Why can’t you say YES, when you want to buy a learning system?

Why can’t you say YES, when you want to buy a learning system?

Remember Lotus 1-2-3? For those of us, who experienced the late 80s when Floppy Discs ruled, and then used Lotus in the 90’s, the memory of such a solution, is easily forgotten (although I did take an online course using only Lotus Notes, in 1998).

I mention Lotus Notes because I went on LinkedIn Learning and found a video covering Lotus Notes 6.5, 7, 8.5 (suggestion for support). I would love to know who is still using Lotus Notes 6.5. Did I mention this online video in LL, is from 2014? Clearly, LL who has told me they clean up and remove courses that nobody is taking (something I found difficult to believe, just because the Lotus Notes video isn’t the only old-school software product out there on the platform); nevertheless, if you believe LL, then someone, is still using Lotus Notes 6.5. I suspect they would have either a CPU with a floppy disk capability or the smaller disk, 3.5. I searched to see if Lotus Notes 6.5 was ever offered in a CD-ROM. The results? Yes. Did you know the latest update was in 2003? If not, now you do.

Since the newest computers, okay, for the last several years, lack a CD-ROM (you would have to purchase it as separate hardware with a USB connection – oh joy), there must be someone out there because you can download 6.5. exe on some sites – with one person noting it’s the best. No date stamp is listed. The file is from 2003.

I bring all of this up because under the assumption someone cannot seem to move on from Lotus Notes 6.5, there must be a tangible reason – beyond the “best” on the .EXE file. Technology has far advanced, and the thought somebody can’t just junk this into the memories of so long, seems implausible, and yet, here we are.

You may have a sweatshirt that has holes in it, ragged, no sentimental value, and yet, you still own it, even after 22 years, and have no issue wearing it in public (wait, that’s me). Regardless, you can’t toss it away. I suspect something in your residence has zero sentimental value right now, and yet you just can’t let go.


Psychologists call it the “endowment effect.” It begins at a young age, and once we own it, we see it as highly valuable. This is not the same as hoarding, by the way.

The Endowment effect.

I wonder whether or not, the endowment effect comes into play when you recognize you dislike the system you have purchased, and despite going thru the entire process, you just can’t let go.

You can’t move forward

When it comes to owning a learning system, I believe the ‘you just can’t let go’ exists. You despise it. You think it is a clunker. Your end-users hate it and tell you so. Nobody wants to use it. You land a budget, so you can go out and buy a new one, that has all the functionality you want (or is close to it), and is within your budget.

The possibilities enthrall you. You conduct your research or blast out an ROI to many vendors (and yes, this happens way too much). You schedule a demo, ask more questions, and request a proposal. Maybe you request a second demo with a few more folks in the room, to get their feedback. Then, you review the proposal, and…

Do nothing. You stay with the clunker. After, spending time to create your ROI and what you want, your use case, then months searching and conducting all types of whatever, you can’t do it. You can’t move forward.


Is the endowment effect in play, or do other factors influence that decision?

Some people will say procurement, but this is before you sign off for selection.

I believe there are such factors.

  • You believe that some new system is just around the corner and will be available soon.
  • You believe the new “brand name” system you have heard of will be better because it has that brand name. I saw this when Microsoft launched Learn, and people going into the final process of buying a system stopped. They noted that Learn might be a better fit, even though they did zero fact-finding or due diligence.
  • You hear from others that have zero decision-making authority, tell you, they didn’t like the system, because of X; even though they are not going to be using the system, compared to the larger audience.
  • You are owned by a larger company that owns a different learning system, and even though your audience doesn’t use it, or gripes about it, when you are ready to move forward, the other company says no; you must keep the same system as we have, regardless of if their user base likes it (often they don’t)
  • Your budget gets slashed or scaled back at the last minute (this happens). And rather than telling the vendor what has occurred, you stay silent and ghost them (the new term for never responding, following through, and disappearing from the scene).
  • Timeline is pushed back
  • Personal and Professional reasons that go beyond your control (you get laid off, you quit, you win the lotto, etc.) – The laid-off part happens – and nobody will reach out to the vendor. This factor is not common, as a reason – but is not common.
  • They are not the decision maker, but they never mention that
  • They are the decision maker, but unbeknownst to you, there is a power struggle within the company, whereas the decision-maker loses out
  • They can’t make a decision
  • You just can’t let go – you can’t do it – you hum or haa about it, wait, wait, wait, and then wait more – is endowment effect playing a role?

The ones I hear the most from folks (readers, and others)

I never heard of the endowment effect, until researching for the blog, but now that I think about it, I can see it as a factor for some folks (who themselves are unaware of it).

Regardless, what I often hear or see myself (representing others), is the most common.

  • Something new is going to come out – and they are holding until it does – a big mistake IMO
  • Big brand name rolls out a system or solution, and they read or hear about it – and decide this is going to be a better fit, or might be, so they go into hold – even though they may never buy it either
  • They just can’t decide – I call this pulling the trigger.

I have experienced this, okay a tiny bit, when making a purchase, regardless of whether it is inexpensive or pricey. I will find the right product, then rather than just buying it, I will spend countless hours, days, and humm and haah about it. I might ask my partner, but she, in turn, tells me to buy it, and even then, I can’t decide. So I debate more and more.

  • You hear from others that have zero decision-making authority, tell you, they didn’t like the system because of X; even though they are not going to be using the system compared to the larger audience. – Often, it is from other committee members – the worst. This is why I always went in with a plan, let them see the system, listen to their feedback, thank them, and then select the system, they saw. After all, I’m the final decision maker, not them.
  • Owed by the larger company, who may or may not be aware of what you are doing but requires sign-off, and then after a complete presentation to whomever, they say no, because we already have a system, and connecting to the other is time-consuming and may not work (a fallacy BTW)

I have seen this with the association on the committee angle, BTW, where you must present to the membership committee. Or someone on the committee has heard of another system and won’t budge. The latter is the worst, especially if this person can sway others.

  • Budget gets scaled back, company freezes any purchases (the latter does happen more than you think, and the decision marker, or the person you are dealing with, never tells you – they ghost).
  • They are not the decision maker, think more of a proxy, and the decision maker doesn’t get involved until the proxy presents the results to them. It may be multiple folks involved. I’ve seen this both ways, where it is successful and where it is not. In the latter case, I’ve heard of follow-up and equally ghosted.
  • Timeline is pushed back. This happens a lot. First, the prospect says 6 months, or 3 months; then they hear within the company, push back until next year, so they decide to hold. Oh, and forget to tell you. Or they tell you, they will follow-up when the process gets started again, and never do (some do of course).

As a vendor, what can you do?

Well, besides sending flowers, a PlayStation, puppy or fruit; there are a few options. Not all of them, will be successful – based on the factors of course.

This is just my perspective, of what I see as options (you may disagree and feel silence on your part is the best way to go or GRIPING within the company is a solid choice – although I have seen some vendors do the griping and I mean serious griping on LinkedIn. Nothing says, no sales, like furious griping).

  • Find out whether the person who is conducting the search is the decision-maker, i.e. the person who has the authority to say yes or no. If the person conducting the search isn’t the decision-maker, you still treat them with respect, honesty and so on. This does play into the decision. However, get the name and e-mail address of the decision-maker and ask them if they would like to see a demo (short or long), and if they have any questions. Note to them, they can contact you at anytime. BTW, you do the same for the person or people conducting the search – because they may have the power to push it thru.
  • Timeline pushed back – hopefully the prospect tells you this – if so, ask them if you can follow-up every few months? Most folks say yes. Then reach out – just to see how they are doing, if they need anything, etc. You want them to feel very important – that you care deeply about them or whomever, and just a nice touch base. You do not push the “would you like to move forward,” or any sales angle. Nor do you contact them every couple of months. Spread it out, say three months initially, then five months later type of thing. Always remember to ask people what the best way is to contact them – via e-mail, phone, WhatsApp for example. Honestly, you should do this piece early on in the process.
  • Budget is scaled back – You can work with them – maybe cut them a deal for year one, then increase up in year two, and three. Frozen – Not much you can do here, but just tell them, when they are ready, you are here, and because you would like them to be a client (and why that is), you are happy to work with them.
  • Owned by another entity, whose system in the end, they have to use. This one is tough, because the prospect wants you, but the mean entity above them, won’t budge. Find out what system the large entity is using – surprisingly I see this issue come up with SuccessFactors – as in the large entity has it, the one reaching out, hates it. Next find out, why they will not support or accept your choice? If it is the fear of connection issues, resolve them – with a plan to ensure that won’t happen – i.e. issues. Then make sure you deliver. Oh, and don’t charge a fee for the integration or API. You want the entity looking at you, and who knows, maybe the large company overlord, will go with you, when said contract of whomever they are using expires.
  • New system perception or big brand rolls out angle – OR BTW, a new system rolls out, that looks slick, and maybe that is better, OR the CEO saw X at a show, and you should look at them. Unless the CEO is saying they have to buy it; and then they can explain why they shouldn’t based, on this, because they have conducted an extensive analysis and the CEO doesn’t care – not much you can. For the new fresh system, find out who they are, conduct your own research (get a demo, don’t mention you work for another learning system – and BTW this was very common during the dot com days. You are trying to win a deal here, not become buddies with the other vendor. And who knows, maybe they are doing it too), and push the narrative that X new system doesn’t have the features they need (once you find out). If you can’t or won’t spend the time and move fast on it – which is needed; then always note that just because they are brand new doesn’t mean they have everything they want. Secondly, offer them a special deal, toss in some usual cost items and let them know, that this offer is good for 60 days – which gives them enough time to look at the newbie. You can even state that you are happy to wait, while they look at the other system, and if they are still interested in you, please let us know.
  • If it is Big Brand Name – do the same as above. Do not get antagonistic, or irritated – just be polite, follow similar approach as noted earlier.

For those who just ghost you or can’t make the decision; let’s look at the second reason first. Find out why they are holding back? Is it Price? Is it the system itself – dig deeper here. If price, you can go lower, if it is the system – maybe you didn’t show them what they needed; and if they need something you don’t have, well, thank them for letting you know, you would love to have them as a client, and the feature may be in a future release or not, but at this time you understand. If they change their mind, you are more than willing to re-connect or assist them. Basically, this is referred to as pain points.

For the ghosting – just chalk it up, to a loss and move on. This is business. It happens to everyone, in every sector that sells products, services and so on. You might ghost the car salesperson, or the fridge salesperson, or the real estate person you have been talking to. You see nothing wrong with this, and that I believe is universal – people see nothing wrong with that behavior. I wish they didn’t and perhaps you are someone who will follow-up and let them know, that you are not going forward with that purchase, and so forth. They may ask you why not or just say, okay, thank you.

Trade show leads land in the heavy ghost range. Just ask any vendor who attends these shows. It’s reality.

You may not like it, but that’s business. It’s happened to me and so many others out there.

Move on – life is too short to get irked about it. Especially since there is bird who just dumped on your car.

Bottom Line

Saying yes, isn’t the easy thing to do – there are always something that the vendor is unaware of. It could be as simple as the endowment effect or as extensive as multiple factors listed above. It could be you don’t like the salesperson or something they said, and you are too polite to say what it is – to someone above that individual.

Saying no, face to face online via a web conferencing solution is hard to do.

Ghosting is easy.

Not as easy as Lotus Notes 6.5


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In 2023, and years to come.

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