Google Cloud Chief Thomas Kurian Is Going Big on Salespeople

Expect Google to hire a lot more salespeople for its cloud computing unit as it battles rivals like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure.

That’s according to Google’s new head of its cloud computing business Thomas Kurian, who spoke Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. The event marked Kurian’s first public appearance at a major conference since taking over from Google’s former cloud leader Diane Greene, who announced in November that she would step down from the role after three-years.

Kurian, who previously spent over 20 years at database giant Oracle, focused a lot on praising Google’s technical prowess and cloud computing features that he said distinguish its enterprise products from larger rivals.

But despite Google’s technical chops in search, several technology analysts and companies consider Google’s greatest challenge to creating a big enterprise business to be its lack of know-how and experience in selling corporate technology. The search giant’s hiring of Greene, a well-known Silicon Valley enterprise executive who co-founded the data center software company VMware, was supposed to be a turning point for the company, which makes most of its money from online advertising.

Although it invested heavily in cloud products, Google’s enterprise business remains well behind AWS and Microsoft, and also sometimes behind IBM, depending on which research firm is ranking the companies.

As Google’s new cloud chief, Kurian is trying to change the perception that Google doesn’t understand how to sell to business customers.

An audience member commented to Kurian that for two years, Google has said it is concentrating on building a formidable sales-and-support staff, but that people “haven’t seen signs of change in the market structure.”

Kurian responded by saying that Google has increased its spending on sales and support staff by a factor of four over the last three years, although he didn’t cite a specific number. He said that growing a sales force so quickly would be a challenge for any company, but that when he talks to customers, “they feel we have gone a long way.”

That said, Kurian intends to grow Google Cloud’s sales force, but didn’t cite any specific goals for hiring or the cost.

“Technology is far harder to build then a sales organization,” Kurian said.

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He also said that Google needs an enterprise sales staff that customers can contact when they experience problems with their IT infrastructure. It would be unfair and not true to Google’s motto of organizing the world’s information if it told customers, “We aren’t going to give you that.”

“In order to serve large corporations, it’s important that those organizations have a person to talk with,” he said.