Sales alert – what should we do about MOOCs?

Sales Training and MOOCs?

For those of us who devote a fair portion of our professional time to sales training, we are always looking around to see what the rest of the education and training world is up to.  Are there new exciting developments that we might want to better understand?  And, do some of these emerging ideas have implication for how we go about doing what we do?

One candidate that might deserve some attention is MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses.  MOOCs are online courses aimed at large-scale participation and open and free access.

Although the idea has been around for a while, MOOCs first landed in the spotlight when Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford professor, offered a MOOC in artificial intelligence last year.  How large-scale was it?  Well, there were 190,000 students in 190 countries that participated.  When I stumbled across that little tidbit, I wondered how many of us touch that many people in an entire career?

By way of more background, MOOCs are typically offered via a partnership between education technology companies (e.g., Coursera, Udacity, edX) and elite universities such as: Princeton, MIT, Brown, and Duke.  Although most would say we are still in the early years of this trend, today there are millions of students enrolled in hundreds of programs.  And there’s lots more information on Google.

So the question is – should the world of sales training care about MOOCs?  We would be interested in hearing your ideas.  A couple of questions to guide the discussion:

  • Should sales training companies, either large or small, individually or collectively try to get involved? What might that look like and what are some of the risks and payoffs if they did?
  • Could we imagine a small group of individuals who know a lot about sales trying to partner with a university that is already offering programs in other areas to do something in sales? If so, what are the considerations?
  • Do we see any substantial payoffs for the field of sales as a profession?

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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2 Responses to Sales alert – what should we do about MOOCs?

  1. Gil Pettegrew says:

    I have belatedly discovered this topic as a result of searching for MOOCs + sales training. As someone who is responsible for the sales skill training portfolio for a large global company, I am bombarded by dozens of potential vendors who want to sell us their methodologies–each claiming to have a unique approach to helping us drive top line sales revenues and business results. (You name it: Planning, prospecting, communications, pipeline management, financial selling, political navigation, compete strategy, negotiations, sales manager coaching, etc. etc.) Embracing and deploying any one (or more) of these at large global scale becomes time consuming and expensive. I can’t help but think that as each new voice contributes to the larger available pool of wisdom around sales process and methodology, that the opportunity for broader application and distribution of this common learning through MOOCs may become progressively more valuable to many. Since the creation of your original article, have there become any existing examples of B-to-B sales methodology and/or process that are available as MOOCs now? Are there any universities or organizations that are pursuing this topic specifically?

  2. John Yu says:

    MOOC can be an excellent delivery method for sales training or any kind of soft skill training.

    If we all familiar with sales training, one of the most important session is role play by video, however the face to face training method doesn’t have such luxury in terms of time or tools available in the class.

    With MOOC, trainees will have plenty of time and lots of choices to do the role play with one they like, record them and post on the discussion board or social networks, the trainer will be able to do the coaching via online and offline in each week.

    This is actually much better, agree?

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