Oct 112011

Learning Technology: It’s Demo Time

Learning Technology: October 10, 2011 by Craig Weiss, E-Learning 24/7 Blog

You want to see a learning platform, but you don’t want to access the trial, first or perhaps you can’t. What do you do?

You can try to figure out about the product via the company’s web site, but many sites honestly are beyond awful.

They fail to even clearly show their product, let alone present the product sans the standard PPT intro that comes with “learn more” about the solution.

What then, is the option for you, beyond closing your eyes and imagining the product?

Demo Time!

Talk, Talk (and no, not the band)

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. At the end of the day, many of us, want to actually download or access the product via the “cloud” and take it for a test spin (i.e. trial).   Yet, for many vendors that objective, comes at a price, you have to talk to them.

Whether its by e-mail (my preferred choice), phone (often their preferred choice) or a combination, at the end of the day, it’s about the conversation.

Because the conversation will drive what happens next, seeing the demo.

What They Need to Know

Regardless of the learning platform, most vendors want to know a few tidbits about you and what you are seeking before you see the product (i.e. demo).

You might think to yourself, that the goal of this approach is to identify what you are really seeking and thus when it comes to the demo, to focus only on that, rather then the entire system itself.

Sadly, you would be wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me, there are quite a few vendors that seriously follow the “tell me” and “I will show you only what you want to see” angle (kudos to them!), but there are plenty who seem more interested in whatever, rather than truly “listening”.

How can you tell the “whatever” scene? It is quite simple.


You clearly state whom you are (financial company, etc.), employee size, what you are looking for in a solution, and that you want to see a demo of the product.  You can go further into details if you wish, but really, there are certain key items, most vendors request or inquire about to see if they are the right product for you.


Right product? It should be right salesperson. You see, for some vendors (not all mind you), depending on the employee size and where you are based, you may be switched from an internal sales person to a regional sales person or sales manager.  Thus, in this scenario, the “listening” is more about whom is going to get the “lead” and not about you.


For many vendors it is all about the phone call. Even if you explicitly state that you want to be contacted by e-mail, many will ignore that and try to call you. If they get you on the line, the questions aforementioned above, will eventually be asked along with some other particulars.

Even if you request quickly that you would like to see a demo, many sales people will continue to press for details over the phone. I recall talking about a few key items needed to move forward on the call and then requesting a demo from one well known vendor.  Instead of saying, lets schedule a time, it was ignored and more questions were asked.

The call went on for another 25 minutes until, I could get them to commit to a demo.


I am glad to see more vendors responding by e-mail, especially when they require you to fill in the “more information” form on their site, and include your e-mail address.

At one time, even requiring your e-mail address, resulted in them calling you and not e-mailing you.  Yes, this still occurs, but for many vendors, the light bulb has come on, and they are getting it.

After the initial e-mail, the vendor will try to push to having you talk to them, to learn more about your situation, even if you post it in the e-mail. Thus the duality of contact has been established.  I have had vendors be so pushy on this front, that it becomes an exasperating experience.

Regardless of the three methods, the objective of viewing the demo is nearly in place. I say nearly.

Who Views Who?

The demo is in sight, the date is about to be scheduled and then you hear words that are not for the faint of heart, “we schedule our demos twice a week on blah blah and blah blah. Which date works better for you?”.


A bell should be ringing in your ears, because when vendors specify days for only demos, you can pretty much bet, that there will be other people on the line.  Thus your demo call is not truly one on one, but rather one on lots of people.

There isn’t a x number of people required to do a “scheduled” demo in this manner, but walkthroughs (as they are often called behind the scenes), should never contain more than three people on the line, besides the host (salesperson).

Yet, I have been on these types of calls, and seen via the “conference” room as many as nine people.

Shall I just go with this approach?

No. You want to have the demo, one on one (i.e., just you and your staff or just you and not people you don’t know).  Even if the vendor says this is their policy, tell them you don’t care. If they want potentially you as a client, they will need to schedule a one on one demo.

Why “No”?

When scheduled demos are pre-set, i.e. they are scheduled on Tues/Thurs at xyz time, you can guarantee that the vendor is following some type of script. It may not be a paper script, but it is a script in the sense, that it follows a certain pattern or structure. Everyone will see this first, then this, then this, then this.

Even if you ask questions, which slows down the presentation, and which they will respond to, you can assured that it will be made up later on.

Made up? The time.

You see with these type of scheduled demos, the demo is typically 60 minutes. So, at the 60 minute mark, the demo is over. Now, if people are asking lots of questions, that eats into time. So, as a thank you, the host may speed through other areas or ignore some areas to finish up.

You want a one on one demo. But, here is the kicker. You want to schedule it for 90 minutes.

90 minutes

Why 90? Because if you really want to digest the product and ask lots of questions, you need time for that.  Even if you have the demo tailored to what you only want to see, having 90 minutes set aside, guarantees you that everything you will be covered and any questions that come up will be answered.

If the session ends at 55 minutes, so be it. At least, the 90 minute block has been set aside – for you and the sales person.

It eliminates the “oh, I have a meeting” or something else event, that a salesperson may have booked, because it breaks away from the typical 60 minute demo.

We are all busy and have lots of things going on. Blocking out 90 minutes, sets aside those other items, for a bit, and enables you to focus on what will be the biggest purchase of the year, if not years for your company, school or organization.

Time now becomes your ally, not your enemy.

Finally, The Demo

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