Great sales training is about encouraging your salespeople to boost their performance. You need to teach them the skills to build relationships with customers, close deals, and reach their quota. Training isn’t just something your reps complete and forget, but a reliable tool they can return to again and again.
But how can you make sure your sales training has a lasting impact? How can you reinforce the key behaviors, knowledge, and skills you teach in your sales training, and continue to lift your performance over time as the needs of your customers change and evolve?
In our final MasterSaaS sales training lesson, Google’s Head of Sales Training, Brendan McGeever, is here to unveil the six ways Google ensures its sales training not only makes a positive short-term difference but also has a lasting impact.
First up, Brendan outlines a fundamental philosophy: treat your sales training as more than just a box to be checked.
Every sales training program consists of individual modules, activities, and skills to be learned. But great sales training is much more than just these individual pieces of the puzzle. It’s about creating long-term change for sales reps.
“We take the perspective that, while the training is critically important as a starting point, it would be a waste of resources if it ended when people walk out of the classroom,” says Brendan. “Instead, we have an ongoing dialogue with sales managers, directors, and VPs to ask how we can reinforce this learning.”
As Brendan explains, this learning conversation extends far beyond the classroom itself. “We want to engage everybody in the process of practicing, coaching, and reinforcing the behaviors, skills, and knowledge we teach in our sales training. We want our people to understand that training is not just a box you check and move on. It’s the beginning of a process.”
At Google, sales managers work hard to reinforce this process. “We want people to walk out of the classroom feeling refreshed, invigorated, and equipped to be effective,” says Brendan. “But when they get back to their desks, their managers should be waiting for them to ask, ‘Hey, how did that go? What did you learn, and how can we apply it in your day-to-day work?’ In that regard, training is the beginning of the journey, but the real culmination doesn’t come until that learning has been reinforced through the employee’s experience.”
Another key step in ensuring the lasting impact of your sales training? Coach your coaches.
"While the training is critically important as a starting point, it would be a waste of resources if it ended when people walk out of the classroom."
The best sales training is a process of continuous improvement. As Brendan explains, this doesn’t just apply to the sales reps - it’s also about coaching your sales coaches.
“At Google, we’re investing heavily in helping our managers to be great coaches,” says Brendan. “Our first step here is to be very blunt about the role managers play. Sometimes, sales managers see themselves as being there to move deals through, allocate resources, and manage the portfolio. These are important tasks, but we’re asking people for more than that.”
“We want to make clear that our managers are coaches, too. They’re the best people to help our reps with the journey of becoming a better salesperson. So, we’ve invested in creating a culture of coaching, and in helping salespeople attain optimal skill levels in different areas.”
For Google, the commitment to creating a lasting impact isn’t just for sales training - it’s also for sales coaching, too. “We ask all our sales managers to complete this coaching training, and we refresh our coaching courses every year. Our managers shouldn’t just be solving problems for their team - they should be having an open dialogue about challenges and problem areas.”
“That’s how we see coaching,” says Brendan. “It’s another vector of growth within the organization.”
Next up, Brendan talks about the importance of sales training staying current.
"Sometimes, sales managers see themselves as being there to move deals through, allocate resources, and manage the portfolio. These are important tasks, but we’re asking people for more than that."
In sales training, it’s always a challenge to keep your material fresh and reflect the challenges and opportunities your reps are facing in the market right now. As Brendan points out, a great way to create this continuous improvement is to listen to your frontline salespeople.
“One of the best indicators that a training is working is when your frontline salespeople apply a specific framework or practice from the classroom to their day-to-day work,” says Brendan. “That’s one of the greatest satisfactions in sales training. It’s a great indicator that you’ve found the right message and the right framework for people to start using.”
Keeping track of whether your material is up-to-date with the latest sales challenges, says Brendan, is as simple as asking the right people. “What I encourage you to do is, have a casual set of people you meet with. It doesn’t have to be more than three or four frontline salespeople. You just want to hear what their daily lives are like, chat about their customers, and understand what new challenges they’re facing.” Involving and collaborating with your sales reps as much as possible helps ensure your training answers to their needs.
“That way, when you’re in that conference room making decisions about the next training, you’ll have the voice of your salespeople and your customers in there with you.”
A big question for a lot of companies when it comes to sales training is where to invest their resources - especially when it comes to online learning.
“Certainly, if you’re a smaller organization with limited resources, things like e-learning may seem out of reach,” says Brendan. “But what we’ve found with e-learning is, it’s not only great for initial learning. It’s something people can go back to time and time again.”
As Brendan points out, investments in digital learning can deliver value over a longer period of time than other resources. “You need to think about how online learning can continue to deliver value even after it’s been completed by each of your salespeople. People can go back, again and again, to refresh their knowledge ahead of an important meeting or customer negotiation.”
Another fundamental tip to ensure your sales training has a lasting impact? Make sure you connect everything back to your customers’ needs.
“One thing we’re very focused on at Google is linking everything in our sales organization to our customers’ business objectives,” says Brendan. “If our customers understand the link between what we’re offering and what they’re trying to achieve, everybody is more successful - including our salespeople. We’re always looking for ways to make that linkage clear.”
As Brendan explains, focusing on the customer doesn’t need to be complicated. “It’s as simple as the nomenclature we use for different training, and making sure this lines up to a specific customer business objective or marketing objective, all the way through to the content itself.”
“You need to keep your eyes and ears out there for how the sales organization is evolving,” says Brendan. “You need to understand your customer needs, and make sure the training you offer is crystal clear and right on the money in addressing these needs.”
Finally, Brendan caps things off with a helpful reminder: don’t push your people too hard.
In sales training, it’s natural to want to lift your performance all the time. But as Brendan explains, you should always be calibrating the difficulty based on sales rep feedback.
“One mistake we made early on was, we wanted our e-learning experiences to be very rigorous,” says Brendan. “Now, we understand we made it a little bit too hard, and our salespeople weren’t always seeing the linkages between the level of difficulty and their day-to-day processes. Now, we’re constantly tinkering to find the right balance and offer a realistic challenge.”
“Our strategy now is, we actually want people to go back again and again to e-learning resources to pick up the knowledge they need,” says Brendan. “When people complete an assessment, they’re told whether they passed or not. If they didn’t pass, we suggest different kinds of additional resources for them to pick up on the knowledge they haven’t acquired yet. It’s something we’re always trying to improve.”
And that sums up the last lesson of our Google MasterSaaS with Brendan McGeever.
Our huge thanks to Brendan for taking us on this journey through Google’s sales training culture, in his words “I hope you have found these tips and strategies useful. It’s been my pleasure to share them with you. Now, I have nothing left to do but wish you good luck. I hope that you are able to find great success in helping your salespeople become the best they can be.”
While you’re here, be sure to check out Brendan’s previous lessons on Google’s sales training processes, including how to set the right strategy, build your sales onboarding path, develop great sales training content, and create a culture of continuous learning.
We would love to know what you think about this MasterSaaS with Brendan. Share your reactions and thoughts in the comments section! 👇