How to Sell a LMS

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One of my favorite movies of all time is Glengarry Glen Ross. The film should be required viewing to anyone who is in sales because it hits at the heart of so many things, I hear from salespeople all the time. But, when it comes to LMS sales, aggressive selling doesn’t work nor does misleading. Forgetting to listen, lack of follow through and failing to understand who is your audience are constant faux pas that cannot continue.

Well, at least if you want to sell your system.


We do this every day. We talk to people – friends, colleagues, the person at the store, etc., and listen. But are we really listening? How often have you listened to someone, but are thinking of other things?

How often are you not really “listening”?

In sales it is a requirement.

In the LMS world, many salespeople fail this basic requirement. They are so focused on selling the product, or following some type of simple script, that they are not listening to the potential new client. They aren’t hearing what you are saying or asking.

Sales person: “What are you looking for in a system?”

Customer: We are seeking a system that offers curriculum paths, ability to group learners to take x course or courses, e-mail notification, blah blah

What sales person should follow up with: “Thank you. Are you also seeking blah blah blah (assuming the customer didn’t mention it)?”

What the sales person often does. Okay. We offer that. (Then they go to the next question)

Look back at this example. First thing that should come out of your mouth is “thank you”. Not “okay” or whatever you use as verbiage.

Okay is something that happens when you are not listening. It happens when your boss or colleague says something and you retort, “okay”. It’s when your significant other says something and you are indifferent or in ignore mode. It should never happen in sales.

The goal is to build a relationship with the customer. You want to them to trust you.

Point 2 on Listening

Listen to their concerns. Listen to their issues (if they used a system in the pass). Listen to their knowledge or expertise (it’s easy to pick up). Guide them. Engage them. Simple right?

Yet, even when I was a Training Director, I can’t tell you the number of times, the salespeople ignored these staples. I would always tell them up front before jumping into what I was seeking, my knowledge of e-learning and systems, so we could move past that.

Guess what most salespeople would do? Not listen and just go about their usual spiel, talking as though I was a complete moron. Even if the person doesn’t know anything about e-learning and specifically a LMS, it does not mean they are not intelligent people. It doesn’t give you the right to treat them as though they have the education level of an 10th grader.

Not listening is the most common faux pas I see with salespeople. If you were on the other side, how would you feel? Exactly.

Cutting off and Ignoring the Customer’s Questions

This happens frequently. What are the key factors?

  • You’re not listening
  • You’re focusing so much on the system and its features that you are ignoring the customer
  • You are on time constraints and thus are in speed mode

It is one of my pet peeves. Who in the heck likes to be cut off while inquiring? Worse than that, who likes to be ignored when asking questions?

I’ll tell you – NOBODY.

However with LMS pitches it occurs so often, that the customer gets frustrated and you – the salesperson thinks you are on a roll.

Do you want the customer do trust you? Do you want them to see value and benefit in your product? Do you want them to want more? Of course you do. Want the easiest way to say goodbye to any of those listed above? Ignore and cut off questions.

Let me Tell you about us

You have contacted the vendor to inquire about their system. You have setup an hour demo, blocking off your schedule to see the demo.

What you get at the beginning, is the “let me tell you about us”.

The problem with this approach.

  • The consumer most likely has checked out your web site OR
  • Talked to colleagues OR
  • Read about, learned about your solution OR
  • Asked questions or inquires on LinkedIn OR
  • Has done some basic research

Very few people nowadays have no idea on who you are and what you are all about. One of the most common things they do, is visit your web site.

If you have created the right way to have a web site, about us should be included, along with some of your clients.

Sure, you can do a quick run of who you are, and some of your clients in an initial discussion, but do not spend more than 5 minutes on this. If the customer asks you some questions about you, clients, etc., then yes answer them.

Remember they are calling because they are interested in learning more about your product. Never forget that.

They are not there to have an in-depth conversation about you (I hear this often. “I’ve been in the industry for 10 years, blah blah”) My response within my brain privately – who cares.

Know Your Customer

Virtually everyone asks the customer to tell them about themselves – i.e. the customer.

What industry, what are you seeking, etc. It’s important to do this in selling a LMS. It also eliminates people who are not in your vertical, size of company (which does occur with some LMS companies) or do not have the features, that your system provides.

When you hear this, you should:

  • Mention clients that are similar to them – i.e. vertical, size of company, industry etc.

There is nothing worse than not mentioning clients that are not in my direct space. You want to have an edge over your competitor? Let me know that you have similar clients (if you do).

Now some vendors like to mention the big names, after all, it will impress some people. I mean people would be intrigued if one of your clients is WidgetWorld.

That perks up my ears. However, you should then follow up with some clients that are like me (the customer).

People like people that are similar, which by the way is a propaganda technique (Just like you and me) often used in advertising.

Customer Insight

When you find out about your customer and they are interested in setting up a demo, make sure you do the following

  • What features would you like to see in the demo? (Many people will state what they want to specifically see. And yes, some people will say everything)
  • Spend at least 30 minutes learning more about your customer, via their web site.

I can’t tell you the number of times, the vendor had no idea of my company (i.e. when I was a training director). What made it even worse, was when I inquired via their web site or via e-mail. Spend the time! It shows you care.

It’s demo time

This can be the killer for many people who show systems. You are either prepared or your not. If you’re not, you will go down in flames.

Things to do:

  • Your demo site should be awesome

Many vendors show a vanilla site and say “you can skin it with your colors or add a logo”. The problem when people are hearing that their brain is looking at a simple vanilla site and does not correlate the two.

  • If your can’t spend the time on your demo site or you only have limits on what you can do – go to the customer’s web site, match their colors to your demo and add their logo

This should be the minimum. Some vendors go this route – I like that. My preference though is to wow me. Vanilla doesn’t wow me, it bores me.

  • Make sure what you are showing me works

In training when we use computers/laptops to train employees, we always make sure the laptop is working, the software is working, the browser, speed and of course the projector.

So, why does this fail so often when people show a demo of their product?

Take the time to make sure everything is working before you show your demo. Nothing worse than saying, “oh, this should be working”. It tells me, a)you didn’t look ahead of time, b)maybe this is a common occurrence with your product – so why buy it?

  • Schedule the appropriate amount of time with the customer

This means, that when you talk to the customer prior to the demo, you ask them if they have 90 minutes available.

You say that it may not last that long, but you want to make sure you answer all their questions and show them all the features they are interested in seeing.

Even if you state 60 minutes or they say, “no, I can only schedule 60 minutes”, make sure your game plan is in place – to answer all their questions and show them the features they want to see or whatever.

When you are training someone or presenting online or face to face and you have only 60 minutes, the standard rule:

  • No more than 2-3 minutes for an introduction
  • 10 minutes at the end for questions (many people will ask if the audience/person can hold off asking questions until the end)

What do you end up with? 47 minutes. What it the average attention span of folks – according to research? 50 minutes.

What do I often see with many LMS vendors?

  • Speeding through the features, as though it is a race
  • Showing only some features – even though I may ask to see all
  • Ignoring the administration side
  • Focusing on what they believe you want to see

One of the most awful experiences, I ever had occurred last week with one vendor.

The person scheduled a 30 minute demo, which seemed odd to me.

In this demo, the person cut me off, ignored me, but worse of all showed me only some features and not even the ones I specifically inquired about. At the end of this poor demo, the person told me that they (sales staff) typically does a demo as a teaser to entice the customer to learn more.

Are you kidding me? Teasers are great for newscasts – “coming up how wild turkeys are eating humans”, movies and Super Bowl commercials.

For selling a LMS, they are horrible. I just spent 30 minutes of my time, seeing this. Why would I want to see more? You just wasted 30 minutes of my life, I will never get back.

Arguing with the Customer

Should never happen. Here is a hint – the person on the other end of the call or web demo could become a customer. You don’t personally have to agree with what they are saying – but keep it to yourself. Arguing turns off people. You want to argue? Go argue with the TV.

[youtube: = please note there is one profane word in the clip

This IMO is so common in the industry it is disgusting.

  • Potential customer contacts the vendor and wants to know more – LEAD
  • Potential customer contacts vendor, via vendor’s web site “Email us to learn more” – LEAD
  • Potential customer at trade show, tells vendor rep, “I’m very interested or extremely interested in your product. Please contact me” – LEAD


Trade shows for vendors are typically not selling blockbusters. Yeah, you get a lot of people who will allow you to swipe their card – mainly for a chance to win a giveaway or grab a freebie. Vendors know this.

Why do they attend? To be seen and people remember them.

Sure you can get some awesome legitimate leads, which can turn into sales, but many vendors get what I call “tire kickers”.

Some trade shows are losers in my book. Always know the audience attending – does it target your product? Who cares if the show has high traffic, if they are not in your audience, how is that going to help you, sell your product?

E-Mail Us

If you are going to post this on your web site, make sure an inside salesperson is going to read it and respond – immediately or worse case during business day within 24 hours.

Just two weeks ago, I inquired via the “Email us” angle with 10 LMS vendors. How many responded? Three.

One “Email Us” didn’t even work. A few listed the infamous “comments” section and then when they contacted you, it was clear they never read it.

A couple of months ago, I did the same thing with another consumer client I had. 15 vendors contacted. Six responded.

If a consumer calls you, they are slightly interested. Perhaps even more so. This is a LEAD. Act on it.

Should Never Do

  • Talk in Jargon – too many salespeople use IT terms. The problem is that the person on the other end, has no idea on what you are talking about and often will not say anything because they do not want to look as though they have no idea on what you are talking about.
  • Hard sell – it works in a lot of industries. It does not work in the LMS nor e-learning industry
  • Not know your product – This happens a lot and it just baffles me
  • Not know the e-learning industry – spend a hour minimum surfing the net to learn it
  • Mislead- I know it might come as a shocker – but I hear this a lot , especially when people ask questions that you do not know the answer to. If you do not, then say “Good question. I do not know the answer to that, but let me find out and I will get back to you as soon as possible” then go find out. One vendor told me they were number one in customer satisfaction. Really, according to who? You?

Bottom Line

The LMS industry is very strong. It is not going away. Regardless of your LMS you can achieve success. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

One vendor told me they were happy with only 40 clients. Don’t you want more? If you don’t then why are you still in business?

It’s one thing to be new and building your base of clients and moving forward. It’s another thing to have been in the industry for several years and be happy with only having 40 clients.

If you are not adding clients, then ditch the hubris and honestly look at your product. Equally of importance look at your sales team.

As Alec Baldwin says in Glengarry Glen Ross

“First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Do you know what you get for second prize? I set of steak knives. Third prize? Your Fired!”

E-Learning 24/7


  1. Very well put Craig. As a consultant like yourself I am dealing with LMS vendors all the time and the items you note happen on a regular basis. The most positive experiences I have had with LMS vendors is when they pair an account executive with a solutions consultant, just like the original days of software when you had a sales rep and a sales engineer.

    Vendors that take time to listen get customers and repeat business, those that don’t get no business or a one time customer who is not fulfilled.

    1. Thank u. Funny thing, I’m seeing the poor methods of selling for a few LMS at the show. Same issue with some e-learning vendors too.

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