Meet The Woman Charged With Transforming Oracle's Sales Force

Oracle Jill RowleyOracle’s new sales training goddess, Jill Rowley

As we previously reported, Oracle’s salesforce has been in the midst of big changes, not all of them good.

Over about the past two years, since Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, many experienced sales folks have left, multiple sources have told us, and Oracle has been hiring like mad to replace them and grow its salesforce, too.

We just talked with Jill Rowley, a salesperson who has bucked the trend and joined the Oracle salesforce.

Rowley landed at Oracle as part of its $871 million acquisition of Eloqua. But, she says, it took a lot of wooing for Oracle to get her to stay. She had spent a decade at Eloqua becoming such a one-woman force that people called her “Jilloqua,” she told us. “I gave the company my everything. I was the Eloqueen, I dressed in red. My two daughters were not allowed to wear purple because purple was the colour of the enemy,” she laughs referring to the corporate colours of Eloqua’s chief competitor, Marketo.

The day that Oracle announced it was acquiring Eloqua was an “FML” moment, she told us. (Her words, look it up). Oracle’s $871 million purchase of Eloqua in December was a gauntlet thrown to her old employer and top customer  Eloqua and were close partners, and this gave Oracle an in to convince’s customers to ditch it and try Oracle’s cloud instead.

“I was like no way are we getting acquired by Oracle. It was a nightmare. At 5:30 a.m., my phone rang (with news of the acquisition). My first text was at 5:40 a.m. to my No. 1 client, It said ‘I’m sorry.’ I knew the acquisition threw [Salesforce] for a loop.”

Rowley is known in the Valley for a sales style she calls “social selling” which uses social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to work with prospects and customers.  That’s because most business-to-business IT purchasing decisions start on the Internet. IT professionals also lean heavily on social networks to research tech products and to work with vendors. Rowley learned how to meet the customers where they were hanging out.

Before Eloqua, she had worked for Marc Benioff, and after the acquisition was announced she was invited to go back to

“I’m a girl. Benioff has had a profound impact on my career. He and I IM on Facebook. How could I go work for the enemy?” she thought at the time.

She also had a job offer from SAP, with Co-CEO Bill McDermott calling her personally, she told us.

But then Mark Hurd came up with an idea she couldn’t refuse. Because Oracle was dealing with a large influx of new salespeople, he wanted to develop a company-wide training program for them, she said. He appointed Nina Purvis Kunz as vice president of a new Oracle Sales Academy.

Kunz convinced Rowley to join her and build a sales school based on Rowley’s social selling techniques. It would be a cut in pay — Rowley who was pulling in $500,000 a year as a top salesperson at Eloqua — but she was so excited by the prospect of teaching others about social selling that she took bait.

Her first task is to educate the 440 college grads Oracle just hired to sell its cloud. 

This week, they completed Week 1 of an immersive, 10-week training program. They live on campus and learn everything from business fundamentals to advanced sales techniques.

After that, they’ll be handed a bonus for graduating, and a quota, and be sent off into the world to find new cloud customers. They’ll officially be part of Oracle’s direct sales team, she said.

This is different from how Oracle used to treated entry-level salespeople. College grads worked on lead generation and handed off leads to more experienced salespeople to close deals, JMP Securities analyst Pat Walravens previously told Business Insider.

It’s a big experiment that is being watched at the highest levels. Larry Ellison approved the curriculum himself, she says and Mark Hurd has been preaching social selling to the salesforce in his all-hands meeting, Rowley says.

“I heard all the horror stories of Oracle. I had people telling me, ‘I can’t believe you are going to join Oracle.’ And three months and 12 days into it [they] are still saying ‘are you crazy?,'” she told us. 

But she is obviously happy right now. “We are transforming the company and I can’t believe it’s happening. It’s my dream job. I pinch myself every day.”

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