Cisco has unveiled new investments designed to help partners capture more business with SMBs that are “stampeding” towards the cloud.
In an interactive roundtable held today, Andrew Sage, VP, Global Distribution & SMB Sales at Cisco, characterised SMB as “one of the biggest opportunities Cisco and our partners have”.
SMB is growing at double digits for Cisco, but the networking giant can take a bigger slice of the market, Sage suggested.
“We think there’s almost a $30bn opportunity for us,” he said.
Summarising how its SMB strategy for its fiscal 2024 (which began on 30 July) will differ from previous years, Sage said that Cisco will get “very focused” on the technologies that help SMB customers transforming with the cloud, “rather than the sports bars or nail salons”.
“[Sports bars and nail salons] also have technology requirements, without question,” Sage said.
“But I think our technology and our partners’ capabilities are much better suited to that slightly larger SMB that has started to move to the cloud and would react to the value proposition we bring with Meraki and WebEx and cloud security.”
Cisco has announced a new sales coverage model for the SMB segment, where it is exclusively partner led. SMB partners will enjoy access to a territory manager, as well as specialists that can help them in specific technology areas such as zero trust. More than 100 new roles have been added globally in a new ‘SMB sales acceleration’ function.
The networking giant is also making a “significant incremental investment” in marketing to bolster its SMB drive, Luxy Thuraisingam, VP, Global SMB & Partner Marketing, Cisco (pictured, top), claimed, meanwhile.
SMBs ‘stampeding to cloud’
Cisco is pursuing those SMBs that are “stampeding to cloud and SaaS to do digital transformation,” Sage said as he pinned down the vendor’s ideal SMB customer. More generally, Cisco sees SMBs as those that do up to $50,000 in annual bookings.
“Digital transformation isn’t something we’ve always associated with the SMB customer – we kind of [thought] of them as hanging on as best they can,” Sage explained.
“But the truth is that SMB customers are doing things they could never do before with technology. They used to have to buy servers and licensing, and do custom programming that was complex. Now with cloud and SaaS that is no longer the case. They have access to applications to automate every part of their business.”
Some $4.5bn of the $30bn opportunity Cisco flagged up is for partners to go back into existing SMB customers with a broader set of Cisco technology to help them digitally transform, Sage said.
Half of Cisco’s SMB customers will soon want to procure solutions and outcomes in a managed way, he added.
“These customers do not need technology; they need technology outcomes,” Sage said. “The way they get the technology outcomes that are critical to their business is through our partners, and we are seeing a big shift in how our partners are meeting these customers.”
Sage said the new “incremental investment” in SMB has buy-in from Cisco’s senior leadership team, including CEO Chuck Robbins (pictured above).
“We’re going to focus our energy and efforts with our partners on those customers that are transforming their business with the cloud, as we think we have a great opportunity to help them with this journey,” he concluded.
‘Dealing with Cisco was like dancing with an elephant’
On the call, Doug Westervelt, CEO of US Cisco partner Portland Internetworks, remarked that dealing with Cisco “used to be like dancing with an elephant”.
“Now we’re seeing a tonne of change in Cisco’s attitude towards SMB, much for the better,” he said.
“Cisco is beginning to understand the SMB and managed services space.
“So much more of Cisco’s offerings are multi-tenet friendly. There are flexible buying models and things that allow us to pay as we consume or scale up and down as necessary. I’ve never seen the level of engagement and investment from Cisco in the SMB space.”