I have - and it's amazing how that process has evolved over the years. Gone are the days spent haggling with the salesperson for hours. Gone are the days of driving from lot to lot just to see what they have in stock. And gone are the days of being vulnerable to the smooth talking car salesmen (well, for the most part).
Think about it, what's the first thing you do when you want to buy a new car? I'll give you a hint; it starts with G and rhymes with oogle. Right?
The first step is to do a ton of research at Edmunds.com, various dealer sites, Auto Trader, and the litany of other websites. But that's just the first step. Which made me think - after dedicating more than a decade to doing what I do, how is buying software similar to buying a car?
Love at first sight (or site)
One day you're sitting there and you notice that your seats are a little worn, the CD changer is so yesterday, and the odometer just rolled over 150,000. Still, the car runs fine and you're ok with that.
But then a friend pulls up in a new car with an iPod hookup and kicking system, TVs in the head rests, seat warmers, the whole nine yards. All of sudden, you're suddenly in the market for a new car.
Subconsciously, you now start noticing every car on the road. You're noticing not just makes and models, but exterior and interior colors, are the drivers in the left or right lane, and even who's driving the car (I don't want to be the guy that buys the Canyonero where the cigarette lighter is replaced with a lipstick holder).
And then it appears -- like it was put there just for you. Your dream car. It's got sleek lines, the sun glistens off the body, and you know the short list you quickly thought of based on the last ten minutes of driving, just got narrowed to one.
I'm no car salesmen, but there are some similarities
So after you raced home to search the web to address any initial questions and arm yourself with some information, you're headed to the nearby dealership ready to drive one for yourself. And this is where the processes are really similar.
If you compare the steps in a typical CMS purchase to that of buying a car, they're going to involve the following phases in some order:
- A demonstration (the initial test drive)
- Discussions around what it can and can't do (brochures, web browsing, the salesperson spouting features, etc.)
- Finding out where the software is strong and where it's weak (how's the sound system/can I get a sunroof/what's the warranty like/can I drive it again/etc…)
- The Purchase (driving away happily)
But here's what's funny - one of these steps is routinely skipped in both processes, and that's the third step. Have you ever bought a car after just one test drive? Probably. But that trend is changing, and that's why so many dealers now allow you to take a car home for the weekend, to really see what it's like. If they believe in their product, they know that the more of it you see, the more you'll like it.
And it's the same thing when it comes to software.
Avoid the lemon
Any software partner (CMS or otherwise) who really stands behind their technology will not only encourage you to go for a "test drive" of their technology with a quick spin around the block, but will push for and recommend a full Proof of Concept test of the software so that you can truly experience the application. By doing a POC that includes installing the software on your servers and spending days (not minutes) "test driving" the software against a set of pre-defined objectives, you can be certain that it's the right application for you.
In a software evaluation, you're likely to uncover the following:
- Things that it does better than you expected
- Things that it does worse than you expected
- How easy/hard it actually is to work with (the demo always makes it look so easy!)
- How much effort is really involved to deploy and manage it on a regular basis
Isn't it helpful to know these things before you buy? Of course it is.
Yet, what's interesting is that a lot of software vendors think this is an unnecessary step. In my eyes, anything less than this kind of commitment from your software "partner" is like buying a car based on the test drive, instead of buying from the dealer who loaned you the car to test drive for a few days because they stand behind their vehicle!
If you take nothing else away from this post, my hope is that when it comes time for you to look at potential solutions (CMS or otherwise really), you work through an evaluation process. As a sales guy, lengthening your decision cycle is not in my best interest, but it is in yours.
A great demo or test drive might make a great first impression - but once you pull off the lot, it's yours - so take the time to ensure it's exactly what you need before you sign on the dotted line.
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