The AI revolution is upon us, and businesses are starting to change and adapt in order to stay ahead of the curve. In particular, AI is being used more and more to automate tasks and processes that…
Based on your previous calls, you will have selected a couple of LMS vendors you want to take to the next level of conversation, and they will be with vendors equally interested in your potential as a client. Most LMS demos will last between 30 and 90 minutes.
No two vendors treat an LMS demo the same way. Before your demo, ask for an outline or an agenda of what will be covered to set your expectations and allow you to prepare your questions. The better your understanding of your actual LMS needs, the more beneficial the demo will be to you. Divide those requirements into your must-haves and your nice-to-haves, give that to your sales rep in advance of the LMS demo and request that they show you how their product and service offerings will meet both those lists.
If you think you need your LMS platform to do something that isn’t on your critical list, you may need to reconsider the importance of this feature. Consider how you would answer this question from a potential provider. “Assuming our solution met all the other requirements but was missing THIS LMS feature — and we were willing to give you our platform for free — would you still insist on having this feature, or could you live without it?”
There’s a saying that I think really can apply to LMS product demos. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go together. P.S. It is dangerous to go alone.” There’s a little bit of truth in that when it comes to product demos. This is when you want to assemble the best possible team of stakeholders and interested parties to bring all their questions to the table, drawing on the wisdom of every cohort that will be affected by your choice of eLearning platform.
Who are these fellow adventurers that you may want to join you on your journey? I’m going to present you with a list of roles, realizing that depending on your organization, some may be the same person — or you may be in one or more of these roles:
You might include key members of management teams that will be directly impacted by the LMS purchase, too. They can consider the needs of their departments and their learners as part of the LMS demo evaluation.
You might ask the LMS vendor to show you some specific features like:
You’ll also want to talk about anticipated timeframes for you to get started, once you sign your contract. How long until your onboarding or implementation starts — how many clients are in the queue ahead of you? What resources will they need from YOUR team? Who do they recommend being part of your training program’s onboarding, implementation, and rollout process? Do they need access to a group of test learners to evaluate the LMS software or course delivery as a pilot program before the company-wide launch?
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are several distinct user groups that will be affected by your choice of LMS platform and vendor. Their needs are distinctly different, and you need to consider each cohort as you make your LMS demo evaluations.
Overall, you want to ensure you are evaluating the following points:
The difference between LMS admins and end-users
Before choosing a new LMS, be sure to find out the answers to these ten questions during your demo evaluation meetings.
1. Does your LMS have the features I need?
Ask LMS vendors about these features.
2. What will make your learners love their LMS?
Your company’s needs are unique, as are the needs of your learners. Are the needs of your workforce being met? Will your learners be able to easily and enjoyably:
Will your LMS provide learners with customized home pages designed to suit your learners in your environment following your workflows? Ask LMS vendors how they customize their LMS for your learners — and hopefully, they will go far beyond just sticking your logo in the corner and adding your corporate colors.
3. How easily can I create and deploy content using your LMS?
So many questions, like:
4. Will your LMS keep my content and learner data secure?
Your employees share their personal data with you based on the implicit understanding that their personal information is safe. Every software vendor you consider — LMS or otherwise, needs to be able to talk about and document their data security protocols. At the same time, your management team needs to be able to access and assess learner data easily to track learner progress. Data security should be intelligent, not onerous, invisible, and not a barrier to being used to measure results.
You’ll want to ask about:
5. How much of your training administration can you automate?
6. How does their LMS pricing scale as your organization and needs grow?
Companies grow, downsize, merge, and acquire or get acquired. You may have seasonal surges in employee counts, depending on your industry. Here are some considerations that may affect pricing:
7. What types of reports and data visualizations can I create?
8. How will you be supported before and after the launch?
Good support is crucial to your success — you are buying a complicated piece of software, and you will have people with various levels of comfort and experience using it. The need for support is a given. Make sure to ask these questions:
9. Will your LMS integrate with the rest of my ecosystem?
Your LMS may need to “talk” to other software you use — and have other best practices and ease-of-use features to improve the user experience — for admins and learners alike. Does the platform:
Ask vendors about integrations with all the elements of your training and talent management ecosystem.
10. How will your LMS feature set grow to support my future needs?
This is the beginning of a long-term relationship. In the same way that your company’s needs will shift over time, so will the standards of eLearning technology. Future-proof yourself against potential issues by asking:
Here’s the part that some prospects get wrong. They start becoming reactive rather than remaining objective as they experience sales pitch after sales pitch. They start giving more value to the bells, whistles, and personality of the salesperson than to the essential features, key benefits, and core functionality of the software they are evaluating.
I can’t stress this enough. After your discovery calls (all of them) and before your LMS product demos (any of them), define your evaluation criteria, determine your measurement scale, and then keep those two things consistent throughout all your presentations. Ensure that all your team members agree to the criteria before you engage in the LMS demo process. You want to avoid internal disagreement or political infighting in front of your potential LMS vendor — it just muddies the waters.
Equally important is the post-LMS-demo de-briefing. Once you have completed all your demos and evaluations, meet with your team to discuss your findings. Compare everyone’s notes and scorecards to create the shortest possible list of possible LMS platforms to take to the next level of evaluation. Document any questions that have not been satisfactorily answered or new questions that have come up due to new information or understanding on your collective part.
Contact and thank those vendors who will not be moving forward to the next stage and do them the courtesy of telling them why. That will prevent you from receiving a stream of “just following up on our LMS demo” emails — because the sales rep will be doing their job — to make themselves available to answer your questions. They will keep reaching out if they don’t know they are out of the running. Telling them why there were not chosen helps them understand where they or their software fell short and will lead to improvements on their side. Trust me. We take prospect feedback very seriously.
You’ve narrowed down your choices to the two or three vendors that you’ve rated as most suitable based on your evaluation criteria. You’ve collated all of your team’s questions and concerns from your LMS demo sessions. Now you schedule some follow-up meetings or calls to get these questions answered.
Essentially, at this point, you’ll be ready to discuss the very real potential of hiring your selected or finalist LMS provider and start discussing pricing details, timelines, including optional services, and the timeline associated with deployment. This gives you more information to compare vendor to vendor. Share the answers and information with your stakeholder team again once you have all the information from all the vendors to continue to have an agnostic level playing field for evaluation.
It may take several meetings with the LMS vendors and your team to come to a decision. Many of your questions will likely be able to be answered by email. Again, pay attention to the responsiveness of your sales rep and their ability to understand your question, and answer “the question behind the question” — to demonstrate that they are paying attention to what really matters to you and your company as you make this decision. When it comes to your team’s involvement, include stakeholders as relevant to the conversations — budget, technology, integrations, deployment — ensuring all cards are on the table and all questions are sufficiently answered.
Look at your criteria, and tally up your scorecards. Call your disqualified LMS vendors, and break the bad news. Again, tell them why they were not selected. If there are any additional factors, like last-minute pricing discounts, that may come into play — this is the time to find out. It may reshape your decision.
Make the last call to the company you have selected, get the agreement, and follow your internal processes to get it signed. A good LMS vendor will want to book a call to review their contract or proposal document with you BEFORE you sign it. They want to ensure that they have included everything you need and to give you the chance to ask any final questions. This is another step that many prospects want to skip, but it can uncover and resolve any last-minute additions or exceptions.
You are signing a legally binding document, so invest the thirty minutes it may take to allow the rep to review it with you. Trust me on this.
Time to pop the champagne! You’ve arrived at your destination! You’ve made your decision. Well Done! This should be the beginning of a long-term relationship that both you and your new partner in training will value and enjoy for years to come. You can proceed with confidence and get started implementing your training strategy. You’ve made a major investment in your company’s future — because employee training touches every aspect of a business’s performance.
We hope to be walking together on this online training journey for a while — and let us know if you have any questions about the way as you continue your exploration of corporate online training! We’ll answer your question and you just might inspire another article or two!
With 15+ years of online marketing and online learning experience, Susan loves to share insights about where these two ROI-building practices can intersect and complement each other for your business or organization.