Cisco Systems launched an online sales tool yesterday in the US, aimed at helping its channel partners offer better services to small and medium-sized businesses looking to buy Cisco gear.
The Cisco Internet Business Roadmap is a free online aid meant to help channel partners gauge the products that could be useful to a company's development, Cisco said.
The Internet Business Roadmap starts with an "Identity Assessment" consisting of 13 questions that determine a company's primary business objective and then matching it with case studies of similar companies, showing what products those have used. The second part of the roadmap is a "Technology Assessment," consisting of 19 questions that leads to specific recommendations for products and implementations. That second assessment also leads to specific contacts that can help businesses begin their online plan.
Cisco's Web site builds a business profile from this information, then seeks network equipment to match the business' needs.
"I would use this tool to provide a framework for consulting," said David Hope, director of sales and marketing for Datanet Services, an IT and networking consultancy in North Carolina. "We would use it with some targeted customers, and sit down with them to discuss their profile answers."
Cisco hopes the tool will help its channel partners sell packages, rather than individual pieces, of networking gear and applications to small and medium-sized businesses. Channel partners typically have 6 per cent profit margins on sales of individual equipment pieces, compared to 50 per cent to 60 per cent margins in hardware-software-services packages, a Cisco spokeswoman said. One intent of the program is help increase revenue for channel partners.
"When Cisco was a new company, they generally sold direct," said Ken Presti, research director for enterprise network distribution channels at IT market research firm International Data Corp. "As Cisco grew, it needed integrators" to work directly with Cisco small and medium-business customers.