The University According to Panasonic
Manufacturers Take Over the Classroom
By Natalie Hope McDonald
Training and education have become crucial components of the C-tailing world. But in today's CE environment, where new products and technologies fly to market at alarming speeds, there are hardly enough qualified teachers to service the students. While manufacturer reps have traditionally assumed this role, in a growing number of cases, the manufacturers are taking matters into their own hands, and offering Web-based training directly to the retail sales force.
In May 2002, Panasonic decided to integrate "Panasonic University" into its fold. According to Grace Nasson, director of training at the company, "Training is directed to retail sales, as well as our internal sales reps." At this point, approximately 850 professionals have enrolled into the program, she notes, attributing the growing membership to an especially important factor: easy access.
Not only does a 16-member team travel the country under Nasson's wing to conduct what she described as "face-to-face training sessions," but Panasonic also launched an integrated Web site that tutors sales professionals who can't always make it to live sessions. While the live and online training does focus on Panasonic products, its also provides a well-rounded tutorial in individual market niches to learn, educate and sell. By registering online at www.panasonic.com/up, the sales professional gains access to how-to training, product round-ups and synopses of the industry.
Nasson acknowledges, "I still believe that face-to-face [instruction] is the best, but when you have limited resources and time, [online training] is the next best thing." She says, "The University site can be accessed from any computer with Internet access. Our goals for this site include educating retail sales reps on digital technology, as well as educating about Panasonic product specifically."
As is the case with the live training programs, Nasson says that the online university focuses on digital products, "because that's where the most need is. Technology has changed so dramatically over the past few years." So for the average person, the online program can take anywhere between a few days to a week. She says that one trainee breezed through the Web site in two days, whereas others work more comfortably by in-gesting smaller training portions, one at a time.