Starting next month Cisco Systems Canada will realigned its channel organization and strategy around small-to-mid-size businesses.

Cisco added an SMB Select Partner designation to its partner profitability-style channel program. As an SMB Select Partner for Cisco, this designation is intended

to signal to the market place that the VAR understands and supports networking solutions.

Steve Simmons, vice-president of commercial and channel operations at Cisco Canada, said the SMB market spent close to $9 billion last year, easily making it one of the fastest growing networking segments.

“”The SMB Select Partner program is the first of its kind,”” Simmons said. “”It will provide Cisco’s channel with marketing and financial services with dedicated sales support and preferential treatment to sales leads.””

Simmons added, one of the reasons for the new designation is that Cisco realizes VARs, in many cases, hold trusted advisor status with small businesses.

SMB Select partners will be listed on the Cisco partner locator and will receive a channel account manager or inside channel account manager for sales and marketing help. They will also have access to the SMB Partner Connection portal, which as more sales, marketing, and training resources. The company will offer a presales reseller help line, a solution designer tool, a security policy builder tool, e-leads program, and collateral builder in the SMB Select initiative.

There will be a recognition and awards segment to this program as well. Simmons added that the subsidiary has beefed up its inside channel organizations and brought on channel account managers whose main duties are to find new partners.

Cisco Canada wants to significantly increase the number of partners they have today. Simmons did not want to say what the company’s target number of VAR recruits would be, but did say he will be using direct marketing campaigns to build up the VAR base. He also said that Cisco’s distribution partners would help in the recruitment process.

Cisco is investing more than $2 billion over the next two years in research and development and that means more products. In 2005, Simmons confirmed the company is committed to releasing 30 new product solutions to the SMB market. “”That is two to three times more than our current investment spend on products and solutions,”” he said.

These products will address the company’s core and advanced switching, router, advanced technologies product areas including IP telephony, security and wireless.

“”I believe we need to expand the partner community today for better routes to market. We have invested in products and solution and that is the reason for this. If we double and triple the solutions we need additional channels,”” he said.

Cisco Canada will have fewer direct accounts. Simmons said, the company will push more commercial accounts to the channel. “”These are named accounts and quite sizeable opportunities,”” he said.

Most if not all of these accounts will be partner led, with Cisco Canada supporting them through every step of the process, he added.

Meanwhile, Simmons is looking into putting a dedicated resource at Cisco Canada that will look at influencers in the market who are not traditional resellers such as the growing list of Microsoft business partners and independent software vendors. “”I would like to have some kind of agency model approach and we think it can deliver results,”” Simmons said.

As for the programs released earlier this year, Simmons reported that Cisco has paid out just about $3 million in the last six months just on incentive margin for those who invested in IP telephony and security and met the appropriate customer satisfaction requirements. The company offers between five to eight per cent incentive margin for those resellers who find new opportunities. Currently, Simmons said. “”We wanted to sweeten the pot for those who find new opportunities so they can keep hunting for new business, while protecting them with financial incentives,”” Simmons said.

During this year, Cisco has netted more than 250 new business deals, valued at more than $15 million at list prices from this new program.

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