D&H, Cisco Marriage Creates New Opportunities

D&H, Harrisburg, Pa., has showcased Cisco products for more than 3,500 solution providers in the past year and more than 1,000 resellers have placed orders, said Dan Schwab, vice president of marketing at D&H.

"The first couple of months we were figuring each other out, but both partners are committed to long-term success. Even though we're happy with the first year, we've done a lot of things that are sowing the seeds to build future success," Schwab said.

At the time, D&H called San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco its most important addition since Intel in 1998.

Jim Brubaker, owner of JK Computing, a Blairsville, Pa.-based solution provider, had been interested in Cisco products but couldn't justify the startup costs before D&H picked up the vendor.

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"Before Cisco was at D&H, I had some customers looking for Cisco product, or they were interested in Cisco solutions. I probably was one of the guys two or three years ago asking D&H when they were going to pick up Cisco," Brubaker said.

Other customers didn't look at Cisco because they thought it was out of their price range, which it probably was before the company introduced its SMB product lines, Brubaker said.

"I think a lot of people thought [it was too expensive], honestly. Two things were holding us up.

People thought there's no way I can afford it and that nobody knows how to service it. A lot of customer education was us saying that it was affordable and more user-friendly," Brubaker said.

While during the first year D&H focused on introducing Cisco to solution providers, the next year will focus on selling opportunities, Schwab said.

"We really want the customers that are buying products to continue to more advanced technologies, to make Cisco their primary vendor for networking solutions. At the same time, we want to look at those that have not bought Cisco yet," Schwab said.

Cisco authorized D&H last August as its first new distributor in the United States in a decade. Cisco signed D&H to open up its channel to new VARs, particularly those focused on SMBs, said Julie Hens, Cisco's senior director of distribution, U.S. channels.

"Now we're focused on doing things around bundling. As we come out with more SMB products, when appropriate we will look to D&H to introduce them to the channel. We've already done that with the CE 500 and the ASA 5505," Hens said.

Cisco would not detail its revenue growth in the SMB space but said it was a double-digit percentage, and sales through D&H were a big contributor.

"What we were looking for was something to scale over the long term. We hadn't changed our distribution landscape in 10 years or so. But looking at [D&H's] coverage model, their financial help, their logistics, they were ideally positioned to help us move upstream in this SMB space," Hens said.

Prior to signing D&H, Cisco resellers had to pass an extensive certification process in different technology solutions to become authorized to sell the products. However, for its SMB products, the vendor created a simple "registered" level that does not require as much training. To date, most of the D&H customers are registered, which allows them to start selling products more quickly, Schwab said.

D&H hopes to move the solution providers upstream, to get more authorized partners that otherwise would not have sold Cisco products.

"They are selling the entry-level products now. The goal for this year is to put together some offers for customers to get them additional products and certifications," Schwab said. "Last year we were trying to drive awareness. Now we're looking to identify which customers can create significant opportunities and invest in those partners from a certification and training perspective," Schwab said.

D&H will showcase Cisco at its upcoming West Coast Reseller Show Oct. 19 in City of Industry, Calif. A customized van will be on-site with working demo equipment and the distributor has two seminars scheduled: building a network foundation for any application and selling Cisco services, according to Schwab.

"Having a network foundation is so key for whatever solution you're deploying," Schwab said. "Selling Cisco services was not a primary focus in our first year. Now we will look to drive SmartNet and other Cisco services to complement the hardware."