Cisco claims it has simplified its partner program to help resellers tackle convergence opportunities in the SMB market.
With that in mind, the networking giant is currently holding a series of seven Engage roadshows across Australia to deliver its message to partners.
The events will concentrate on training, support and finance, marketing and online tools. Training will cover two angles – how partners can train their staff and how they can offer training to customers as a value-added service.
“One thing we found in a survey of partners, and potential partners, was that they find it difficult to take the first steps on the road to becoming a Cisco partner,” managing director of Cisco Australia, Ross Fowler, said.
“We have been reducing partner numbers at the high end of the market during recent years but need to increase numbers at the low end.” IP telephony had enjoyed exponential growth in recent times, Fowler said, which had a knock-on effect and meant customers were also spending more money on improving network infrastructure.
While this had been the case for some time at the high end of the market, Cisco was now seeing it spread into the mid-tier, which it defines as 150-500 seats, and even into small business customers.
Improving its engagement with a greater number of resellers would be essential if Cisco was to make the most of opportunities in the SMB arena, Fowler said.
“We will be speaking to partners before we speak to customers because we have learned from previous campaigns that it’s all about partner engagement,” he said. “Resellers need to be informed and aligned first to make sure we are not running off in different directions.”
The Engage roadshows would also include a security focus, Fowler said, because a lot of small businesses had latched onto the need for firewalls and antivirus software but still failed to understand the role a network could play in preventing day-zero attacks.
However, the main aim of the shows would be to help reduce the vendor’s level of involvement in the mid-tier and SMB spaces.
“We want our partners to take over as much of the sales activity as possible in the mid-tier,” Fowler said.
“We will be working with partners to minimise how much involvement Cisco has and will reward those who manage to do that with additional rebate," he said. "We don’t want to be doing anything ourselves in the SMB space.”
In terms of getting the Cisco house in order, Fowler said he would be interviewing internal candidates for three new business manager roles – channel, commercial sales and SMB – created in the wake of former channel boss Kip Cole’s departure in May.