Cisco Canada looks within for new sales teams

Cisco Canada president Bernadette Wightman

Cisco Canada president Bernadette Wightman

Cisco partners may soon have new faces calling on them from the networking giant’s Canadian arm. Cisco Canada has begun a program that gives non-sales professionals inside the organization an opportunity to move into sales role, part of an effort by new Canadian president Bernadette Wightman to “quite drastically” increase the size of the overall Cisco Canada sales team that, along with partners, calls on customers.

“I’m not going to the market for these people, we’re taking people from within the company and giving them the opportunity to move into sales jobs,” Wightman said. “I absolutely believe that we have the best people in the industry, so why hire from outside? Why not give them the opportunity to do something new and broaden their experience?”

The need for more sales resources internally is partially because of expanding opportunity in the Canadian market, and partially because of Cisco’s expanding footprint in terms of its technology portfolio. As the networking vendor diversifies, there’s more need for specialization in sales staff, Wightman suggested.

“Our portfolio is so vast now, nobody can be an expert in everything,” she said.

The company had targeted moving 35 staffers from technical and other roles into sales in the first wave of its effort, and had 42 people “put their hands up” for the opportunity, which included sales training particularly focused on selling to the line of business. That will include more focus on the company’s growing software portfolio than partners have seen in the past, no surprise after the software-heavy message of last month’s Cisco Partner Summit in Montreal. Wightman said new rols include people with background in software in their pre-Cisco lives, who will serve as the trainers for the rest of the business on how to position, sell, and succeed with software.

Wightman said her leadership team is still working through the whole of the opportunities, but that she gets the impression that the company is “only scratching the surface” of the Canadian commercial market, which it pegs at a $3.5 billion a year opportunity, service provider business not included.

“We’ve got lots and lots of opportunities to go after here, we know where the TAM is, and where the customers are,” she said.

At Partner Summit and at the company’s Cisco Connect earlier this month, Wightman said her vision was to make Canada a leader in terms of digitized nations in North America, a mission echoed by the executive team sponsor for Canada, outgoing president of sales and development Rob Lloyd, himself a Canadian and a former Cisco Canada chief. Wightman said that interest, from San Jose and sometimes from the home front, is helping the company to move quickly.

“Canada’s a great place to do business, and the amount of backing we’re getting from the corporation here is just fabulous,” she said. “Everybody believes there’s an opportunity to grow here, and to grow quickly, and that the country has the appetite for it.”