As a Client Relationship Leader, I am often asked, ‘What’s the key to a successful LMS initiative?’. While the detailed answer to this question calls for pages of elaborate steps and processes, team coordination, testing, iterations and a host of other things, the shortest would be – the right start.
Starting from the Start – Presales and Sales
The best way to figure out what ‘LMS Success’ means for an organization, even before initiating the project, is to ask a couple of questions to the prospect:
Q. What’s your measurement criteria of ‘LMS success’?
Q. What is your desired outcome from the LMS?
Q. What are you trying to achieve with the product?
The answers to these questions will give you a broad understanding of your prospect’s real requirements; not in terms of features, functionalities or workflows, but in measurable, practical business sense, and expectations from the Learning Management System.
Explained below are a couple of areas you should focus on during the initial stages of the LMS selection and implementation to ensure overall LMS success:
1. Need Analysis – Understanding Customer’s Business Needs and Pain Points
This is one of the focal points of the LMS process, which should be nailed correctly as it lays down the foundation of the LMS. As an LMS vendor, you should be able to understand the business processes, specific requirements and pain points of your prospect and be able to optimally respond to these with an appropriate solution. Thorough analysis of the problem statement and requirement is necessary at the early stage for qualification of appropriateness of the solution.
Once the analysis of the need is done, next is to draft a solution based on the requirement(s) rather than offering the available product.
2. Drafting/ Proposing a Solution based on the Need rather than available product
Identifying what the prospect needs and how it can be achieved are equally important. To be able to cater to the latter, the first option is to fulfil the need with an existing feature/functionality, if available, and (only) if nothing is available, a customization should be proposed. Understanding and explaining alternative approaches is critical while providing the appropriate solution. There’s no fun in reinventing the wheel when something already exists which fulfils the need! The second option is to propose alterations in the existing module so minimum efforts are spent to achieve the required output. And the last is to build something new if it is not a part of the existing feature/functionality set.
3. Detailed Proposal and Technical Discussion
A proposal detailing the LMS, including but not limited to features, functionalities, workflows, technical nitty-girtties, should be sent to the prospect for a thorough assessment. Evaluation of the LMS proposal by the prospect’s technical team is critical to ensure that the solution meets the prospect’s technical, hosting, security, infrastructure and business requirements. Discussions on any technical aspect should be handled and even encouraged by the LMS vendor.
4. Branded Trial link
Through the LMS evaluation process, it’s important that the prospect gets acquainted with the learning platform, which can be done using a sandbox environment.
First impression is oftentimes the last impression and hence it’s important to setup a trial link for the prospect that reflects its brand image. In today’s multi-device, multi-browser and multi-environment era, it is important that the LMS resembles the prospect’s brand in every aspect. Sufficient time must be allotted to the prospect to explore the sandbox environment, understand the system and its capabilities.
5. Multiple rounds of Product Demonstration
Multiple rounds of product demonstration should be arranged for the prospect throughout the sales and presales cycle to ensure complete qualification of the product happens at the preliminary stage itself and any bitter surprises at a later stage are avoided. The vendor’s sales and presales team plays a key role in helping the prospect understand the product and mapping it with its requirement(s).
6.Using Real Client Examples
Demonstrating real examples of your existing clients, ideally from the same domain or industry as the prospect’s, helps in confidence building as mostly all organizations in same industry have similar processes and training needs. To the prospect, this is immensely helpful as s/he will be able to relate better to the LMS and appreciate the suitability of the LMS for her/ his organization’s needs.
In a nutshell, the preliminary stage of the LMS selection process should involve understanding the actual needs and pain points of the prospect, which should be used to propose the right solution and be demonstrated through Trial Links and Demos, and finally validated through real client examples.