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The Dos and Don’ts of Approaching Learning Solution Vendors

18 May 2021

7 Min Read


Is your organization ready to start looking for a learning solution vendor?

If you decide to take things externally, shopping around for a vendor is not an easy task. You need to find a vendor who can provide exactly what you need, a solution tailored to your specifications.

However, a common mistake people make is rushing into it without a plan. For long-term success, you need to approach an L&D vendor with a solid plan of action.

In this episode of The Learning Xchange, Matthew Brown, VP of Learning and Brand Success at Schoox, discusses the best way to approach L&D vendors.

Do: Identify your organization’s primary learning solution need

The first step in approaching learning solution providers is to identify the primary need in your organization. This could be something like, “we need our training to be more digital.”

Whatever your reason, try to get clear and specific on what the problem in your organization is, the missing gap that you’re looking to fill.

Being specific here will set you up for success. It will help narrow your search down and get the ball rolling a lot faster once you approach a vendor.

Do: Take time to prepare for your conversation with the vendor

By going through these processes, you will save time in the long run, even if it costs more time to put in the groundwork now.

There will be less back and forth, with the vendor trying to work out what it is you really want. Once the vendor has provided a solution, it will be tailored to your needs and hopefully be effective to the target audience.

So, spend some time thinking of the following things:

  • What exact problem are you trying to solve?
  • How does this affect the rest of the organization?
  • What are the primary values of your organization?
  • What type of vendor are you looking to work with?
  • What’s the company culture like?

Coming to the table with a clear idea of who you are and who you’re not, will give the potential vendor a lot more to work with.

Armed with answers to these questions makes any conversation you have with a vendor a lot more productive. In fact, they may be able to give you some tips and ideas during that initial meeting.

Do: Discuss your learning solution needs openly with the vendor

Another great thing about having a conversation like this is that it helps the vendor decide whether to work with you as well.

When the vendor has a clearer understanding of what you need, they can go away and assess whether you’re the type of client they can help.

They may have a training platform that ticks all the generic boxes outlined in an RFP template. But when it comes to delivering the solution, it may be perceived as a wrong fit because it’s not tailored. It might be too long or short or too inflexible, or just not a good fit for your type of business.

It’s one thing for a vendor to say, “I create training courses,” and another thing when they say, “I create personalized training courses that meet your exact conditions.”

Without knowing what those conditions and specific needs are, how can the vendor meet them? That’s why it always pays to be prepared, to be thorough in your research, and to discuss your needs openly with any third-party vendors.

Don’t: Use generic templates for RFPs

One mistake we see organizations make is when they use a “requests for proposal” (RFP) template. Many people stick with the same RFP template they’ve used at other organizations because it’s the simplest and quickest way of doing it. While using a template may not be a bad thing, watch out for this common issue…

When you briefly mention your needs on a generic RFP template and don’t go into much detail, it makes it more difficult for the potential vendor to assess how they can help you.

This can cause problems later down the line when potential vendors struggle to meet your needs.

A vendor might be able to tick a box and say, “yes, we provide digital training solutions.” But they might not be right for your business unless you give them more context to go on.

A template is fine as a jumping-off point to spark ideas. But don’t rely just on a template when you come to discuss your request with potential vendors.

Some learning and development professionals struggle with helping their customer understand the value and importance of going that extra step to explain exactly you need. Not just in terms of solution and content, but also in terms of tone and company culture.

One step in this is to clearly determine what you as the organization know and don’t know. What will your company resonate with or respond poorly to? Where are the gaps in your knowledge and existing training? Only you know this. But the vendor needs to know this, too!

Don’t: Rush into a decision when selecting a learning solution

Many organizations make the mistake of getting so focused on the time and budget aspects that they lose sight of the bigger picture. This leads them to speed through some really critical steps that could make the process a whole lot smoother.

Don’t make the mistake of highlighting a problem, for example, “we have no digital training solutions,” and then run into firefighting mode where you rush to find a solution.

If you rush, you may risk focusing too much on making sure everything comes under budget, and neglect what the organization really needs.

The best way to set your organization up for success in the long term is to lay the groundwork first and get specific about your needs.

Download our free Buyer’s Guide, Navigating Today’s Changing Learning Platform LandscapeA Guide for Choosing a Next-Generation LMS to learn more about finding the best learning solution for your needs.

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