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15 Tips to up your LMS Demo Game and Win %

LMS Demo

For LMS vendor eyes only…

When I was an LMS sales guy, I personally demoed or watched a solution architect demo the same two LMSs an average of three times a week for 13 years.  In the last 12 months as lead analyst and an LMS selection consultant, I’ve watched another couple hundred demos from 70+ vendors.  In all, that’s about 2200 LMS demos (give or take a 100) I’ve been a part of in my career.  As you might suspect, I’ve learned a thing or fifteen about what makes a good demo.

Here is a most important item I learned that most LMSs vendors forget –a demo can only be considered good when you ultimately win the LMS opportunity.  Second place is meaningless.  Many sales reps and solution architects take the demo step lightly because they have done the same presentation so many times that they think they have seen it all and know it all.  As a result, they prep too little, make a vanilla impact with the customer and get lost in the herd of possible LMS solutions.

The LMS sales cycle is typically 12-24 months long.  There are 600 LMS vendors.  It is foolish to take any sales step lightly.  It’s critical to achieve competitive separation at every interaction with the prospect from discovery to closing.   If it is an intro tire kicking demo, spend an extra hour to personalize it and jump out in front.  If it is the final demonstration at the end of a two year sales cycle, you better spend 10 hours prepping for each hour on stage.  If you don’t, the next vendor will and you will have the honor of knowing you worked two years for zip.

If part of your job responsibility is demonstrating LMS solutions to prospective clients, here are 15 tips to up your demo game and win percentage:

#1 Research Your Prospect – The LMS demonstrator (exec, rep or SA) needs to be up to speed on the prospect.   At a minimum they should know the company background, industry, main product lines, current problems they want to solve and high-level use cases.  Practice working this data into your demo – everywhere.  The more you can connect with the project team and their business the more value you provide in relation to your competitors.

#2 Don’t Blind Demo – Don’t ever do a demo without speaking to the client first to make sure you can plan to show the important features to them.  Many tire kickers will ask you to demo at a first meeting, but always push back and conduct proper discovery and research first.  Even if a client says the demo doesn’t matter, it does, especially if you muck it up.

#3 Use Industry Examples – For better or worse, LMS buyers in every industry think their challenges are unique and different.  It’s prudent to embrace that reality and use it to your advantage.  If you are speaking to a pharmaceutical company use pharma examples of course names, reports, business needs and case studies.  Even if you don’t have time to do a full-blown tailored demo, you can always verbally give examples that are relevant to their business and industry.

#4 Don’t Justify a Hole –If you don’t have a feature when asked just admit it and move on. Nobody has everything. The worst thing you can do is start a big explanation on why you don’t have it, how you used to have it but nobody used it, apologizing for not having it and worse yet telling them why they don’t need it but it is on the roadmap.   I can hear a cockamamie hole-covering answer a mile away and so can prospects and it turns us all off.

#5 Give a Tailored 1st Demo – Even if the purpose of the demo is pre-buying research, do some level of personalization and customization of the prospect’s business and problem.   Preparing is caring.  It shows you did homework and separates you from the hundreds of ho-hum vendors.  I found that a tailored first demo put me in winning contention years before the purchase happened and was a solid investment of time.

#6 Don’t Interrupt a Question– Seriously, shut up until the prospect’s question is over.  Many LMS buyers are not sure of the LMS vernacular and struggle with the right way to ask a question.  Do not assume you know what the rest of the question is going to be because you’ve done this a hundred times before – even if you do.  It ticks people off, makes you sound like a know-it-all, and is generally rude.

#7 Lay off the LMS Jargon – You live your life in the LMS world, buyers only do this part time.  Lay off the xAPI, Tin Can, Scorm, AICC, CMI-5, PENS, ILT, CDN, DRP, CBT, WBT, SSO, LDAP, AD, ERP, HRIS speak or you’ll talk yourself right out of the opportunity.  If you try, you can relay all the concepts without using acronyms.  Only a portion of the audience in LMS demos know the jargon and it’s usually never the signer or business owner.

#8 Minimize In-Demo Discovery – A good lawyer only asks a witness a question when they already know the answer.  LMS demoers should do the same.  Ask the relevant questions in advance to prepare the tightest most impactful demo.  If you are asking questions like “Do you plan to use the system for instructor led learning” during the demo, you didn’t prep enough and definitely are not achieving any differentiation.

#9 Mix It Up – Don’t give the same demo to every prospect.  Considering the upside of competitive separation, you should enter each demo with the mindset of making it a bit better than your last.  If you do it the same way every time, the demo gets old and boring, your jokes become stale and it is obvious you didn’t prep.   At the end of the day, LMS buyers want a partner who really wants them, not just some vendor going through the motions.

#10 Don’t Say “Does that Make Sense” – This goes for real life also.  I know you are trying to be helpful and interactive but it just comes off as condescending especially when it isn’t a difficult or unknown concept.  Find another way to say it like “Any questions?”  “Thoughts?” “Was that a helpful answer?” In some circles, if you say it more than once in a demonstration, you may start a melee.

#11 Limit use of “Good or Great Question” – This is an acceptable comment for an overly insightful question in a demo, not a general response to every question.   Using it too much makes you sound like a sales guy vs. a genuine problem solver.  I’m nitpicking but it bugs me.

#12 Tell Stories Often – I don’t think sales people or demonstrators can learn too many of their client stories.  I attribute a lot of my sales success to learning hundreds of LMS stories across a dozen industries and using those stories to build credibility.  It shows that you and your company understand their business problem and how your organization has solved it before.   The trick is to integrate relevant stories right into product demo flow as you are demonstrating use cases and showing features.   When you see an experienced sales or solution architect do this in real time, it makes your heart quiver.

#13 It’s OK to Just Say “Yes” – If someone asks you a direct question, answer briefly and directly.  So many times, demoers will enter into a belabored demonstration type answer to a question that could be answered with “yes.”  This strategy causes you to run out of time to show things that you needed to show to differentiate.  For example, if someone asks if you support SCORM say “yes” and don’t show them the upload process and configurability options unless asked.

#14 Ask a Clarifying Question – If you get a question that you can answer or interpret in multiple ways, ask them a clarifying question before answering.  Don’t answer “if you mean this, then blah, blah, blah, blah or if you meant that, then blah, blah, blah, blah.”   50% of your answer is a waste of precious time.

#15 Actually Follow-Up – A common strategy when a LMS presenter doesn’t know the right answer (or pretends not to know the right answer) in a demo is to say they will follow up after the presentation and conveniently forget.  If you say you will follow up, you better do it.  Just by the nature of not knowing an answer about your product, a LMS buyer is going to assume you don’t have it. Not following up reinforces that belief.


Winning an LMS opportunity is a matter of inches not miles.  Competition is stiff and extremely qualified.  LMS demos are one of the few times in the sales cycle you will get to meet the whole selection team, send your message and have the opportunity to differentiate.  You win or lose LMS deals with the demo even early sales cycle demos.  The very best thing you can do right now is to double your prep time on every demo and put in a plan and practice of continual improvement.  Nobody is as good a demoer as they think they are and there is always room for improvement unless you are winning 100% of your opportunities.

Thanks for reading!


Want to Benchmark Your Team’s LMS Demo Skills?

A big challenge about demos for LMS vendors  is it is hard to benchmark your team against the industry because a competitor is not going to willingly show you how they demo and differentiate.  We at Talented Learning however see how everyone demos and have quite a bit of winning experience ourselves.  As a service to LMS vendors, we conduct demonstration audit and benchmarking exercises with your team and provide recommendations and best practice consulting.   Reach out at to schedule a time to speak about your team’s demo skills.  It’s not too late to get better.

Want More Intel to Boost Your LMS Sales?

Check out the LMS Almanac, our independent, no-nonsense guide for LMS buyers and sellers.  You’ll get the latest market trends and competitive analysis from our in-depth learning technology research.  You’ll also get detailed profiles of 75 vendors to watch, along with other information you can use to help buyers make better LMS purchasing decisions.

Download free sample content and learn more now!

John Leh
About John Leh (135 Articles)
John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, LLC. Named one of the Top 20 Global Elearning Movers and Shakers of 2017, John is a fiercely independent LMS selection consultant and blogger who helps organizations develop and implement technology strategies – primarily for the extended enterprise. John's advice is based on 20 years of industry experience, having served as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to more than 100 learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $65 million. He helps organizations define their business case, identify requirements, short-list vendors, write and manage RFPs and negotiate a great deal. You can connect with John on Twitter at @JohnLeh or on LinkedIn.

1 Comment on 15 Tips to up your LMS Demo Game and Win %

  1. Excellent post. I was able to read through this before a demo this morning and it really helped tighten it up. Knowing small details about the company I’m demoing for (#5) give the demo a nice injection. Potential customers care that you took the time to do your research. Often times if you practice asking clarifying questions you’ll help clients better understand their own problem/pain point (#14). It’s a great discipline, just be tasteful with how that is presented so you don’t put your prospect on the defensive.

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