If you’re a vendor who wants to increase your win rate, I have some simple advice – focus on upping your LMS demo game. You may have heard me talk about this in the past, but I’m still surprised that so many vendors overlook demo basics. Trust me, vendors who sweat the details stand out. So here’s my latest list of LMS software demo tips, based on best practices and worst missteps I’ve seen on the LMS selection front.
1) Arrive 30 Minutes Early – Nothing is worse than starting a 3-hour LMS software demo late because you aren’t ready. Give yourself the time to sign-in, set-up and work through inevitable technical challenges.
2) Bring Your Own Internet Access – Connectivity is non-negotiable. Saying “imagine this…” and tap dancing your way through a demo can’t replace the real thing. Carry a reliable portable Wi-Fi hotspot device as a backup, in case you hit a speed bump with guest Internet access in the meeting room.
3) Research Your Audience – Find out in advance who’s likely to attend the demo and invest some time learning about them through LinkedIn and the buyer’s website. One vendor I know creates a briefing file with images and bios of expected attendees. This prepares the sales team to greet attendees by name and interact with them more effectively throughout the session.
4) When Location Works In Your Favor, Use It – Since long-distance travel time and expenses can be steep, most vendors don’t visit buyers until the final LMS software demo. However, if a buyer is located in your vicinity, don’t hesitate to begin developing rapport and demonstrating value-add earlier in the evaluation process.
5) Own the Executive Summary – All customers think their organization and their learning challenges are special – and they’re right. Before you talk about your company and your solution, briefly describe your understanding of their business, their challenges and their objectives. This situational snapshot is the most important 10 minutes of your entire presentation. It establishes common ground and sets the tone for the rest of the day.
6) Clarify the Top 5 Reasons to Buy – Why should this buyer choose your solution over all others? They might be able to figure it out on their own, but it’s smart to tell them upfront, and again during the LMS software demo and once more in your summary comments. NOTE: If you think the same top 5 fits every buyer, you might as well skip this step.
7) Emphasize the Buyer’s Requirements – This is a critical demo success factor. Want proof? Here’s what happens when you ignore it. Recently, an LMS vendor talked about Salesforce.com integration throughout their demo and the accompanying proposal. Great stuff. However, the prospect doesn’t use Salesforce.com. In fact, LMS/CRM integration wasn’t even a requirement! This wasted precious time and made the vendor seem clueless.
8) Follow the Buyer’s Script – For buyers, LMS selection is typically not a frequent process, so their demo strategy may not be ideal. Regardless, stick to their agenda so their team can follow along – and rate you – as planned. You may know better, but if you’re wise, you’ll keep it to yourself.
9) Stick to a Tell > Show > Confirm Presentation Strategy – Think carefully about how you illustrate use case scenarios. Prospects are likely to rate each step in the workflow, and you don’t want to lower your score by skipping steps. Start with a PowerPoint slide to introduce capabilities you’ll demonstrate. Next, walk through that functionality in the LMS software demo. Then return to PowerPoint and summarize what they’ve seen. Cover every requirement before moving on.
10) Add Visual Interest – Presentations and proposals that integrate relevant screenshots in the right places draw more attention and engagement. For a memorable “wow” factor, take time to add a branded environment in your LMS prior to the live demo and include screenshots from that working prototype.
11) Speak the Buyer’s Language – To reinforce your understanding of their business, include relevant industry and company terms, content names, locations – anything that creates a familiar context. These details may seem unnecessary, but they separate great demos from the rest.
12) Minimize Unforced Errors – Recently, I attended an LMS software demo where the wrong logo appeared on some slides. Another was plagued by spelling errors. With such tight competition, buyers will use any excuse to dismiss vendors. Don’t make it easy to eliminate you!
13) Show Mobile Experiences On Mobile Devices – Learning apps are back in a big way. If you have mobile functionality, put your best foot forward by running your demo on a mobile device. Engage participants by inviting them to download your app, scan a QR code or pass around a tablet featuring sample content.
14) Include an Implementation Plan – Unbelievably, many vendors fast-forward through this part of the presentation, letting boilerplate content, generic answers and project schedules from 2015 carry the load. But buyers are scared you’ll make them look bad by blowing the budget and schedule during the implementation phase. In a close competition, a conservative approach and risk mitigation beat feature sizzle and price, hands down. Work with your professional services team to create a set of custom slides with realistic timelines and terms.
15) Simplify the Pricing Discussion – Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” If he were here today to comment about LMS pricing, I’m sure he’d say, “If you need more than a few sentences to explain your license model, you’ve just lost.” Enough said.
16) End Strong – Don’t close the meeting with an open-ended whimper. Wrap it up succinctly. Behave like a lawyer delivering a closing argument and organize key points so they lead to a clear conclusion — why you.
17) Don’t Forget Thank You Notes – An old-fashioned idea, yet it’s still remarkably effective. The same day you deliver a demo, craft a simple, personalized email message to everyone who attended the session. Express your appreciation for the time they’re taking to define their requirements and evaluate your solution. Then send it to every contact on your list, so they know how important this process is to you.
18) Follow Up Fast – Did you capture a list of questions and issues that require further research or clarification? Treat it as an opportunity to demonstrate responsiveness on behalf of your brand. If you don’t close the loop your credibility will suffer, along with your chances of sealing the deal. Even if the “to do” list is short and seems insignificant, don’t let it linger. As you leave the meeting, line-up relevant resources and fill-in the blanks immediately. I guarantee you, that extra effort will leave a lasting, favorable impression.
Vendors, how do your LMS software demos rate? You can hope that you’ll be shortlisted with mismatched competition and win some deals through attrition or luck. But hope isn’t a reliable strategy.
When you go head-to-head with comparable vendors, you must differentiate your solution wherever possible. The final software demonstration is an excellent opportunity to shine. It will take extra time, but those incremental investments can pay off in a big way. I look forward to seeing you deliver that killer demo sometime soon.
John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.
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