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Looking to improve its relationships with channel partners that serve the
small business market, Cisco this week has announced a new partner
profitability framework that enhances several financial benefits to better
serve the needs of smaller channel partners, plus a new unified threat
management device and an improved entry-level unified communications system.

The moves come as many IT vendors look to woo more small businesses, which are
considered to be the fastest-growing segment of the IT market.

Cisco’s new small business partner benefits include Partner Development Funds
(PDF) payouts on a quarterly basis, new rebates and zero-percent financing
for partners and end-customers, Andrew Sage, vice president of worldwide sales
for small business at Cisco, tells Channel Insider.

The networking giant’s products and services have typically catered to large
businesses and enterprises, often served by direct sales or the very largest
partners.

“We want to make sure we‚Äôve got a profitability platform for all types of
partners,” says Sage. Responding to small business partner feedback, Sage says
Cisco made sure the Partner Development Funds program paid out on a quarterly
basis rather than a biannual basis in order to help partners with cash flow,
particularly to ease the struggles so many may be having during the current
economic downturn.

To participate in PDF, partners must enroll by Sept. 19 (this Saturday), and
are eligible for credit on all sales starting at the beginning of August, says
Sage. The funds track to the different partner types selling into the small
business market, including Cisco Registered Partners, Cisco Specialized
Partners, online resale partners and service providers. Payouts are based on
purchases of Cisco Small Business products.

The program marks the first time Cisco is offering a rebate program for its
50,000 registered partners for selling Cisco, says Sage. The program provides 5
percent rebates on all sales of Cisco products.

A rebate program for partners with high-volume businesses‚ÄĒtypically online
resellers, service providers and direct market resellers‚ÄĒprovides rebates of up
to 5 percent.

Then specialized partners are eligible for a set of rebates from 5 percent to
10 percent. Partners who receive those rebates are those who have invested in
select certification and have done training to become certified as Cisco small
business specialists. Sage says these partners get the highest levels of
rebates for selling solutions such as voice.

Cisco says that it is also providing new partner registration and program
intelligence tools that will let partners track sales progress on a daily basis
and calculate payments across multiple Cisco programs from a single location.

“Ease of use is a massive driver of the success of these programs,” says Sage.
“This makes it simple for partners to log onto the Website and look at the
status of their payments.”

Cisco also announced a new unified threat management device, the Cisco SA500,
priced at $550 and with a contract cost of $69 for three years. Sage says it
provides all the functionality standard with UTM devices and offers simple
deployment to help small businesses protect offices, remote employees, and
business and customer data.

Cisco also announced a new series of Internet telephony phones and handsets
ranging from $135 to $435. The HD audio-enabled devices are priced for small
businesses to take advantage of better quality sound, says Sage.

And Cisco announced an update to its Smart Business Communications System
(SBCS). Release 1.6 offers support for new hardware and usability enhancements,
plus some vertical applications for the health care industry.

The new version also offers a setup wizard to help partners with installation.
That wizard also helps them maintain and troubleshoot the system, says Sage.
 

Sage says the price point is now more attractive, too.

“We are more aggressively pricing the UC 500 base unit,” says Sage, who adds
that the price of an SBCS solution has come down about 25 percent from six
months ago.

New service contracts are also available for partners to resell to customers.

Plus, Cisco is extending its zero-percent 36-month financing to Dec. 31.

“You take the price of the equipment and divide that by 36,” says Sage. That‚Äôs
the monthly payment.