Cisco wants partners to focus on what a customer wants to buy in partner program refresh

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Cisco wants partners to focus on what a customer wants to buy in partner program refresh
Oliver Tuszik (Cisco)

Cisco’s newly revamped partner program is putting the focus on what a customer wants to buy instead of what the vendor wants to sell.

Cisco senior vice president of global partner sales Oliver Tuszik told CRN that the new partner program was designed around helping partners add value to fit that focus, with the revamped specialisation types.

The partner program last year was streamlined from 12 different programs to just one, centred on four partner ‘roles’ of integrator, provider, developer and advisor, where partners can choose or fall into at least one role but can also add more as their businesses transform.

This year, as revealed in this year’s Partner Summit, Cisco partners can now also choose a specialisation in certain technologies, like collaboration, data centre and security, as part of a focus on solutions from a cross-architectural perspective. Specialisations also fall into three categories: upper tier, solution and offer.

“What we're now adding — as customers still love to have the technology capabilities on our partner side — they're also looking more and more for the capabilities to bundle solutions,” Tuzsik told CRN.

“We're moving on and building up a new specialisation, which is not focused on how we look at the world — it's focused on how customers buy and how partners add value. Partners requested this from us to give them a stronger position when it comes to selling solutions.”

Tuszik said that while a big chunk of the market are companies that buy technology, the number of customers buying solutions is growing and becoming more important for Cisco.

“With this changing shift in the market, we are starting to change the offers that we're providing,” he added. “But it's not like we stopped doing the old stuff, but it's becoming more complex.”

“As a partner, you might decide that you would rather focus on one technology, solution, vertical segment or customer size, and we want to be the company that is supporting whatever is the preferred way of our partners to sell because we know every partner is unique and every partner requires unique support from Cisco. With this modular approach, we will achieve this.”

Partner lifecycle services platform

Tuszik also discussed another Partner Summit announcement, the partner lifecycle services platform, a tracker for partners to see where their customers are in the adoption lifecycle.

“We [realised] that our partners, together with us, need to manage a much wider, much broader complexity because the [Cisco] portfolio is getting bigger and more powerful every year,” he said.

“Our number one mission, of course, remains to help our partners to stay profitable and manage these different new motions to ensure that they can serve the customers in the way at the place where they want to buy.”

Tuszik added that some of the complexity also comes from the change in customer purchasing behaviours, which he said Cisco and its partners should adapt to.

As reported by CRN USA, US-based partners reported struggles to meet requirements to obtain lucrative customer experience rebates, which has since improved with the new platform. There were also issues on tracking business outcomes with customers and meeting the tight submission deadlines that Cisco required so they can receive rebates.

“I think as Cisco started shifting their business to software and as a service, they saw the need for this. I think it’s just finally started evolving and becoming a lot more usable for the partners that take advantage of,” the partner said.

Tuszik said partner feedback also played a role in launching the platform, helping them utilise data and insights to make their life easier and reduce complexity.

“For some of our partners, you even see an amazing adoption rate, and that the lifecycle partners — the partners that focus on the specialisation of customer experience — are growing faster, they have bigger deals and they're more profitable,” he added.

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