Training & Learning

Google MasterSaaS: How to Build a Culture of Continuous Learning in Your Sales Training

In sales training, it isn’t enough to simply design a great onboarding process with the right material. You need to make sure you’re always improving your learning systems and content to reflect what’s happening in the market.

The best way to do this? Build a culture of continuous learning at every stage of your sales training process, and think about how to anticipate the needs of your clients and customers within this process. That way, your sales training will never become obsolete.

How to build a culture of continuous learning, according to Google

First up, says Brendan, it helps to be paranoid.

1. Assume your sales training needs to change

In past lessons, Brendan has explained the fundamentals of Google’s sales training processes, including how to set the right strategy, how to build your onboarding path, and the right way to develop great sales training content.

Now you’ve done all the hard work, you might feel like it’s time to sit back and take it easy. But as Brendan explains, your work is only just beginning. That’s because the best sales training is always evolving. 

“It’s crucial to maintain a healthy sense of paranoia,” says Brendan. “Is the training you’re offering today still going to be effective in 12 months? At Google, our assumption is no. Every year we go through a rigorous process of asking our stakeholders around the globe: how useful was the training we delivered? How well did it mirror the core needs of your team and the customers in your market? And how can it evolve?”

This process of continuous improvement isn’t just for the big players, either. According to Brendan, it’s crucial for every business. “Whether you’re a small organisation or a large one, you need to set the expectations that there’s going to be continual change.”

“This process of continuous learning reflects the fact that your market is likely to continue to change,” says Brendan. “If you’re always improving, you never run the risk of becoming obsolete or taxing people’s time. Instead, people will remain eager to participate in your sales training.”

The second way Google commits to continuous learning in their sales training? Get your senior employees involved.

“It’s crucial to maintain a healthy sense of paranoia. Is the training you’re offering today still going to be effective in 12 months? At Google, our assumption is no."

2.  Involve your senior employees

It’s tempting to think about sales training as something for new employees, or for those who still have a lot to learn. But as Brendan explains, the best way to create an effective culture of learning in business is to involve senior leadership, too.

“It’s tempting for senior employees to think of training as something just for junior employees,” says Brendan. “If you’ve been in the industry for a long time, you might think you know all there is to know. But your managers and senior leadership hierarchy have a critical role to play in creating a culture of continuous learning.”

“It’s tempting for senior employees to think of training as something just for junior employees. If you’ve been in the industry for a long time, you might think you know all there is to know."

“At Google, we ask our managers, directors, and VPs to go through a lot of the same training as the junior employees. At a minimum, they should be aware of what is involved in the training, and the role they have to play in reinforcing that training.”

According to Brendan, involving senior employees in sales training is a great way to embed a culture of learning in the day-to-day operations of the company. 

“If employees get a sense that they’re sent off to training and it’ll never be talked about again, they’ll quickly understand that it’s something for them alone,” says Brendan. “But if you make it clear your learning culture is going to be reinforced every day at every level, including by senior employees, you’ll create a real commitment to continuous learning.” 

This is a key feature of continuous learning in sales training: every layer of the business should be involved. Otherwise, it’s tough to build up the momentum you need to improve.

Finally, Brendan had one last technique for us: adapt your learning environment to match the most important skills you’re teaching.

3. Match the learning environment to the skills to be learned

Creating a great learning culture isn’t just about involving the right people at the right times. As Brendan explains, it’s also about adapting the learning environment to complement the full range of skills and capabilities you’re trying to build.

“At Google, we’re fortunate to have several different learning organizations,” says Brendan. “There are some that focus on management and leadership, and others focused on creating a safe and positive work environment. Our sales people really benefit from the opportunities to learn a lot of different skills. Some of these skills are transversal.” 

For Brendan, Google’s culture of continuous learning is all based on using every one of these different learning environments to develop new hires.

“People are learning a lot about different subjects, from compliance to leadership to negotiations,” says Brendan. “They need to see how it all fits together. That’s why we give them a mix of learning opportunities in different environments.”

“For example, with product knowledge, we don’t need to bring our new hires into the classroom. Instead, it’s easier for them to learn in an online environment. In other cases, we have teams working together to collaborate on e-learnings and practice the knowledge as they go. But when it comes to core sales skills, the best environment is the classroom.”

Being flexible with these training environments is a key part of what makes Google’s learning culture so great. It gives Google’s sales reps all the context and confidence they need to make their mark.

“By using a mixture of training environments, we give our sales reps the frameworks they need to excel in their roles,” says Brendan. “Between the different types of training, and the different formats, we see people really making the step up. They feel more confident, and frankly, they’re more capable as sales people.”

Thanks again to Brendan for sharing his insights into how Google builds a culture of continuous learning within its sales training process.

Be sure to check in next week for his final lesson on making sure your sales training has a lasting impact!

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Would love to know what you think about this MasterSaaS with Brendan. Share your reactions and thoughts in the comments section!