Cisco doesn't always get the respect it deserves as an SMB networking vendor, but its small and midsize business bona fides are legitimate, and in this year's Channel Champs survey, it beat nearest competitors HP Networking and D-Link in the category of SMB Networking Hardware. If there are soft spots for Cisco in SMB networking, they're in price--HP edged Cisco in the price for performance criteria in the technical satisfaction rating for the second year in a row--and in channel financials, including competitive pricing, and product margins, SPIFs and rebates.
Key to Cisco's SMB approach is a new initiative called Partner-Led, which Cisco rolled out in the fall of 2011. It came behind a $75 million investment in new channel resources by Cisco, including in marketing, incentive programs for midmarket and small-business-focused Cisco VARs, a PRM system and access to Cisco engineers to help close deals more effectively. The Partner-Led program rewards Cisco partners for taking the lead in SMB sales, and encourages them to own more of the customer relationship.
"Our Partner-Led sales model gives us a very strong focus on our midmarket and small business partners," said Jim Sherriff, senior vice president, U.S. and Canada partner organization. "It rewards these partners for leading customer engagement and is another of the ways Cisco is lasering in on the ease of doing business with the company."
The customer segment is no small piece of Cisco's $43 billion annual revenue pie; Andrew Sage, vice president of worldwide Partner-Led, told CRN that approximately $7 billion of that represents sales to midmarket and SMB customers. So far, partners say they like what they're seeing.
"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 absolutely play in," said Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Richmond Hill, Ontario-based Compugen. "They're willing to entrust us with promoting the brand and the solution, with our services capability."