B2B Selling Increasingly Virtual, Marketers Must Rely More On Digital Tech: Holly Simmons, Oracle

This is because the number of digital touchpoints and the number of decision-makers have grown, she observes

The best marketing is not what a brand tells its customer, but what a customer tells about the brand!

And hence, to drive a successful business, a positive customer experience remains crucial. We term this as crucial since a content customer is likely to become a loyalist, who will eventually boost revenue. Even from a brand’s perspective, how profoundly it understands its consumers and presents a seamless experience to them, defines its business outlook and ultimately pours monies in its pocket. Thus, obsessing over an exceptional customer experience becomes extremely important. 

Giving us a sense of how brands and business enablers are stretching out their customer experience journeys, Holly Simmons, Vice President, Product Management, Oracle Advertising and CX shares in an invigorating conversation. She is a tech industry veteran with experience in marketing, product development, and professional services for cloud solutions serving enterprises and consumers. 


Q. What kind of current trends are you witnessing on the customer experience and management space, globally as well as in the Indian market?

One of the biggest trends we’re witnessing within the global customer experience (CX) space is the shift to digital and as a result, the way in which companies – specifically B2B companies – are making buying decisions, a trend that has been heavily accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you look at the B2B space specifically, B2B selling has become increasingly virtual, which means marketers must in turn rely on digital technologies to help them do their jobs and to connect with their customers. The number of digital touchpoints has increased, the number of decision-makers has grown, and buyers are choosing to interact with salespeople later and later in the cycle. This means that marketers need to react more quickly, target prospects more effectively, and even launch ad campaigns seamlessly with as few points of friction as possible.

Q. Can you talk about some of the main challenges that marketers, sales and service professionals are handling across businesses, particularly during and post-pandemic? 

This shift to digital and the way in which B2B companies are making buying decisions has changed the way marketers and sellers work. This is particularly prevalent when dealing with customer relationship management (CRM) systems. The age-old promise of a CRM was that it would automate the selling process, help salespeople keep track of their prospects, remind them of where they are in their sales pursuits, and generally turn a physical Rolodex card into an interactive tool that is perpetually up-to-date, accessible, and in the end, helps a salesperson sell more. But the reality of this has fallen short, and the dream of salesforce automation has turned into the nightmare of what some have called “salesforce administration.”

According to you what are the top 3 mistakes that marketers are making today? What factors will help them avoid and how can they improve? 

  1. Marketing has too many disconnected systems: Marketers are challenged with a very diverse application landscape – one that includes over 7,000 options and every company has a collection of marketing applications that they need to stitch together to reach buyers.  Buyers only spend 17% of their time with a salesperson which means the role of the marketer becomes that much more important to effectively educate the buyer. The pandemic drove an even greater shift to digital which means that buyers are doing more research on their own, across more channels and marketers need tools to effectively meet buyers where they are, no matter the channel. 
  2. Sales struggles with the quality of leads delivered: While there is often a volume of leads delivered, sales teams lack insights on whether those leads are ready to act on and a great deal of manual validation can be required based on incomplete information and gut instincts.
  3. Salesforce automation has become too focused on administration: Sellers spend a great deal of time on administrative tasks in CRM, updating lists, entering activities and resolving data conflicts. Salesforce automation has essentially become a tool for sales managers, not the actual sellers.

Q. The pandemic has made customers reimagine their buying behaviours. What are your views on the change that has taken place during the pre & post-pandemic era within the CRM space? And what is expected to bring transformation?

To help marketers and sellers address these challenges, and get back to what they do best: building relationships and closing deals, they need a better way to reduce the amount of time, overhead, and misalignment between marketing and sales content, and they need to be distributed, but coordinated, ownership of B2B sales campaigns. Marketers and sellers today require a system that does the heavy lifting to engineer and unify business across marketing and advertising, reference content, and automated lead qualification.

Q. How has Oracle evolved its CRM portfolio to meet rapidly changing customer requirements? Can you tell us about the recent developments that Oracle has made? 

Last week, we announced a new product called Oracle Fusion Marketing, the first solution in the market to fully automate lead generation and qualification for B2B. We built Fusion Marketing to unify B2B marketing and sales into a single end-to-end business flow. It automates the process from audience segmentation all the way through to generating a conversation-ready opportunity in your CRM. Engineering these applications to work together eliminates silos, removes human errors and automates the mundane. This is the next generation of marketing and sales automation and is the first of many engineered experiences to come from Oracle Advertising and CX.

Q. What is your viewpoint on the future of CX in 2022 and beyond?

Many changes have occurred in the last two years that are driving amazing innovation and changing areas of focus for marketers and sellers. With the focus on leveraging digital technologies, companies are embracing data transformation to learn more about their customers and prospects via the use of customer data platforms (CDPs), modern loyalty programs, integrated e-commerce, and real-time personalization. Additionally, marketers are looking for opportunities to improve sales enablement, time to the qualification of leads, and leverage AI and machine learning to identify insights, recommended content, and next best offers for customers. It’s the combination of these technologies, orchestrated across all channels, that both improve the experience for customers and also simplify and inform marketers and sellers. The outcomes can be astounding – higher deal sizes, faster revenue, and efficiency improvements across the board.

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