How do Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle go to market

Companies are just like living organisms, they change their shapes and even a part of their identities in some cases, adapting to the changing market conditions.

The culture of a company is more or less defined by the Founders and especially if the founder is still leading the company; the strategies, the products and the teams are highly likely to be his/her reflection.

The Founder works with a team that is harmonious with his own culture. That team develops a strategy accordingly, ultimately becoming a sales and marketing machine.

Larger corporations tend to grow with acquisitions to scale faster. Usually, there are both internally developed and acquired products in the portfolio of a large software corporation.

So, what kind of a sales strategy do they pursue while selling these products?

Considering the pace of change in technology, the lifetime of a product practically reduced to 5–7 years (depending on the use case and the product, of course). To be able to reach all potential customers around the world in such a short period of time, it is necessary to choose the right strategy and form empowered teams that can take action quickly

For large software corporations, it is reasonable to say that the number of products in their portfolio may be much more than 50 and it is challenging to position or demonstrate the value of all of these products to the enterprises.

Although sales organizations in such corporation are much more complex, let’s categorize the sales strategies into two for the sake of simplicity:

1. Product-oriented/Push Selling:

This is more of a traditional approach, where the sales teams are directly interacting with the customer. The sales cycle usually consist of the following steps and can take any time between 2 to 6 months:

  • Introduction: The product is introduced to the customer
  • Workshop: Technical presentation of the product
  • PoC/PoV: Technical study to prove the value of the product to the customer
  • Proposal: Providing the commercial details regarding the product acquisition

In large sales organizations, there are different roles such as sales people with soft skills and pre-sales people with technical skills.

Push selling is more likely to be successful when done top-to-bottom. The persuasion process starts with the management and then the idea is propagated to the lower teams. For this reason, the formation of the “account management” teams is important to know the customer inside out and tend them in the best way possible.

2. Solution-oriented/Pull Selling:

This is more of a disruptive and expansive strategy. It started gaining prominence with the cloud products. The product is usually released to the public in a freemium and open source model and the customers discover the product by themselves and access the product or request access to the product in a self-service manner. The provider of the product tracks the users and pursue the potential users online or onsite, depending on the customer and the business model. The sales are usually provisioned through the online channels and the process is more likely to be carried out in a bottom-to-top manner with the execution teams being the main decision maker.

In both models, there can be some supportive sales processes such as cold calls and partners.

Let’s now dive deep in to discuss how the big players are utilizing these sales strategies with the examples from Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle:

Amazon: As a relatively newer entrant to the enterprise market, Amazon focuses more on a solution-oriented selling for disruption with the marketplace and platform approach. Amazon focuses more on technically expert presales teams and partners instead of local sales teams with certification. One of their strongest suit is to offer a significant amounts of free usage to build a start-up ecosystem and community.
Amazon’s strongest muscle is IaaS and PaaS is not as prominent as they don’t have a wide and well-known product range similar to what Microsoft and Oracle offer. Google also pursues a similar strategy with Amazon and in that sense, they are more close competitors with the bottom-to-top, freemium and community-oriented approach.

Microsoft: Microsoft has been undergoing an extensive transformation in the last decade in all areas from Windows to the cloud infrastructure. Especially Azure became a cornerstone in enterprises. Although Amazon is the market leader in the cloud, Microsoft utilized its existing footprint in enterprises well to establish market presence. It utilizes a hybrid method of push and pull selling by providing significant amounts of free cloud usage to enterprises. In the same way, there are both local sales teams and local partners with sales capabilities and the partners are highly valued with programs like co-selling to strengthen their cloud adoption.
Microsoft especially benefited from embracing a more open mindset with support for non-Microsoft technologies with actions like releasing .NET core, providing native Linux support in Windows, etc. Microsoft operates in all fronts of the cloud: IaaS, PaaS and of course in SaaS with a wide range of offerings, Office 365 being the more prominent. The transition of Office and Windows to the cloud seems to be working well.

Oracle: Oracle’s name is more or less synonymous with databases and on-premise software. However, just like Microsoft, Oracle has been transforming its products to the cloud, along with the company itself. It is another strong contender in the enterprise cloud market with IaaS, PaaS and SaaS products, SaaS being the flagship. It embraces a hybrid method like Microsoft, push selling to certain accounts and pull selling to the others; though Oracle is a tad more enterprise focused. The main difference of Oracle from the others is the well-established existing user base which are using on-prem products, whether it is infrastructure, database or software. Since the customers are satisfied with the on-prem products and the partner ecosystem also supports them well, the customers are less likely to feel the urge to switch to the cloud. The transformation started with the PaaS products as they are the bridge between on-prem and the cloud, though SaaS is also growing well in a similar manner to Microsoft’s Office 365 but competing with the likes of Salesforce and other disruptors.
The advantage of Oracle is the ability to offer local clouds, fully hosted on customer site with end-to-end Oracle hardware so that everything is unified on Oracle technology; catering to the industries like finance, telecommunications and government where cloud may still be seen as a thing to be avoided for issues like regulations and data privacy

The transformation of larger corporations is much harder and it is not always possible to achieve a successful transformation or it may take too much time. This is an important opportunity for start-ups since the new cloud era treats every company equally and you can be a key player with the right product and the right strategy.

“Cloud democratizes the access to Technology” 😉

Co-Founder at @appcircleio and @smartface_io, product guy and tech entrepreneur, 15+ mobility experience, father, motorcycle fan