Cisco Rolls Out Plan To Boost Maintenance Service Sales

The new ARM program, named for the vendor&'s call for solution providers to increase attach rates, renewal rates and sales of multiyear maintenance service contracts to SMB customers, provides joint marketing funds for qualified Registered and Certified partners.

“We have partners who have services businesses that are doing well, and we want to help make them better—but then we have partners with small services businesses with lower than 20 percent attach rates. We&'re giving them incentives to help build their business,” said Liz Lawson, senior director of channels for Customer Advocacy, the services group at the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

Cisco estimates that it has an untapped $200 million annual service opportunity in the SMB market.

The program provides online sales training and testing for partners around SMB and general services positioning. Partners that successfully train at least five reps become eligible for joint marketing funds. Solution providers then apply the funds to gain access to marketing collateral that aims to increase customer awareness of Cisco&'s maintenance offerings.

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Partners can earn eligibility toward two campaigns per quarter, receiving 50 percent funding toward participation in the marketing campaigns, which cost $5,000 each.

The program also includes individual rewards for partner sales reps that pass online quizzes.

Ray Benoit, president of RTM Communications, a solution provider in Merrimack, N.H., calls himself a huge proponent of Cisco&'s Smartnet maintenance service because of its equipment replacement coverage.

However, he is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the program, expressing some concern as to why it isn&'t fully or more substantially paid for through joint marketing funds. Benoit estimated he would have to sell roughly $40,000 to $50,000 in Smartnet services to make it worth the $2,500 fee. “I have to weigh that against other marketing programs,” he said.