting me know of his latest improvements to an already advanced model of technical sales support to a large, sophisticated inside sales team. Given the nature of Oracle’s extensive, complex product set, Norm’s challenge is matching and making available the best technical resource to a demanding global team of goal-oriented, quota-driven sales reps.
In the early days, Norm set up a support hotline that the sales reps could call to get to one of a team of a hundred or so Sales Consultants (SCs) on the phone to assist with a sales situation. But this approach wasn’t ideal for several reasons. First, a rep would get a random Sales Consultant who didn’t necessarily have subject matter expertise in the product in question. Second, if an SC forgot to sign out, the phone would just ring and ring with no answer. For these reasons, sales reps stopped using the hotline. In order to solve the issue, Norm’s team improved this “black box, round robin”model by mapping the SCs to small, dedicated sales rep teams while also placing them in a virtual pool for the entire sales group. This ensured the reps had a central point of contact as well as a larger group that they could access for specific skills. They also mapped new sales reps to senior reps and an SC in order to get them up to speed in on-the-job situations faster.
But like other Sales 2.0 leaders, Norm believed the hotline approach could be further improved. Reps now check the Sales Consultants’ IM status to see if they are online. They can also access a “Hotline portlet”. This allows the sales reps to see the availability of all of the SCs in their location first and then in other locations along with their skill set or expertise and multiple methods of contacting them (e.g., IM, phone, Skype, e-mail). They also see a photo of the SCs so they can put a face to the names of their support team members in and out of their office. The same concept will be applied to senior sales reps, who are leveraged as resources for helping junior reps come up to speed.
Oracle is incorporating other capabilities such as OraTweet (their internal Twitter application), blogs, and online dictionaries into their advanced internal phone/Web sales support system. Norm’s aim is to provide an advanced way to provide reps a human technical resource along with automated suggested content at the same time.
What innovations are you implementing in sales support?