Craig Weiss LMS LMS Guidebook Uncategorized

LMS Discovery Call – Book Excerpt (my book)

A book excerpt of the LMS Guidebook by Craig Weiss; the excerpt is on the LMS Discovery Call

As with any good book these days that are available for purchase as e-books, the idea of an “excerpt” usually a chapter from the book or at least a portion of a chapter is presented as a “preview” for the book itself.

Well, I figured, that any time is as good as a time – and with so many people on the hunt for finding the right LMS, this except will help you or them out.

On the book itself will be published in Q4 2016. 

Here is the “Excerpt” on the LMS Discovery Call:

 Discovery call

Regardless if you create a RFP, use my LMS RFP template or choose to just ask inquiries and select; an initial call with the LMS vendors of interest is a must.

Since you are no longer going to be blasting away RFPs based on web sites or what your Oracle told you to do, a call with each vendor of interest is necessary prior to any further steps. 

The term used in the industry is a “Discovery Call”.

My Favorite Vendor Inquiry during the Discovery Call

My personal favorite is the one where the vendor will tell the potential customer, that they want to see if the lead (you) are a good fit for them (the vendor).

I rate this inquiry number one on the “give me a break”status, because you could be a company who makes paddle boats out of two live alligators roped together and are located 3,000 miles west of Easter Island. Oh, and you sell B2C. 

And the vendor you are talking to is only focused on the United Kingdom and enterprise clients.

Congrats. Your a perfect fit for them.

Does anyone turn any consumers down?

Thankfully yes.

There are vendors who will tell you rather quickly that they are not a good fit. The key factors are user base (seat base), vendor’s vertical(s) and if you decide to give them your budget – whether or not they can meet that price point.

But this isn’t universal, which is why some people end up with systems that are not the best fit for them.  Who’s to blame?

One could easily argue the customer, just as another could argue the vendor.

This is another reason, why, a discovery call is so crucial.  Think of it in this manner, you need to remove the weeds first before you can view the grass.

Discovery Dos and Dont’s

There are plenty of things you want to get out of from this call, just as there are items the vendor wants to extract from you on the call.

One of the biggest things the vendor would love to get from you is your budget.

NEVER give it to them.   There is no reason to provide such information.   The moment you provide that little bit of data, you have just given away the gold and oh, any leverage you might have had.

Excluding the ‘budget’ question, you should be open to answering any question the vendor might have or present.  However, use common sense. 

If the vendor asks you a question you are not comfortable with answering, say so.  A salesperson will understand and move on.  A bad salesperson will try to extract that information.

Good – we move further on in the discussion.  Bad – we thank them and hang-up. 

Share a little discovery with them

The whole discovery is about information, which is accomplished via questions and answers.  You asking, the vendor answering.

That is the power of the call. 

Sadly, though most people don’t utilize that power, and instead allow the salesperson to control it. 

When that happens, you are basically listening to a script with a voice.  The information you receive isn’t any better than what you learned at a trade show or in a brochure.

But it doesn’t have to be and guess what?  It won’t when you use these tidbits.

  1. Tell the vendor – a little bit about yourselves (the business), your industry (never assume) and yourself (just the basics, if you are the decision maker, and you want to tell them that – go ahead)

What to watch for – “Are you the decision maker?” 

Why does the salesperson want to know? 

Because knowing who is going to make that final decision is key in the entire process.

 If the person having this discovery call (talking to the vendor) is the person making the final decision, the salesperson may (depending on the salesperson) respond in a different manner than say someone who is just fact finding.

This doesn’t mean they are going to be nasty, rather, they are going to provide only so much information. 

If the salesperson knows they are talking to the decision maker, they – the salesperson – might start the “wine and dine” you approach sooner rather than later.

It depends of course on each vendor, but talking to the person who has the power to go or no go, is way better for a vendor than the person who doesn’t.

Provide the vendor – the reason or reasons why you are seeking a LMS. If you are using another vendor and are leaving them, state that (you do not have to provide the name of current vendor). 

Include what you want to accomplish in terms of training/L&D with the LMS.   Saying for example, “we want e-learning,” isn’t telling them anything.

Example:

Me and my friend created a bunch of courses for the classroom and now want to offer them as web based courses.  So we are seeking an LMS for our current clients and new clients.  

What it says to the vendor:

The above statements tell me the essentials.  What you are doing and what you want to do.  It gets right to the point.

Now as the vendor, I might say okay, we can do that, – I might mention that we have other clients like that, or I might say, we have strong features for that and so forth.

But the winner to all this – is that it bounces the ball back to the vendor to respond and respond with their own questions aligned to you and off their script.

And the winning numbers are

At some point, the vendor will ask you how many users/learners/students you are expecting in the system.    Remember a user is identified as one user name, one password. 

A client who is going B2B/B2C is unlikely to know the projected numbers, and in any B2B/B2C approach, it is better to go conservative than wild.  

For someone who is going B2B/B2C, just stating at this point it is not yet known, but that you will have a better idea by the time you select a system is a fair response.

If you are internal (employees), then give a best estimate. 

Remember that you are likely going to hire people in the next three years, and yes, people leave too. 

You may be a firm that will not give every employee access to the LMS or will limit certain areas or will allow part-timers or contractors to use the system, and so forth. 

Thus, it is essential to let the vendor know up front what will be the breakout of your audience.

Example:

We are projecting 500 employees to use the system, but of that amount, we anticipate that 30% will use the system only for a couple months of the year and then won’t return until next year.  We also have 50 interns who will need access for only three months – in the summer – and then will no longer need access.   

 Time frame to buy and implement (go-live with users)

Identify to the vendor what is your time frame in finding and selecting an LMS.

You should always be realistic here.  If you want a system in 30 days and decide against self-service, the number of vendors that will be able to meet your needs will be small.   A vendor is always seeking a “hot” lead.

 If you say we are planning on purchasing a LMS within six months – you are a strong lead, and hot.   If you say we are seeking a system maybe in 15 months, you are cold.   As a cold lead, the vendor will still talk to you, but if you are expecting them to run to you like Pavlov’s dog, forget about it.

 Example:

 We are looking at selecting a system no later than July (six months out) and we would ideally like it to go be live by November.  Is that possible?

Did you see what just happened? 

The timeline was posted along with when the client really wants the system to go live (ideally = really) and as a result of that statement, bounced the ball (question) back to the vendor to respond.

Now the vendor knows the time frame and launch date. 

At this point, if the vendor can hit those dates, they will say they can.  If not, they will state that is not doable.

Go the extra mile, err steps

After this point, the vendor may ask some additional items, but invariably they will ask for next steps.

At the next step part of the call, you have choices. Here are the two most common.

  • “I’d like to see a demo”- and schedule the date, right there and right now (on the call).  The vendor then should ask you want you would you would like to see on the demo. 

Some vendors will schedule the demo, then contact you prior to the demo, to ask what you want to see on the demo.  Always be specific.  Even if it is “I would like to see all of it.” 

  • “I am going to send you our RFP/RFI”  Provide them a specific date when you will send it out.  If unsure on the date, give them an estimate.

Lastly, you want to let them know that you will follow up with them, and not vice versa.  Otherwise, you will get hounded with calls or e-mail blasts.

Example:

“I prefer e-mail only, no phone calls. Because I am quite busy, please allow a few days for me to respond.”

Discovery Takeaway

In just an hour the vendor, knows a bit about you, what you are trying/seeking to do, who is your audience, time-frame, and next steps.

Equally, you know them, have either a comfort zone with the vendor or not, and decide if you want to move forward or not.

If any red flags show up on the call, if you have doubt in your mind, then this is not the right vendor.

Cross them off your list and move on.

Because having any further discussion doesn’t make any sense.

Not for the vendor or you.