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The dedication to small business has been the difference-maker, VARs said. It was only in the past two years that Special Order Systems ramped up its investment with Cisco on SMB, said McNutt.
"We really didn't do them in SMB because there just wasn't a good solution," she said. "You could push these bigger products down into that market, but economically that didn't make sense. But right about the same time, we started a managed services practice, which made more sense for us to focus on that segment."
The combination of more SMB-dedicated Cisco products with the uptick on managed services -- and Cisco's ability to benefit partners who address the SMB market in that manner -- is what boosted business, she said.
"You're seeing this harmonic convergence because the products are there and 100-and-below companies need those comprehensive managed services," McNutt said.
"It's now much easier to do business with Cisco than it's historically been," said Ryan Halper, president of Cynnex Networks, a Seattle-based solution provider. "The engagement makes it or breaks it. You can have as many different programs and promos or whatever out there but, ultimately, the team itself, on the ground, is what organizes and propels business. That's one of the single biggest areas from Cisco [where] we get benefit."
According to Halper, who is a member of Cisco's Small Business Executive Exchange Advisory Board, Cynnex expects to grow its small-business sales with Cisco 30 percent this year.
Cynnex focuses exclusively on SMB customers, with a heavy emphasis on sub-100 customers, but Halper said Cisco is finding traction with the more specialized sub-50 and sub-25 bands as well. Cynnex's 2011, he added, is off to its fastest start ever.
A longtime channel executive and small-business specialist who asked not to be named said it was particularly in the past year that Cisco's small-business strength came into view.
"Their competitors paint them as out of touch with small business and too expensive or too much enterprise-level products pushed down too small," said the executive. "That might have been true many years ago, especially as they figured out what goes where with Linksys and all that, but that's simply not the case now. They're starting to kick ass here and the VARs see that."
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