In the last few months, I’ve been there and that. Sitting in on face to face on-site presentations from LMS vendors. And I’m proud or sad to say, that what I am seeing is that same stuff I have seen from year’s past.
It is as if, some vendors never got the memo or if they did, they tossed it into the garbage or hit delete in their e-mail.
Therefore, perhaps it is the appropriate time to provide some key takeaways on what you should do and not do. On both sides – the client and vendor.
Let’s start with you, the prospective customer.
Provide them to the vendor ahead of time. Have them interweave them into their presentation and state that to them. Otherwise you might get a hodgepodge of this and that.
Questions and Answers period
It is easy to fall behind the allotted time a vendor has to make their presentation, when asking questions as you are seeing the functionality or listening to whatever they are showing and doing. The vendor in turn, will often state, “any questions?” which notably leads in some cases, to uh, questions.
Then a time impact hits. You might miss out on something the vendor wants to show or on their side, they may speed up.
Best to stick to the plan and allocate 30-45 minutes and the end of the presentation to ask questions. The vendor can always go back into their demo and show it or discuss it.
Write some questions ahead of time
If you have some standard questions or questions you thought up after seeing a presentation, and want to ask for the next presentation, write them down ahead of time.
Watch the Vendors and SEE if they do
Vendors will usually show who their clients are. Many will mention big names. But what they will fail to mention is whether they are the only vendor for that business. Don’t be afraid to ask. It is better to learn that they are in the customer service department for big company now, rather to find out later.
Secondly, see who they show as their clients – because you want ones in your industry. It isn’t a deal breaker if they do not, but it is nice to see, “who is like me”. If they have no one, it doesn’t mean they can not deliver what you need. It just may be because they have entered that vertical and you may be the first customer.
That said, I always find it impressive when the sales person or solutions engineer has a background or knowledge on the industry itself. A simple prepping via the net will provide valuable information on the industry you will be talking about and various roles within that industry.
Allocate Two hours for each presentation and over multiple days
Two hours is the ideal time for a F2F presentation. Anything longer and folks will lose interest. It is best to have the presentations scheduled in mornings, rather than after lunch. Best time to start is 9 or 9:30 a.m. – anything before that, you are dealing with folks not fully awake and not fully charged up.
Book the presentations over multiple days. If you have three vendors it is over three days. Notify the vendor way in advance of when you plan to bring them in. They will pay the costs to be there, you do not pay anything – i.e. no travel reimbursement, no expense reimbursement, nothing. If they say you have to pay, then say – See ya.
Some vendors try to negotiate when they can show up. Uh, this isn’t negotiations here. This is you wanting to see their product and they should realize that not everyone is a finalist. If they want to negotiate – here is an idea, go right ahead – I’ll pick someone else. End of negotiations.
Okay Vendors, here it goes. This is the DO part.
Show customers like me
I want to see other customers you have that are in my industry, if you show your customers. If I am a manufacturer of furniture, you showing me tech companies means nothing.
I do not care that you have Google – and by the way if you do, what department do you have, because I know (uh, this is me talking here), that Google has multiple systems at their company.
Show ME the Product
Some vendors seem to love to talk about themselves and then when going into the system, focus on their ideal feature sets, rather than follow the path of how the customer wants it. Show me then tell me. Not tell me and just wing it.
Create an Agenda
Having an agenda and providing to each person – i.e. in front of each seat at the table, before the person walks in – is a huge plus. It tells me you are organized and have a structure in place, including the amount of time per section.
Include the people who will be at the presentation – i.e. the attendees, and of course yourselves. Take some time putting this together.
It might surprise you, but out of all the F2F presentations I saw, only two vendors had an agenda. Two. Unbelievable – and not in a good way.
Yes the chair is comfy, but if your Solutions Consultant or Engineer or whatever you call them is driving the demo, have them stand up and go to the screen once in a while.
This is obvious, but I was stunned to see the number of SC/SE who were experts in putting people to sleep. Monotone doesn’t work. I have an idea here – how about training your person on how to do a presentation – i.e. presentation skills. I know ATD has a lot of books, guides explaining the best ways.
Skin the demo and have client name throughout it.
Vanilla looks does not work, nor telling me, what it could look like. Gets back to show me. Secondly it tells me that you took the time to try to replicate or create my colors for your demo. Always a positive touch.
A quick thank you note is essential. With smartphones today, you can send back your thank you while you are at the airport, or walking to get lunch or even in the lobby before you walk out the door.
In the presentations I saw these past few months, four vendors never sent a thank you note. Never.
Great Question! Excellent Question!
Say it when someone in attendance asks a question. This is training 101. If I had trainers do what I saw some vendors do, changes would be made. There were multiple vendors who just went right in and never said great, good, excellent as it related to questions.
IT is a dying art. Maybe you weren’t raised to say “thank you” on this or that. I’m not talking about at the end of the presentation (which is a given). Rather, at various points during the presentation. “Great question, thank you for that.” Pretty simple. Yet, rarely heard.
You likely have some promo materials. Bring them and hand out to those in attendance. I saw squeeze balls, pens and a nice folder pack made of I think leather. An on-site presentation should be special, and it is special – opportunity for you. A lot of factors go into a presentation, and way too many vendors think it is only about the product – yes, that is the core, but..
The Little Things
Play a role. I’ve seen vendors lose deals because they didn’t send a thank you or they didn’t follow up to a question that someone asked, where the vendor responded that they will find out the answer and get back to you. Or they took days to respond with a thank you notice. Even not dressing appropriately can backfire in a big way.
You are not going to a party here. You are going to sell yourselves and the product. This is the one day, where you bring out your “adult” professional clothes, including a tie for men, and wear it.
Shame on You. Shame on You.
Here a few Do Not ever do Again – for vendors.
Go Technical Rogue
Not everyone knows what an API is or does. Not everyone knows HTML or CSS. Not everyone understands everything technical. Even if the IT person is there, it does not mean they know HTML (most do not), nor all the nuances around an API (most do not) and SCORM (99.9% do not, let alone everyone else in the room).
I heard vendors talk about SCOs – don’t. Another went into technical on the system itself within the functionality. Deer in the headlights was everywhere.
You can create pages in easy to use format, perfect. Achieve it via WYSWYG? Awesome – and oh, btw, explain what WYSIWYG is. As for APIs – explain in terms that someone can understand.
I use the word connectors and then explain using a couple of products.
Turn on everything – or some things – if it is NOT INCLUDED in the product I AM LOOKING AT BUYING
I’m not going to mention this vendor’s name.
The customer was interested in the LMS. The vendor showed that, but also had their “Talent” “Performance” and a couple of other items – I won’t mention the names because it will give away the name of the vendor, but none of those items were part of LMS.
They were extras – as in extra cost.
Did the vendor say that in the presentation? No. Did they tell the attendees that these were an additional cost and not part of the LMS? No.
They said nothing, but included these items within the LMS, implying that they were part of the LMS.
The majority of the attendees had assumed, rightfully so, that these pieces were included as part of what they were getting in the system.
If I was not present, they would have never known that it wasn’t included.
The vendor told me that this is their approach to show they can provide an ecosystem (my word, not theirs). Fine. But let folks know what comes with the system and what doesn’t.
I suspect that this MO is standard. And unless people are aware, they are going to think what the attendees at this presentation thought. The “gotcha” moment comes when those prospects buy the system, only to learn
a. Those features are not part of it OR
b. They are an extra cost which shows up in the new contract.
A F2F presentation is to provide an opportunity for the vendor to sell me, tell me and show me on their system. If done right, it works. If done wrong or poorly it doesn’t.
And I’ve seen vendors who have outstanding systems lose deals simply because they forgot all the “Do’s”.
Which is to say,