You want to see a learning platform, but you don’t want to access the trial, first or perhaps you can’t. What do you do?
You can try to figure out about the product via the company’s web site, but many sites honestly are beyond awful.
They fail to even clearly show their product, let alone present the product sans the standard PPT intro that comes with “learn more” about the solution.
What then, is the option for you, beyond closing your eyes and imagining the product?
Talk, Talk (and no, not the band)
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. At the end of the day, many of us, want to actually download or access the product via the “cloud” and take it for a test spin (i.e. trial). Yet, for many vendors that objective, comes at a price, you have to talk to them.
Whether its by e-mail (my preferred choice), phone (often their preferred choice) or a combination, at the end of the day, it’s about the conversation.
Because the conversation will drive what happens next, seeing the demo.
What They Need to Know
Regardless of the learning platform, most vendors want to know a few tidbits about you and what you are seeking before you see the product (i.e. demo).
You might think to yourself, that the goal of this approach is to identify what you are really seeking and thus when it comes to the demo, to focus only on that, rather then the entire system itself.
Sadly, you would be wrong.
Don’t misunderstand me, there are quite a few vendors that seriously follow the “tell me” and “I will show you only what you want to see” angle (kudos to them!), but there are plenty who seem more interested in whatever, rather than truly “listening”.
How can you tell the “whatever” scene? It is quite simple.
You clearly state whom you are (financial company, etc.), employee size, what you are looking for in a solution, and that you want to see a demo of the product. You can go further into details if you wish, but really, there are certain key items, most vendors request or inquire about to see if they are the right product for you.
Right product? It should be right salesperson. You see, for some vendors (not all mind you), depending on the employee size and where you are based, you may be switched from an internal sales person to a regional sales person or sales manager. Thus, in this scenario, the “listening” is more about whom is going to get the “lead” and not about you.
For many vendors it is all about the phone call. Even if you explicitly state that you want to be contacted by e-mail, many will ignore that and try to call you. If they get you on the line, the questions aforementioned above, will eventually be asked along with some other particulars.
Even if you request quickly that you would like to see a demo, many sales people will continue to press for details over the phone. I recall talking about a few key items needed to move forward on the call and then requesting a demo from one well known vendor. Instead of saying, lets schedule a time, it was ignored and more questions were asked.
The call went on for another 25 minutes until, I could get them to commit to a demo.
I am glad to see more vendors responding by e-mail, especially when they require you to fill in the “more information” form on their site, and include your e-mail address.
At one time, even requiring your e-mail address, resulted in them calling you and not e-mailing you. Yes, this still occurs, but for many vendors, the light bulb has come on, and they are getting it.
After the initial e-mail, the vendor will try to push to having you talk to them, to learn more about your situation, even if you post it in the e-mail. Thus the duality of contact has been established. I have had vendors be so pushy on this front, that it becomes an exasperating experience.
Regardless of the three methods, the objective of viewing the demo is nearly in place. I say nearly.
Who Views Who?
The demo is in sight, the date is about to be scheduled and then you hear words that are not for the faint of heart, “we schedule our demos twice a week on blah blah and blah blah. Which date works better for you?”.
WARNING..BE VERY AFRAID
A bell should be ringing in your ears, because when vendors specify days for only demos, you can pretty much bet, that there will be other people on the line. Thus your demo call is not truly one on one, but rather one on lots of people.
There isn’t a x number of people required to do a “scheduled” demo in this manner, but walkthroughs (as they are often called behind the scenes), should never contain more than three people on the line, besides the host (salesperson).
Yet, I have been on these types of calls, and seen via the “conference” room as many as nine people.
Shall I just go with this approach?
No. You want to have the demo, one on one (i.e., just you and your staff or just you and not people you don’t know). Even if the vendor says this is their policy, tell them you don’t care. If they want potentially you as a client, they will need to schedule a one on one demo.
When scheduled demos are pre-set, i.e. they are scheduled on Tues/Thurs at xyz time, you can guarantee that the vendor is following some type of script. It may not be a paper script, but it is a script in the sense, that it follows a certain pattern or structure. Everyone will see this first, then this, then this, then this.
Even if you ask questions, which slows down the presentation, and which they will respond to, you can assured that it will be made up later on.
Made up? The time.
You see with these type of scheduled demos, the demo is typically 60 minutes. So, at the 60 minute mark, the demo is over. Now, if people are asking lots of questions, that eats into time. So, as a thank you, the host may speed through other areas or ignore some areas to finish up.
You want a one on one demo. But, here is the kicker. You want to schedule it for 90 minutes.
Why 90? Because if you really want to digest the product and ask lots of questions, you need time for that. Even if you have the demo tailored to what you only want to see, having 90 minutes set aside, guarantees you that everything you will be covered and any questions that come up will be answered.
If the session ends at 55 minutes, so be it. At least, the 90 minute block has been set aside – for you and the sales person.
It eliminates the “oh, I have a meeting” or something else event, that a salesperson may have booked, because it breaks away from the typical 60 minute demo.
We are all busy and have lots of things going on. Blocking out 90 minutes, sets aside those other items, for a bit, and enables you to focus on what will be the biggest purchase of the year, if not years for your company, school or organization.
Time now becomes your ally, not your enemy.
Finally, The Demo
I have a set of rules that I follow with every demo I see.
- I state up front my experience with e-learning and LMSs: many salespeople are following a “script”, they often communicate to the person, under the assumption that the person is “new” to e-learning and learning platforms.
That is always why, I state my experience and knowledge.
If you are new to e-learning and learning platforms, tell them up front. This will help them when explaining the system, because as aforementioned, while they typically assume you know nothing, they will still use jargon or state things that can easily confuse someone.
If you have been buying systems in the past, telling them up front, will eliminate the assumption and eliminate some unnecessary conversation.
I hate to sound mean on this, but your objective here is to see the product and ask questions, not to become their new BFF.
- I explicitly state what I want to see: even if you state this clearly in the e-mail to them up front or on the initial screen call, you would be surprised how many salespeople forget it or in reality, aren’t listening or truly reading what you are saying. Now, I do want to be clear, that this is not universal in this industry (thankfully), but it is still an issue.
Some salespeople will repeat what you wanted to cover, before the product demo begins. I like this, because it tells me, they were listening or reading what was requested and they get it.
- During the demo, I clarify that what I am seeing in the demo, is what was discussed prior to – i.e. what will be in my system – and not extra or not in my system
This may be somewhat of a shocker, but there are plenty of vendors in the space, who show you one thing, but in reality you get something else. This isn’t a trick of hand. Rather, they fail to mention to you, that what you are buying (perhaps a lower priced edition), is not what you are seeing (the ultimate edition).
You have no idea this happened, until you get the product and “surprise”.
I have heard horror stories about this from customers of some systems, and when they complain to the vendor, the vendor retorts that this is the system you bought.
When they state that isn’t what was in the demo, the vendor responds that the demo included everything and you can have that too, you just have to pay extra.
To eliminate this potential whammy, ask up front or during the demo, is this the product we talked about and is everything I am going to see, be in the product I am buying.
A word to the wise, you should always inquire if you are buying a system that has add-ons (they are built into the system, but you “pay” to turn them on).
In a perfect world, requesting and scheduling a demo, should be a piece of cake. Yet, this rarely is the case.
You have to register first and required fields are often phone and e-mail. Other bonus babies include time to purchase.
Then, you have to wait. Some vendors are quick to respond. Others are not.
One vendor requires you to sign a NDA before seeing a demo.
All this and that, for just seeing a demo of their product. A product you may end up buying.
What happened to simple?
What happened to quick?
What is happening to our industry?
What a great article ..thank you so much for putting up all pain areas ( and solutions ) all together. I am going through bad experience while searching for a right LMS product for my company. Some vendors ask money for running as POC , some says you have to pay for every other add-on ( feature).
I am sure you guide me in choosing a right product (it should be mature, cost effective, easy to install and maintain, made for corporate etc) for my company .
Basically we are trying to find a SharePoint based solution but open for any other solution also if it fulfills our requirement and fit in our budget. I have gone through many companies who claim to be based on SharePoint server but they really dont have features which are available on stand alone products.
Please respond if we can workout something.
Thank you for your comments.
IMO the best solution for SharePoint, is a vendor who specifically makes a SharePoint LMS. The vendor is Competentum, and the solution is ShareKnowledge. The product is very easy to use, which is huge. I was very impressed with the solution. They were the first to implement SharePoint’s latest version.
What do you think about a vendor who gives you 2 options, 1) to demo the system with a salesperson 1:1 (pretty typical) or 2) asks you to sign an NDA and gives you 15 days with the system and a few courses to play around with – to see the breath of what it can do? Do you think #2 is better, I would think so long as instructions are received with it this would be better for a potential buyer since they don’t have to talk to anyone…unless they want to continue the conversation at a later date.
Totally against the NDA. Makes no sense. Any vendor worth their salt, will stick in a couple of courses for you to play around with. The key is you have to ask them to do so. That is what people forget to do. Or ask them if u can upload one of your courses, another great way to test out the system.
I know vendors who do the NDA, thankfully it is only a couple, but why would u sign one? For those that use the angle, they are at a competitive disadvantage. What is funny, is I have seen one of these vendors who requires this thing, but still puts screen shots on their web site with the “share” it spin. Talk about making no sense.
Great bit of insight from a buyer’s perspective. The hard sales driven approach is one way, but I don’t think it has to be the only way.
Sales people should be enablers, if they’re making things difficult then maybe there’s something not quite right (or something to hide). There seems to be too much pressure to generate leads and maintain a CRM to meet targets and all that old school engine room sales team goings on.
If you want a demo, I think it should be on your terms, and done without delay or fuss. And certainly without smokescreens. Setting up a desktop share combined with phone or Skype for a demo is easy and there are no excuses for creating more hurdles when the technology is there that overcomes them.
If it’s being made difficult, then it’s because that’s the way the vendor has purposefully set it up. Ignorance is no excuse either if you’re in the tech business.
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