Oracle Exec: Partners Have Nothing To Fear From Salespeople We Hire Straight Out Of College


Every year, Oracle hires large numbers of young people fresh out of college and trains them as salespeople. Sometimes, these eager, young whippersnappers have caused channel friction by going after Oracle partners' customers.

This is one of the problems Rich Geraffo, senior vice president for Oracle's worldwide alliances and channels, has all but eradicated since taking over as the Redwood, Calif.-based vendor's channel chief last October.  

Oracle has instituted tough, new rules of engagement for new hires, and new salespeople go through a rigorous 10-week training program to ensure they're up to speed on the "swim lanes" they're supposed to stay in to avoid competing with partners.

[Related: Q&A: Oracle Channel Chief Says Partners Will Play Starring Role In Expanding Its Cloud Business]

Now when college students join Oracle in sales positions, they're well aware of the boundaries that exist between them and the channel, Geraffo told CRN in an interview earlier this month.

"When you come out of school, you're 22 years old and you're going to make some mistakes. But we have built a foundation to help them be successful and make sure [our new salespeople] know we're not going to go compete against our partners," Geraffo told CRN.

Geraffo was quick to note that the revamped sales training isn't aimed at making Oracle salespeople less aggressive. In fact, he told CRN, the opposite is true.

"The culture is not going to get diluted; it's actually going to get more aggressive. Because we have some competitors that have taken share. In markets we compete in, we're going to be superaggressive. Partners play a key role in that," said Geraffo.

Rhos Dyke, Oracle Practice Director at Technologent, Los Angeles, said relations between Oracle's salespeople and partners have improved significantly over the past six months. "Most of these new hires are on inside sales teams, and they're usually attached to more senior field people," he told CRN.

Geraffo said he has worked to establish clearer roles for partners, who are now focused primarily on areas in which Oracle doesn't have sales coverage. In this way, Oracle is leveraging the channel more effectively, Geraffo said.  

"There's a clear expectation of what we want each other to be doing. If we have disconnects with partners, we fix them," Geraffo told CRN. "This way, we can look partners in the eye and say, 'If you registered a deal with us, we're sticking with you 100 percent, right until the end of the dance.'"

Oracle has made it clear that it wants partners to cover parts of the market it can't reach or in which it doesn't have a presence, according to Dyke. "VARs that are adjusting to that reality will do very, very well. VARs that expect to live off of Oracle leads, need Oracle to beat the bushes for them, won't make it," he said.

So far, Geraffo's approach to improving the esprit de corps in Oracle's channel seems to be working. In the seven months since he joined Oracle, Geraffo said there haven't been any incidents that required him to "course-correct in an aggressive way."

PUBLISHED MAY 8, 2014