Cisco bolsters Partner Led programs and incentives

Cisco - Andrew Sage

Andrew Sage, Cisco's new Partner Led leader

Memo to Cisco Systems’ midmarket and small to midsized business (SMB) focused partners: Get ready to rumble.

Cisco says it will invest US$75 million in new money over the course of 2012 to ensure its partner communities have access to an economic model that helps them drive a successful business through margins and services. Outlined by Andrew Sage, vice-president, worldwide Partner Led, the “leaner, perhaps slightly meaner” Cisco, when it comes to the competition, is “focused on doing the job for our partners and customers.”

In short, the funds will: Bolster partner marketing resources; incentive programs for partners serving the midmarket and SMBs; establish a partner relationship management (PRM) system; and most notably, provide partners with access to Cisco’s system engineers as a means of helping the channel close more deals.

“We’re going to accelerate a selling model that leverages the strengths of our partners,” Sage remarked.

The “big care-abouts” Cisco’s partners have, he said, is they want to see Cisco continue to be a technology innovator and they desire an economic model that helps them drive a successful business through margins, rebates and services.

“The next three things that are top-of-mind for our partners are driving demand, showing a commitment to partnership especially in the field, and increasing the means and speed of doing business together,” he said.

It’s these things exactly what Partner Led is all about, he continued.

“It’s a scalable go-to-market model that allows partners to lead customer engagements with midmarket and SMB customers,” he explained. “Our partners play a critical role in virtually every single customer account we have with very few exceptions.”

The truth is, Sage continued, is that 80 per cent of Cisco’s business goes through its partners. Moreover, the midmarket and SMB business segments are the fastest growing segments for the vendor, pulling down an estimated $7 billion annually.

“In the midmarket and in SMB we’re going to ask our partners to lead the sales and pre-sales engagement and be the sales force for Cisco with our support behind them,” he said. “We’re going to accelerate that Partner Led model with new global capabilities, new partner benefits, and to evolve field deployments so we have the optimal mix of Cisco resources and partner capabilities to address the needs of our customers.”

Cisco’s midmarket approach (via Partner Led Named) will focus on selling architectures, managed and cloud services, and meeting customers’ “high demand for services and integration”. Partner Led Velocity (the SMB focus) is geared toward small businesses to deliver SBTG purpose-built products, managed services, cloud services, and fostering demand generation.

Other highlights:

  • By January, approximately 1,000 partners globally will have access to new marketing development funds as Sage made clear Cisco will “leverage marketing like we have never leveraged marketing before.”
  • Cisco’s Fast Track 2 program is for partners targeting small businesses with less than 250 employees and it’ll simplify business between Cisco and those partners.
  • The vendor will leverage its Technology Solutions Network to provide pre-sales engineering support to partners, focused primarily on the midmarket. It’ll begin in beta mode with 300 partners participating initially but will be rolled out more broadly in due time.
  • Lastly, Cisco will add Partner Led members to its Partner 360 PRM platform as a means of improving overall communications and it will offer Partner 360 individual rewards targets to all account managers and small business partners for selling Cisco’s products and for training.

Michelle Warren, principal analyst, MW Research in Toronto, praised the networking giant for its latest partner play.

“Cisco’s announcement is positive for the channel,” she said. “Despite Cisco’s commitment to streamlining its operations and reducing costs, to remain viable and competitive, it must continue to focus on its sales processes and subsequent improvements. Its focus on the SMB market ensures an ongoing, important relationship with the partner community.”
Warren added she has only one concern due to the vendor’s cost-cutting initiatives: $75 million for the worldwide partner community doesn’t seem like a huge increase. “I hope they are diligent in spending it to maximize its potential and opportunities.”

Meanwhile, as reported by on August 23, Cisco Canada channel chief Donna Wittmann was appointed to a new role as the leader of Partner Led Named, where she’ll focus on growing sales to midmarket customers through the channel. Wittman will report to Sage. Mike Ansley, former vice-president of Cisco Canada’s solutions sale group, is Cisco Canada’s new channel chief.

“One of the things we love about Canada is it’s a great place to find good, global talent and we did that with Donna,” Sage added. “Canadian partners are also extremely experienced and they’re very open to giving us good feedback. Some of the most important insights into the foundation of the Partner Led team came from those partners.

“Canada is a hotbed of opportunity for us,” said Sage, himself a former Cisco Canada exec.

For more details on Cisco’s latest partner enhancements, visit