Changing the Channel: Networking VAR news

Apr 16 2010   1:28PM GMT

Cisco partner on SMB Select program: SMB business is booming

ElaineHom Elaine Hom Profile: ElaineHom

After Cisco’s recent updates and developments with SMB Select, we were curious to see how partners are benefiting (or not benefiting) from this program. Is the SMB push just buzz, or does it truly garner profits for partners? Gia McNutt of Special Order Systems (or SOS) Inc. has been a Cisco partner for 10 years, and according to her, SMB business has never been better.

“We signed up for SMB Select about a year or a year and a half ago,” she said. “One of our core focuses has been unified communications all along, but none of Cisco’s solutions fit well in the SMB until the UC 500 series came out.” SOS went from doing pretty much no SMB business to doing a 180 and generating much of their revenue from SMB contracts.

“Being an SMB ourselves,” she said, “we are very sensitive to things making sense, so we’ve tried to be as aware as possible of the other offerings out there.” Around the same time as joining SMB Select, SOS also began to offer managed services to SMBs, an unrelated move that Gia says happened “serendipitously” with the SMB Select launch. Managed Smart, their managed services program, is geared towards SMBs who are too small to justify having an IT department, but are willing to pay a monthly fee for any and all of an IT portfolio.

How has Cisco’s SMB Select program actually helped SOS? According to Gia, and not surprisingly to me, the one of the best benefits has been the products. “We utilize all of their products,” she said. “The UC 500, the new switching lines, small business video surveillance, storage devices, you name it.”

Another benefit to the SMB Select program is Cisco’s hands-on approach. SOS has been assigned an SMB channel account manager that Gia adores. “I have never gotten a ton of decent leads from other manufacturers,” she said, “and for the first time ever, I’m seeing a steady stream of pretty good leads from this guy. He’s in tune with our business and invested in having us succeed, so he is even coming over today to do a workshop with us. He’s sat in on calls with us to make us more aware [of key selling points], and has even gone so far as to look at some of our proposals … and help make them more compelling.”

This may sound like a love note to Cisco, but it’s hardly surprising. Cisco’s program is notorious for its benefits for partners, including a partner development fund, lead generation, free training, and rebates. “Cisco is exemplary in caring about profitable partners, and programs to make sure their partners are profitable,” she said. Cisco isn’t alone in having SMB-oriented products, but the ever-evolving partner rebate program, including the Core Accelerator program, is a big draw. Partners are secure in knowing that making an effort to be profitable will garner profit not only from the customer, but the vendor.

“It doesn’t make any sense for me to go through a long sales cycle and see an online house sell the product and I only get to do the services,” she said, referring to other vendors’ programs. “We work really hard to make the money we make, so to get those rebates [from Cisco] is a wonderful thing.”

Word on the street is that Microsoft has a beta version of a deal registration process for its partners out. We’ll see if Microsoft and other major vendors take the same route as Cisco.

How about you? Do you agree or disagree with Gia’s assessment of the SMB Select program? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Send me an email at

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