Cisco Canada targets the SMB space with new partner resources

TORONTO – During a press and analyst event hosted by Cisco Systems Canada, (Nasdaq: CSCO) yesterday, executives announced new channel resources to help partners drive more revenue in the SMB space.

Donna Wittmann, Cisco Canada’s vice-president, Canada Partner Organization, said one of the company’s channel priorities for 2011 is to transition away from a model of reselling point products to an architectural and solutions-based sales strategy.

“We’re very focused on the small and mid-market area which we classify as being anywhere between 100 to 1000 seats,” Wittmann said. “As we transition from resale to value-added solutions and architectures, we also want to expand our coverage to more partners and deepen our relationships with them to bring them closer.”

The new resources from Cisco are a mentoring program, Canadian Supercenter, Avant Garde and a Partner-Enablement program.

The mentoring program is specific to Canada and is designed to help partners build a Cisco practice from the ground up. Wittmann said Cisco’s mentoring program was a best practice taken from Cisco in the UK and was later adopted in Canada with Comstor, Westcon’s Cisco-focused business.

The point of the program is for Cisco to identify key partners in order to make strategic forward investments in them so they can quickly and efficiently build a Cisco practice, Wittmann said. Currently, the program is only available for Cisco’s voice practice, however the program will also be made available to partners in the data centre soon, she added.

“With the mentoring program, we’re putting a forward investment in our partners that are looking to build Cisco practices to increase their time to revenue with us,” Wittmann said. “We teach partners how to maximize their profitability in our programs, help them identify which certifications they should have and teach them best practices. We also offer external consulting as part of the program so partners can get complete assessments on their business practices so they can be successful. The goal is to help partners be profitable in six months or less.”

The program is not designed to be ongoing with partners because Wittmann said it’s meant to act as a “jump start injection” to a partner’s business to help them ramp up their Cisco practice quickly. Once partners are self-sustaining they’ll go to Cisco’s regular partner support model, she added.

Christina DiRago, Cisco practice manager at Mississauga, Ont.-based Eclipse Technology Solutions, a Cisco partner, is one of the five partners who participated in the pilot mentoring program. DiRago said when she was hired at Eclipse eight months ago, a lot of the company’s customers weren’t familiar with the Cisco brand. In mid-September, Eclipse decided to launch a services offering with Cisco. With Cisco’s help, she said this portion of Eclipse’s business continues to grow and perform well.

“When you’re talking to customers that don’t have Cisco (solutions), you have to explain to them why Cisco is better for their business,” she said. “We’ve used every single resource from Cisco to help us sell our products.”

The Canadian Supercenter is a new resource from Cisco that provides local coverage and support to approximately 250 incremental Cisco partners, Jodi Munro, director for inside partner operations for Canada at Cisco Canada said.

As a result of the Canadian Supercenter which is housed in Cisco Canada’s Toronto-based office, 44 new Canadian jobs were created to form a cross-functional team, Munro said. Here, partners will have access to partner relationship managers, inside sales, systems engineers and program managers, available in 10 different languages with national time-zone coverage.

“The Canadian Supercenter is a central location for partners to get all the answers, resources and support they need in a timely manner,” Munro said. “We realize we need to grow with our partners and make it easier for them to do business with us. We want our partners to know that we’re there for them.”

Using a partner-led go-to-market sales strategy, Cisco has identified 3000 new customer accounts that are classified as being potential partner-led opportunities. Wittmann said to further support its partners, Cisco has aligned and made available 11 field-based territory business managers and 11 inside sales account managers to its partner sales teams.

“The goal (with Avant Garde) is to have a holistic and structured approach for how we can help partners sell, deliver and support solutions and services in the SMB and mid-market space,” Wittman said.

Wittmann said Avant Garde is based on five key pillars: account analytics, engagement and communications, sales and technical training, sales and marketing tools and financial incentives.

“Many partners don’t have the capital, etc. to get access to complex customer data bases and analytics to identify where the customer opportunities are,” Wittmann said. “We provide that data and share all of the customer analytics with our partners so they can go after their target customer bases in the mid-market space.”

Wittmann said it’s still early days for the program, which currently has nine pilot partners using it across Canada and noted that there are plans for further expansion in the spring of next year.

“It’s a very targeted strategy to drive sales in the mid-market and SMB space,” she said. “Any partner that’s focused on these spaces are ones we’d like to talk to.”

Cisco’s Partner Enablement Program helps partners build profitable, architecture-based practices via the completion of business assessments from Cisco, Barbara Vaughan, manager for partner enablement at Cisco Canada, said.

“We help partners find where the gaps are,” Vaughan said. “We also provide internal and external training to our partner teams so it’s a more collaborative approach with us and the partner.”

Paul Edwards, director of SMB and channels research at IDC Canada, said with the new partner resources, Cisco’s “doing the right thing.”

“This will help partners position themselves and Cisco better into accounts and will help them expand and win more business,” Edwards said.

Follow Maxine Cheung on Twitter: @MaxineCheungCDN.

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
Staff Writer, Computer Dealer News

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