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Solution providers interviewed by CRN have been encouraged by Cisco's partner-led strategy, though they cautioned many of the details haven't been finalized.
But if it really does shift more emphasis to partners, they said, it could win favor from a lot of those partners taking Cisco to market.
"This is a leadership opportunity for Cisco to demonstrate confidence in the channel to lead sales activity with a key vendor," said Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Compugen, a Richmond Hill, Ontario-based solution provider. "We've often talked about it, and I think this is a firm stake in the ground in an important segment of the marketplace that we absolute play in. They're willing to entrust us with promoting the brand and the solution, with our services capability."
Based on his conversations with Cisco, Zarek said, he understands the partner-led tools to more clearly define in the field where solution providers lead on bringing an opportunity to Cisco versus where Cisco sales managers drive the opportunity.
"It's always been a little bit of an issue -- a little vague," he said. "This is hopefully the first step in allowing us to build a very scaleable sales opportunity generation and sales management system. If so that's very different than the way we've all been operating. The idea is, in my view, about no longer having to argue or determine who does what in progressing new customer opportunities."
Zarek said he's hoping for more details from Cisco on how it will sort out territories under partner-led, and what it will do if, say, multiple partners in a territory are going after the same prospect lists. If Cisco can effectively do that, Zarek said, it'll enable Cisco and partners to communicate more effectively and let partners place more of their time and investment on the right customers.
"That's really critical," he said. "It would not be unusual for us, with 70 to 80 sales reps, to have a couple 1,000 opportunities and have to record that in our CRM and report back on that, through systems on an exception basis."
Robert Betzel, president of Infinity Network Solutions, Macon, Ga.-based solution provider, said the changes Cisco made to its incentive programs will help his SMB Cisco sales immensely.
Cisco, for example, recently rebranded its partner development funds (PDF) program -- which offers incentive payments to VARs on certain types of deals to SMB customers -- as VIP Express, and streamlined the process for participating so that more Cisco products could qualify for incentives.
"Before, we had to try and figure out what product set we were going to sell more of and sign up for the right rebate program," Betzel said. "Now it appears we will be able to take advantage of all of our solution sales."
The partner-led motion will be more familiar to partners that sell Cisco into SMB accounts, Betzel said, because Cisco has been letting a lot of its partners take the lead with those accounts for years.
"I think any program where Cisco provides more incentives for us to sell and support their solutions is great," he said. "I hope they don't lose their focus on the SMB market as these changes occur."
Next: More To Come From Cisco