Get your CMS vendor off their script!

In the last month I have talked to a lot of people at the beginning of a CMS selection process.  For the most part these are relatively informal discussions to provide high level guidance and some help about next steps.  I typically get these calls after the first round of product demos and people are frankly a bit unclear on how to get to the next level in their selection process.  The thing I have been 'hearing between the lines' as I talk to people is that these very scripted dog and pony shows CMS vendors can conduct only end up confusing the potential customer more than help them towards a final selection.  What they often get is a solid hour or so of product greatest hits and shiny toys with only a passing reference to anything that is relevant to the customer's actual needs.  The other big factor here is that most of the time vendors know who they are up against and instead of selling to the customer needs they often end up selling against the other product(s) or spend time trying to up sell to the next level of the product or sell in-house services.

What I have been advocating to help keep everyone focused is that internally the customer comes up with three critical requirements that the CMS implementation must nail, and then provide these to the CMS vendor one week in advance of them coming back to present a second time.  This time they should present on those three items using only real world examples. The point here is to get them off script about the exhaustive feature list, ease of use, the promise that the CMS can become anything you dream and get down to how the CMS can address the real world challenges customers face.  The added benefit of using existing customer examples is you can ask potentially uncomfortable questions about how hard it was, how much customization was involved, how hard is it to manage for end users and most importantly did it meet customer expectations.

This is only one suggestion of how to get CMS vendors off script, but what I hope is that this gets you thinking about how to focus your selection process and product demos on the things that really matter to the success of your implementation.  Truth be told most customer use only about 20% of the total feature set a CMS offers anyway.  Your job is to make sure that the 20% you do use works really well for you. 

I am also very interested to hear any stories about how you got a CMS vendor off script, so please comment.  I also highly recommend you  check out this recent post by Seth Gottlieb called Death to the Features Matrix.  It has some great advice on how to shake up a selection process as well.

About the Author
George Ross

With more than a dozen years of experience leading enterprise web projects, George has seen the good, bad and ugly when it comes to CMS deployments. George brings an objective eye and a healthy dose of cynicism in evaluating the role of technology in the enterprise.

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4 responses… read them below or add one.

  1. David Hobbs says:

    Recently I’ve had good success using targeted (to the organization looking for the CMS) and detailed (to really dig at important areas) use cases, and making it very clear to the vendors giving demos that they would be evaluated on these.  Some still try to do the standard script (or generally ignoring important aspects of the use cases), but that just dramatically reduces their chances of being selected.  Since the purchasing organization has already bought into the use cases, everyone is on board with evaluating based on these.  Some vendors are definitely slicker at their presentations, but by evaluating against detailed use cases (which can also be revised/refined for more detailed prototyping later) everyone can focus on the same thing.  Also, this gets away from the features matrix.  

  2. Kenton Ward says:

    Speaking as one of the people who ‘sells’ mysource matrix cms, Squiz my company offers services and support around MySource which is a supported open source product. As such we are in an unusual position in that we only start to generate revenue from implementations after we have convinced our clients that the system is the best for their needs. That means that unlike a software vendor who sell their product and pass the deal to an integrator our relationship really starts with the project kickoff.

    With this as a back ground, we have found that the only sustainable way to push the CMS is to dump the powerpoint ‘one way’ meeting style and conduct a live demo for each of our prospects which is very much a conversation and focused on their requirements. We find that not only is this a major advantage in selling, as the information imparted is relevant, but also means that we have ongoing relationships with our clients who don’t feel that they have been shown a set piece by a rep who is interested in the software license sale but not so interested in the delivery of the project. Having seen this in operation I would maintain that the fastest way to get a rep ‘off script’ is to have prepared in advance some real world problems/ requirements/ situations from your own organisation and insist on a live demo showing how these can be handled by the CMS.

  3. Tim says:

    One week advance notice for a pitch? You’re too nice. :)

    Great post, George.

  4. chris says:

    I’m totally with you George, most sales personnel hate to deviate from their presentation and address the real concerns of customers. this  may be  because the sales personnel knows little about the product or inadequately aware of the customers need. Thankfully we at CrownPeak have addressed this issue in a very decisive way. CrownPeak allows its CMSs to be customize to most needs, besides our CMS is also non technical and easy to work with. For details about the CrownPeak CMS you might want to visit –

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