It is almost a year since Cisco appointed Ingram Micro to reactivate hundreds of lost SMB dealer accounts. Although now starting to pick up, progress has so far been slower than expected.
Ingram was brought on board last May in an attempt to win back SMB partners that had drifted to competitors like HP and D-Link. Cisco shocked the channel back in October 2003 when a review of its distribution line-up saw it axe Tech Pacific.
The appointment of Ingram, which had since acquired Tech Pac, was seen by many as an admission that this termination had been a mistake. But the task of seizing back mindshare among SMB resellers has so far proved tougher than expected, "Progress hasn't been as fast as we wanted. We are 3-5 months behind where we thought we would be," local Cisco channel manager, Suzanne Hansen, said. "Ingram Micro is a large company and getting the necessary focus can be difficult."
Ingram sales director, John Walters, agreed with Hansen's assessment and said more work was needed.
"Things haven't moved as fast as we would have liked either but we said right from the start that it takes time to build loyalty among SMB resellers," he said. "Cisco walked away from that market when it gave up its Tech Pacific relationship and it will not be recaptured quickly.
"Cisco has to show it is easy to do business with and convince resellers it has the right product suites and price points. It is hitting us for short-term results but it doesn't work like that."
Walters expressed frustration Ingram had only been given access to SMB products while its other distributors - Express Data and LAN Systems - carried the full range. Ingram has also been excluded from distributing its Linksys brand to date. Walters hoped both product restrictions would be lifted at the end of Cisco's financial year in August.
As part of efforts to increase its SMB reactivation rate, Ingram set up a dedicated team of three staff in December headed up by Ewan Reid. He previously spent several years as Cisco product manager for Tech Pacific in New Zealand. The team also includes business development managers for NSW and Victoria.
The percentage of new resellers that Ingram delivers is a key metric of its Cisco relationship. According to a spokesperson for the vendor, that number was just 20-30 per cent between August and December. But he estimated the figure jumped 45-50 per cent in the past three months.
While admitting the distributor was increasing efforts to get the Cisco message into the market, Walters stressed commitment to other networking vendors.
"There's been a lot of loyalty from other vendors and our aim is not to switch business away from them," he said. "But Ingram Micro is Cisco's largest global partner and we will do our bit to support that relationship."