Monday, 23 March 2020

What do ‘Owning Your Edge’ and ‘Customer Experience’ have in common?

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It’s not easy to be in the resell and network integration business. For decades, our partners have been wrestling each other for differentiation and relevance in a crowded and unforgiving landscape. We often ask partners “Why do customers buy from you?”, and while the answers vary, they are often predictable, generic, and unconvincing. “We have the greatest engineers” or “We have amazing customer relationships and we do whatever it takes to support them.”

How do partners recognize their differentiation, define their uniqueness and own their edge?


At Cisco Partner Summit 2019, Oliver Tuszik displayed a picture of himself next to a monkey and declared (to the audience’s laughter) that although 99% of their DNA is shared, they are very different indeed. One is relaxed and eating a banana, while the other has an accelerated heart rate and is on stage presenting to 3,000 people. Although the DNA differences are very small, those differences are extremely significant, and a great illustration of what it means to have an edge. The Cisco Partner Consulting & Innovation team has worked with countless partners to help them realize just that. We’ve utilized our Unique Value Proposition (UVP) workshops to help many partners define their edge. For some, their edge is clearly understood, but most struggle with defining and communicating it.

So, what does that have to do with Customer Experience (CX)?


To understand a partner’s edge, it’s important to identify their strengths and align these strengths to what their customers care about. At the heart of it all is the challenge of quantifying how they provide a complete lifecycle experience to their customers. Understanding the technology, managing the product/service/software ordering and billing process are not easy but they are table stakes to be in this business. This, by no means, is an attempt at trivializing these functions. For some partners, their edge is their ability to address fulfillment faster, easier, and cheaper.

For most partners, the opportunity to differentiate happens after landing the deal. Their edge is in how they interact with the customer to implement and adopt the technology purchased. Their edge is demonstrated as they ensure that the customer maximizes the return on the investment they made, and it’s defined in the partner’s ability to manage risk and proactively help the customer achieve their business goals. These lifecycle activities are not new to our partners. It’s in these areas where they can enjoy the margin-rich professional services and managed services they possess. Partners generate (on average) 15% margin with their resell business, but they obtain upwards of 30% margin on their partner-branded and delivered service(s).

For many years, partners have honed their customer relationships so they can build upon the stickiness that post-sales activities promise. Cisco CX defines the steps that partners have followed intuitively for decades. CX identifies the lifecycle milestones and defines the steps for true adoption – where customers are choosing, using, and loving Cisco. It provides the process for systematic execution and holds the promise of automation to lead to the seamless renewal stage. CX also enables the lifecycle and demonstrates to our partners that we not only understand how they define their edge, but we now speak the same language, and lead together. As one partner executive told me at Partner Summit – “Cisco finally understands our world.”

CX fuels the lifecycle that partners embrace to own their edge.

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