Google's New Sales Training Tactic: Talk-Show-Style Conference Calls

Written by Jessica Stillman | Jun 29, 2011 4:01:42 PM

When it comes to fast-shifting product lines, Google is a powerhouse, with an ever-evolving array of offerings and new features. So how does the search megalith manage to keep its sales associates up to date with what they’re selling?

Fast Company recently spoke to the company’s learning and development manager Debbie Newhouse to find out. While the specifics of Google’s online and mobile offerings might not be directly relevant to many training professionals, the company’s decision to trash “the old-school, classroom-style of teaching” will be.

Bi-Weekly 'Product Spotlight'

So what replaced it? Rather than take their inspiration from the typical middle school classroom, Google instead hosts bi-weekly "Product Spotlight" conference calls that are run like a talk show: "A moderator interviews a product manager about a particular new feature, as sales agents across the country, and around the world, listen in. Sometimes there are also slides or video to follow along with online, and the agents get to ask questions via chat."

This once-a-week session is topped up with a quarterly look at deeper strategic issues facing the company. Each quarter’s material amounts to six hours of instruction but rather than pen staff in a room for most of a day every four months, Google “breaks the information into bite-sized chunks lasting no more than seven minutes each, so agents can download and peruse them at their desks, on their commutes, even on their cell phones.”

It’s an approach that should be familiar to The Daily Mindflash readers, mirroring recent discussions on empowering experts to be teachers and using tech to create collaborative, mobile learning.  And Newhouse agrees with these sorts of updates on traditional training, telling Fast Company: “People learn best from experts, but they learn best from experts who are not droning on and on.” And what’s better, the new approach works better than the old one but costs about the same.

Should your company follow in Google’s footsteps when it comes to training?

(Image courtesy of Flickr user Robert Scoble, CC 2.0)

London-based blogger Jessica Stillman covers generational issues and trends in the workforce for BNET.com.

More about employee training and retention on the Mindflash blog.

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