e-learning learning management system LMS

How to buy the LMS you want

Buying the LMS you want, can be a love affair, if you follow the rules. But if you decide to just wing it, then don't be surprised to find out that your ideal date turns out to be a frog.

Hey – you! Yes, you reading this exact line.  Let me tell you about something really cool.  I got this LMS see. And this LMS has every feature you need and costs more than that other system which has more features then you need, and oh, did I tell you – ours will cost X less than theirs.

Sounds good, huh?  Oh, and to close it we will have our marketing team create a cool looking thingamajob and give it to you?

What, not interested?  Okay, don’t worry, because I think I have an idea.  We got this other system, it is really cheap, has some of the basic features, but it supports mobile learning.  Yeah, the UI is okay, but all customers have said it it great, and I mean who can  argue with them?  Did I mention it was really cheap for 1,000 users?

Oh. Uh, no it doesn’t have that, but it is inexpensive and has the features we seen as often used.  Ready to buy?

Defining Moment

It should come to you, even before the vendor’s salesperson has picked up the phone or sent you that proposal.  But, what I am seeing is way too many people who get wrapped up into the features vs. cost pitch OR the features I need now pitch.

Features Rule

When you look at a system, don’t just think of the features you need now, rather include the features you might use in the next two years.  I know, it is easy to say, well I don’t know what we might need, but to me that is a copout.

Because if you are involved in any type of learning or training, you have an end goal in mind.  You have some ideas, concepts or processes to build.  And that is the key word here – build.

Selecting a LMS is not just buying something you think you want – it is finding a system you want period.

If you can’t say to yourself, this is the system for me (company), then you are not ready to do any deal.

But let’s get back to the feature angle.

The biggest issue I see with consumers is features.  They tend to think in the present.  “Well, we don’t use gamification now, so we don’t need that feature.”   Fine, but what about six months or a year from now?  Can you honestly say, you know that – as in you know the future?

Rather what you should be doing or saying is – I have this list of features I need today, and in a year, I can see us having these additional features OR I have this list of features now but I am open to expanding our capabilities as we grow our e-learning.

For me, the latter was the route to go.  I don’t know what I might need a year from now, regardless if I am B2B/B2C, internal or a combination of internal and external.

But I would rather have a system that has it and that I can turn off (on admin side) for now, and then later turn on, then decline now and then when I need it, have to find an alternative.

Buying the system you want -#1 Focus on Features – Present and beyond

When going with the focus on future feature aspect, it should be in the platform already i.e. not something they will have to build specifically for you NOR as an additional module to get it.

Let’s go back to our gamification example.  I may not have a need now, but let’s say 11 months from now, I find my learners want to accure points for completing a course.  Well, if the system doesn’t have it in their current platform, what are your options?

a.  Hope that the vendor puts it in that calendar/fiscal year?

b.  Tell your learners you are out of luck.

Rule of Thumb – Know the Roadmap

This is saying, when you are putting down and thinking about future features, ask the vendor what is their roadmap for 2015.

Any vendor should be able to tell you that.  And ideally should be able to provide at least three focused areas or three specific components they will add.

For me, it always told me if the vendor I was exploring was in alignment with what I was seeking in a forward thinking partner.  Because, that is what you will become, a partner – a customer partner to that vendor.

Finding the love of your e-learning LMS

Which of course means you are building a relationship.  For folks who are seeking a human relationship, some go to dating sites, which provides a wealth of options.

If you are seeking someone from a dating site, you don’t just say I want “a human that is breathing and smiles.”, rather you provide specifics.

And when you are starting your in depth search, you expand in your mind on those initial options.  So in essence, it is the same way with your LMS to be, but without any engagement or wedding ring to follow.

Buying a LMS #3 – Woo me

If you are seeking internal training, assume that at some point your place of business will expand.  You wouldn’t want to be at a place where you say,” we have 500 employees now, but boy do I hope we drop to 150.”

Rather I hope you would say, we have 500 now, but in a year, we could have 700.

When buying a LMS think future first.  Yes, I have 500 learners, but I project an increase of X% for year two and X% year three.

Rule of Thumb  –  Project an increase of 10-15% for year two and year three.

If you are doing B2B or B2C training, and you do not have any emperical data from your ILT B2B/B2C training (which can aid in projections), then create a  realstic estimate.

This means that if you are launching courses for example on specific topics and you do not already have a pre-built audience to sell to, go low in projections.

You can always go lower.  If you have done ILT B2B/B2c and have data – place an estimated 10-20% increase on that, since the folks no longer have to travel or go somewhere to take your training.

Buying the LMS you want  – #4 Talk the Talk

I worked at some places that no one, heck not even vendors had ever heard of, and prior to me working there, I heard of.  But here’s the thing, by the time I got off the phone, every vendor I spoke with, wanted to me as a client.

Because I sold me – as in the company I was at.  If you say, “Well we are a small firm that sells apples to some little old ladies from Pasadena,”, trust me, that won’t inspire a lot of vendors to work on the numbers to give you a great deal.  But if you say, “well we are one of the leaders in apple selling,”, what do you think is going to happen?

Even if you start with, “Well, we have 250 customers, but maybe 50 will use the system,”, while perhaps accurate, it doesn’t give the vendor any real incentive to give you a better deal.

But  “we project 50 people the first month, only because this is new to our industry, however, we do believe that the numbers could easily exceed a few thousand by year X.”

Now I am definitely more intuned.

Basically you have to sell your self – from a revenue potential – to the vendor.  The vendor of course, has to sell themselves to you – so assuming they have done that.. then pushing it with the selling of yourself to them – will only benefit.

Rule of Thumb –  Think and Price Differently

If you are doing B2B/B2C or internal within retail or any seasonal industry, seek an active/inactive business pricing model and see to have payment done in the latter quarters rather than up front.

If you are a vendor – you must have a separate pricing model for B2B/B2C.  And if you don’t, guess what?  You are losing customers, even if you don’t know it.

Buying a LMS #5 Don’t be afraid to say no

If you are willing to sign the deal, you must be willing to take a walk.  Because a good salesperson can tell if you are super serious to move on if all items/conditions are not met or if you are just saying it and then will cave.

Recently, I spoke with a vendor on behalf of a client and made it quite clear what my expectations were regarding a negotiated and thus closed deal.  The vendor in turn, made a minor tweak, but the big item that needed to be part of it, they left out.

They figured that even though the system was liked, that because of whom they were, that the deal would be done.  Then when they were notified that unless it was added they would be out, they ignored it, thinking it wouldn’t matter.

Well, it did. And we walked.

There are way too many vendors out there today, who feel that you should feel honored for selecting them.  And they think that you will not walk away, because I mean it is THEM.

If you want to buy the right LMS for you, don’t be afraid to walk.  Don’t be afraid to negotiate even more, if there is something that is just holding you back from saying yes.

It’s one thing to say I want another 10K, it is though another to say, I want you to give me  higher tier support and a 10% discount in year three.  For a vendor – the latter option is more flexible for them, and they are more likely (but not always) to try to get it closed.

And always remember by three super golden rules:

1.  Get an opt-out clause and the end of each year, prior to renewable enabling you to leave for whatever reason without penalty

2.  Itemize everything, including the discount

3. Don’t be afraid to say No.  If they really want you, they will follow up with you.  If they don’t, then in all honesty, they didn’t see you as real value to them.

Bottom Line

You can find the right LMS for you today.  Even if you think there isn’t any system that does everything you need, you might be in for quite a shock.  I’m sure the distillery company had no idea that their is a LMS for their industry, who had items they needed.

Or the person who wants gamification, mobile learning, social, personaliation, integration APIs (free), plus all the standard features and wants an active/inactive model that supports 10 languages and provides elite support at no charge.

Because if you are that person, good news.

There are more than a few to chose from today.  Remove free APIs, gamification and active/inactive?  More good news – as in 100+.

But remember the rules to buying the LMS you want.

Because in today’s market it isn’t about finding them that will slow you down,

rather it is selecting the one that makes you fall in love all over again.

And there is no LMS dating site for that.

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