Q. I’m a sales manager who manages three separate sales offices that are 40 miles apart. What are your thoughts about using a blog to communicate company news and events, and deliver sales training to my teams? Andy in Ohio
Great question, Andy, and great idea. There are literally thousands of companies who use blogging software, like WordPress, to maintain private company blogs. Many of them use these blogs just as you described. (A private blog is like this blog, only search engines are blocked from crawling the pages, and you need a login and password to access the articles and posts.)
The great thing about using a blog to deliver your training and communicate events – instead of using email – is that blogs can become a virtual library of information. Email, of course, is deleted or becomes stale after just a few days. With a blog, your team can go back and reference product information, HR memos or sales training anytime they wish. As a central repository of information, blogs are better than the sales manager’s memory or his desk files – and your company’s blog will still be around if you move up (or out).
Because blogs generally show the most recent entries first, your team can login at anytime and read the most timely company information. RSS feeds (included in nearly every blog theme available) can notify your team whenever something new is posted. This allows them to view the post through a free reader – without having to visit the blog.
Adding Outside Resources To Your Blog
Blogs are great because you can file the various training and information topics under categories that make sense, like Product Training, HR Memos, and Proper Sales Paperwork, to name a few. Additionally, you can easily link to any web resources you need – just like in email.
For example, let’s say your company sells replacement laptop batteries and you want your sales team to be able to describe the different types to customers. You could research this and type a blog post, or you could find the resource online and link to it like this: laptop battery information.
While a free or low cost blog will allow you to monitor who logs in and when, you may struggle with the accountability of who actually grasps the material. Of course, I always tested my sales team by managing through results. Those who performed below expectations often found me riding in their car quizzing them about the latest product release or role playing the next appointment.
I’m aware of some companies who monitor their blog activity by requiring their teams to post comments after each blog entry. At the very least, they’re sure their teams logged in and took the time to read an article or post. Blog comments are also a great way to encourage best practices sharing.
How Do You Start A Company Training Blog?
Although nothing beats face-to-face training, blogs are superior to most Learning Management Systems (LMS) primarily because of their cost. In fact, you can start a private blog tonight for no cost (called a hosted blog), or very low cost (called a self-hosted blog).
For all companies, I recommend starting with a hosted blog (free) and then moving to a self-hosted blog if you’re still using the blog as an LMS in a year. The cost for a self-hosted blog will generally run about $30/month.
Note: you may want to purchase the domain name right away, even though you don’t need it for the hosted blog. At less than $10/year, it makes sense to secure something that is easy for your team to remember, like ExxonTrainingBlog.com. There are numerous domain name registrars who make it very easy to acquire a web address. I’ve used both Network Solutions and GoDaddy, and I seem to prefer GoDaddy, though both are reputable sites with similar cost structures.
Buy A Book On Blogging
I own three blogging books, and all three are on my desk next to my computer. I read all three cover-to-cover before I started the serious blogging, and I refer to at least one of them every week. The three books recommend by TheManager are:
WordPress For Dummies – AskTheManager.com is powered by WordPress, a very intuitive blog software that is easy to learn for anyone who’s mastered basic Internet skills like email and web surfing. You’ll need this book whether you plan to use the hosted WordPress blog or a self-hosted WordPress blog. (And don’t worry, this book explains both hosting options better than I can.)
Blogging For Dummies – While there is a little overlap between this Dummies guide and WordPress For Dummies, you really need both to properly manage a great blog.
ProBlogger – Not really necessary for a private company blog, but it has some great insight into the world of blogging that isn’t covered by the Dummies books.
While most blog software, like WordPress, is intuitive, it’s not Microsoft Word – you can’t just start blogging without reading something about how to use it. Save yourself the headaches later, and learn how to blog before you start blogging.
Share The Blogging Duties
The best way to teach an adult learner is to assign them to teach the material themselves. We learn much better when we know we have to regurgitate it in front of an audience later. Don’t try to tackle all the sales training yourself and assign articles and best practices sharing to your sales team. Of course, don’t stop with your sales team, feel free to bring everyone on board to contribute to the company blog:
- Ask the HR team to put links to their important forms on the site
- Speak with the CEO and ask him/her to post something about the company vision or the outlook for the industry
- Ask the operations team to post information about order processing, shipping or any other issue that the sales team can alleviate by following a few guidelines
- Ask the admin manager to post articles about how to properly complete paperwork or what to expect from the admin team during a holiday week
- Post customer testimonials and complaints (remember – it’s private so you can air out some dirty laundry)
- Find relevant articles and training online, and either copy and paste them in your blog, or link to them
The bottom line on private business blogs is this: they’re simple; they’re cheap and they make a great LMS. Once you start a company training blog you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one.