It isn't often that Cisco is discussed as a small-business powerhouse, but the moves the networking titan has made in the past three years to solidify and grow its small-business approach are bringing it exceptional success in the market segment. So much so, in fact, that VARs and distributors that once might have dismissed Cisco's small-business engagement as tin-eared or out-of-touch are now putting their own muscle firmly behind it.
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"They get it," said Dan Schwab, co-president of D&H Distributing. "They're investing in small business and also doing a lot of education, really trying to understand the market dynamics, whether it's talking to customers or making sure they're working with engineering to build the right price and feature set."
"The SMB sector for us, and our Cisco business with SMB, is on fire," said Gia McNutt, president and CEO of Special Order Systems, a Loomis, Calif.-based solution provider. "I've never gotten this many leads from Cisco, and some of them are really good. I think the product set is also where it needs to be, and that was not necessarily the case three years ago."
Small business accounts for $1.5 billion, or about 4 percent, of Cisco's overall revenue, and that number has steadily grown in the past two years, said Andrew Sage, vice president, small business and midmarket sales, at the vendor.
Cisco declined to break out exact small-business or commercial segment sales figures, but Sage told CRN the number of partners selling small business from Cisco has increased 15 percent year over year and the number of small-business deals has increased 15 percent as well. Cisco has more than 25,000 active small-business partners and 9,000 partners registered as SMB Select, the SMB-focused partner specialization it introduced in 2004.
Dating back to a $100 million investment Cisco made in dedicated small-business resources in 2008, Cisco's small-business growth has been an attack at every relevant level, partners said. It has fine-tuned its channel program, invested in training, developed and tweaked products and service offerings, and backed it all up with aggressive financing.
"Cisco looks at it almost as a distinct business," D&H's Schwab said. "They've been listening. The highest accolades I'd give them for this -- they're listening. They're not just dumbing down products and they're at good price points."
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