3 min read

Linksys revamps channel program for SMBs

Vendor moving from a volume to a value based channel model, aligning more closely with parent company Cisco Systems

If there was one message Linksys wanted to put across with the launch of its Connected Office offering is was this: Linksys is serious about small business.

As a division of Cisco Systems, Linksys has long been known as a brand associated with the consumer space, with offerings like wireless routers sold through traditional retail channels.

Linksys first launched its solution for the SMB space, dubbed Linksys One, in 2005. The vendor is making a bigger push behind the platform with a host of new purpose-built product offerings and associated services targeted specifically at the SMB space, and a revamped partner program that addresses the challenges resellers face selling to that market.

The new product offerings include gigabit smart switches, Linksys One services routers, wireless services routers and other software enhancements, a Cisco Service Node for Linksys One XA Series, and a line of Linksys One ready switches and networked attached storage (NAS).

Allen Powell, director of channel sales for Linksys, said they’ve learned some lessons since the initial launch of Linksys One. Namely, he said they’ve learned that selling solutions is much different than selling point products. Particularly for the company’s channel partners.

“We realize it does cost more to sell and support solutions than point products, and we’re trying to enable partners to be more profitable through our partner program,” said Powell, noting traditionally Linksys has had a volume-based partner program. “We’ve really moved the framework to a value-based program. We’re going to reward partners that invest in Linksys and take the time to really sell, install and maintain the product line on an ongoing basis.”

In essence, partners that specialize in certain technologies and categories will receive a higher rate of discount at distribution. In addition to the current Linksys Registered Partner tier a new partner tier will be added: Business Elite.

To become an elite partner, resellers will need to pass a “foundation certification” test that will cover topics such as switching, routing and wireless. Additionally, once that level has been achieved, resellers will be able to achieve specialization in three more advanced areas: NAS, voice and Linksys One. Partners achieving specialization will have access to even greater discounts and other benefits.

Powell said the framework of the new value-based partner model is similar to Cisco’s, which will allow for greater channel alignment between Cisco and Linksys. With 34,000 worldwide partners registered with Cisco and some 13,000 registered with Linksys, and overlap estimated at just five to seven per cent, Powell said the first step will be marketing to that new joint pool of partners.

Linksys resellers who achieve Registered or Elite status will now be automatically classified as Cisco registered partners. On the flip side, Cisco SMB Select certification holders will be accredited Linksys Elite partners.

As part of the Connected Office announcement, Linksys also launched the Linksys One offerings through a hosted solution provider (HSP) model. The HSP provides the Internet connectivity, IP voice services and other applications through a broadband connection in conjunction with authorized value-added resellers (VARs) that provide and install the Linksys One data networking or VoIP equipment directly onsite with the SMB.The first company in North America to launch the hosted offering is telecommunications provider Sasktel, which has marketed Linksys One since last fall though its Vancouver-based Navigata Communications subsidiary.

Sasktel spokesperson Michael Gislason said Sasktel was impressed with the management capabilities of Linksys One as well as its provisioning system, noting customer set-up is much speedier than with comparable systems. The white labeling of services is also available, and APIs are included to tie-in with billing and customer record systems.

The strong existing Linksys VAR channel was also a plus for Sasktel, said Gislason, adding with Linksys, Sasktel is able to offer VARs a 20 per cent price advantage over comparable services from other vendors, such as the Nortel BCM 50.

“While they may make more on the installation and maintenance that may come out of that BCM 50, the recurring revenue stream they’re going to see from selling the Linksys One product is a real advantage,” said Gislason.