Cisco Cements Partner-Led Strategy With Midmarket Incentives


Cisco last summer debuted a new sales initiative called Partner-Led with the goal of driving more midmarket and SMB sales of Cisco products and services through solution providers. At Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego this week came the first major new program to emerge from the $75 million Cisco pledged toward Partner-Led: a slate of of new resources for partners focused specifically on midmarket customers.

Cisco's commercial business segment -- its term for SMB and midmarket opportunities -- accounts for about $10 billion of Cisco's overall $43 billion revenue pie, said Andrew Sage, vice president of worldwide Partner-Led, in an interview with CRN.

The new program, called Partner Plus, comprises various incentives and rebates, virtual access to Cisco engineers, exclusive customer intelligence and research data, and what Cisco describes as premium sales enablement and marketing resources.

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As part of its 2011 restructuring, Cisco divided its sales strategy into a protected list of named accounts -- referred to as Customer-Led, where partners can fulfill and provide services, but Cisco takes the lead -- and the Partner-Led segment, for those smaller customers more easily reached and cultivated by the channel.

According to Sage, partners will receive incentives in the form of a co-op program -- used toward various Cisco rewards -- and, if they hit certain sales targets in Partner Plus, a cash reward at the end of a yearly planning cycle. Partner rebates differ by geography but as a base level include 2 percent placed into the co-op fund, and then various "accelerators" are added on, Sage said.

The virtual engineering piece, known as Partner Help Plus, offers 24-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week access to the same 100-or-so Cisco engineers that currently supports Cisco sales reps in the field. Partner Plus partners can call into dedicated Cisco engineers that specialize in areas such as collaboration or data center architecture to get questions answered for customers.

The customer intelligence piece is research delivered by Cisco to partners that includes detailed information on the mid-size segment, potential customer targets and competitive analysis. Partner Plus participants get priority access to that data, which comes primarily from Cisco's in-house research, said Sage.

Partner Plus also includes elements such as the partner relationship management (PRM) system Cisco first mentioned last summer, now known as the Cisco Sales Collaboration Platform. It goes live in May, Sage said.

To participate in Partner Plus, Cisco solution providers need to demonstrate that they're leading with Cisco in the account and are making dedicated Cisco revenue goal commitments, as well as enroll salespeople in the Sales Collaboration Platform to track progress. Partner Plus will be open to Cisco, Gold, Silver and Premier-level partners in the U.S., Sage said, and only partner-led segment deals will qualify for the incentives.

Cisco will roll out the program with pilots on May 1, and general availability starts in Cisco's next fiscal year, which begins Aug. 1, 2012.