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Cisco Partners Are The ‘Secret Weapon’ To Reach New IT Buyers

‘[There’s] an opportunity for our partners to really leverage those relationships they’ve got with the customer and get to that new influencer, or that new buyer, and drive those sales,’ Cisco CFO Scott Herren tells CRN.

Cisco partners give the tech giant a “unique” edge. The large, global ecosystem is not only helping Cisco’s clients consume technology in new ways, but partners are also reaching brand new kinds of IT buyers, according to Cisco executives.

“I like to call our partners Cisco’s not-so-secret weapon,” said Gerri Elliott, Cisco’s executive vice president, chief customer and partner officer. ”Our ecosystem extends the value of our technology and innovations … and ensures that customers realize the full value of their Cisco investments.”

But selling IT isn’t about only targeting C-suite-level executives anymore or having strictly technology-focused conversations. Cisco is leaning heavily on the relationships its partners have with their clients to reach the new types of buyers making IT purchasing decisions, including developers.

Scott Herren, Cisco’s CFO, told CRN that going after these new buyers is a “great opportunity” for partners. As the application landscape evolves, new buyers, or at the very least, new influencers, are emerging within enterprises, Herren said.

“[There’s] an opportunity, I think, for our partners to really leverage those relationships they’ve got with the customer and get to that new influencer, or that new buyer, and drive those sales,” Herren said. ”It’s a space where, when [Gerri Elliott] talks about our partners being our secret weapon, that’s why. They have that access, and they can drive that force.”

[Related: Cisco’s Top Execs On Plans To Aggressively Grow Subscriptions By 2025 ]

These new buyers are already on Cisco’s radar. The company is helping partners reach out and sell to new kinds of buyers, but not by telling partners to seek out specific executive titles, said Shelliy Cymbalski, chief marketing officer for Tempe, Ariz.-based Cisco partner iT1 Source.

Cisco is showing partners how to change the conversation around IT buying, Cymbalski said, adding that she recently completed a two-day training course with Cisco that didn’t ever touch on products or solutions.

“Conversations should be around hard cost saving, growth, risk reduction or compliance improvement, revenue, profit or funding, and efficiency and productivity. There’s nothing about technology in there,” Cymbalski said.

Customers can rank these areas so that partners know what’s most important to the business right now, she said. “From there, then you can move the sales process along.”

The scale of Cisco’s partner ecosystem increases Cisco’s reach “fivefold,” Cisco’s Elliott said during the company’s 2021 Investor Day earlier this month. “Our partners drive 90 percent of our overall bookings, exponentially multiplying our presence, our capabilities, and our impact.”

Cisco’s shift to software is spreading the IT buying conversation to more business units and individuals. It’s also translating into more profit for partners, said Oliver Tuszik, senior vice president of Cisco’s Global Partner Organization.

Cisco’s software and subscriptions transition has boosted partner share overall, Tuzik said. And the work isn’t done yet. The company has set a goal for subscriptions to make up half of its revenue by fiscal year 2025.

“When you compare who’s mainly driving recurring subscriptions, what a surprise? It’s the partners at Cisco. That proves what we’re always saying: in this future, the partners are becoming even more important.”

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