Showing posts from June 2012
When Cisco launched the Cius enterprise tablet and communications system, it told partners of the rich functionality and benefits the device would provide their end customers. Many Cisco partners were encouraged to immediately adopt and start selling Cius, as the device promised to be the business equivalent of the Apple iPad.
One Cisco gold partner did exactly this. The partner, which will remain unnamed, adopted Cius for its show and set about selling the device to its customers. In account meetings, the partner echoed the Cisco lines of mobility, functionality and productivity associated with the computing and communications tool.
Then Cisco pulled the plug last month - practically without warning (although there were signs). In the process of killing off the tablet, Cisco also revealed a fundamental weakness in the channel go-to-market model: the violation of trust.
As this partner explained, Cius is a perfect example of how a vendor like Cisco decided to spray the market with a new product and sell it through the channel without really knowing how it would play with end customers. The vendor expectation is the partner will leverage their "trusted advisor" relationship with customers to push a new product and accelerate sales.
But, when the product fails and the vendor decides the long-term costs won't reap the right reward, it pulls the product. Large vendors can absorb the loss of an underperforming product; its elimination reduces costs and frees budget for other initiatives and operations. Sure, a vendor may take a reputation hit in the market, but they are far more able to absorb such hits, especially when other products are market leaders.
Solution providers on the other hand, don't have such luxuries. They have closer, more intimate relationships with their customers. As such, customers tend to buy more products and services faster from known "trusted advisors" than from cold-calling resellers and vendors. They presume their solution provider has their best interest in mind when presenting new technologies.
So what happens when a vendor pushes the next "latest and greatest" product only to pull it from the market a year later? The solution provider has egg on his face, said our friend. It leaves a market on the customer relationship, as the solution provider is selling his credibility as much as the vendor's product.
This problem isn't just about the Cisco Cius. The same thing could be said for products launched by Microsoft, Symantec, IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard. How many HP solution providers went through the same issue when the ill-fated TouchPad was reduced to fire-sale prices after just six weeks on the market and then pulled from the shelves completely?
Vendors will also push partners to adopt and sell their products, regardless of how they feel about their value. Look no further than the HP-Oracle lawsuit over the Itanium processor: Disclosed memos revealed Oracle sales reps saying Sun servers "blow" and they didn't want to sell them. Chances are, those same sales reps are beating the streets selling that same gear because that's how they pay their mortgage.
The lesson: It's not a bad thing for solution providers to take their time in evaluating and adopting new technologies presented by their vendors. Waiting to see how the market adopts new products, or testing the waters with select customers, is probably a better idea than jumping in with both feet at the very beginning.
Lawrence M. Walsh is president and CEO of The 2112 Group, a channel strategy and business services provider, and editor-in-chief of Channelnomics, a blog on channel business trends. You can reach Larry at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @lmwalsh2112.
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