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Why CRM for Cisco Partners Fails

This article examines the top five reasons why CRM implementation fails to deliver the intended solutions for the sales and business operations of a typical Cisco Reseller Partner.

Reason number one: “garbage in = garbage out”

Lack of automated data export/import dooms the CRM implementation at hello.  Cisco Partners must use Cisco Commerce Workspace and the resulting Deal is a commercial contract between the parties.

When polled, the Reseller organization’s number one expectation of CRM is to create and maintain an accurate sales opportunity pipeline and forecast.  Yet, the existing data in the ‘CRM Opportunities’ for 99% of all Cisco Partners is either inaccurate, out of date or simply garbage.  How can this be true?

It is true because when a Cisco Partner initiates the purchase process of a Cisco solution they are essentially required to use an internet portal called Cisco Commerce Workspace (CCW) to receive their transactional discounts, obtain special discounts, register for incentive rebates and validate the configuration.  The resulting BoM export from Cisco should be imported into the CRM Opportunity and updated every time the Deal changes until it is closed won or lost.  So where is the problem here?

Data integration between Cisco and the CRM is a manual process of data export/import and manipulation of .csv or Excel output. So it becomes painfully obvious that no sales and engineering team, no matter how dedicated, can keep up with the data integration performed manually. In almost all cases, there is not even an attempt to create an accurate Opportunity until after a sale is made and then the data is entered as a historical record.

Reason number two: Configured in CCW but Priced by Distribution

A profitable and successful Cisco Reseller must know the cost of goods sold, and one customer sale may involve multiple “buy side” transactions from multiple entities.

The Cisco Deal registered in CCW is the “single source of truth” in the reseller buy-side transaction and this data should be populated in the Opportunity to reflect what is intended to be sold to the Customer.  The reseller must associate this BoM with the net purchase price, which very often comes from a Cisco Authorized Distributor, such as Comstor, Ingram Micro or Tech Data.  This critical and often time sensitive data arrives from the distributor via email as an Excel attachment or embedded HTML.

Sometimes there are multiple buy side transactions to build a complete customer solution. The Cisco Partner’s sales operations process grinds to a halt as legions of pre sales, inside sales, sales engineers and account executives grapple to pull together the technical and financial aspects of this Deal.  Forget a forecast at this point, now you are treading water and hoping you don’t make a costly error that causes you to lose money on this transaction.  There is a good chance you are now working in Excel and ignoring the Opportunity in your CRM system.

Reason number three: I have no Cisco product catalog

One of the top “assumptions” of a CRM platform is that it can be used to build a BoM in an Opportunity, but for a Cisco Reseller this is never an option because the data to do so does not exist in your local environment.

CRM is designed to fit any type of business and covers as many bases as possible, but it can’t do everything.  The Cisco Product catalog has well over 1.2M SKU’s and changes are made in real time.  It is impossible for a Cisco Partner, other than maybe one or two really gigantic ones, to maintain the Product Catalog. Therefore it is extremely problematic to take advantage of the rich feature sets in CRM systems.  The Reseller refers to the CCW export, which is a validated subset of the catalog that has been selected for purchase and resale to a customer; and the core problem of importing that data into the CRM Opportunity and keeping it current as the deal evolves. In most cases, this work is not performed.

Reason number four: Adding CPQ (Configure/Price/Quote) software to fix the problem

Circumventing the CRM process to produce a Customer Quote fails to encourage adoption and leads to CRM failure for Cisco Resellers.  Good quoting solutions that integrate with your CRM are great, but they are not a panacea. 

Cisco Resellers who are failing in CRM turn to CPQ & Quoting Solutions to solve their problem. They are eager to believe that “CRM Integration” of the Quoting software will “make” the CRM effective; but in reality it is simply posting a rear view snapshot of the top line data of an opportunity that is likely well past the point of analysis in your CRM.  The export from CCW has now been put into the process at the time the quote is being created, bypassing the pipeline completely.  The CRM has failed to add any value at this point other than to be a very expensive general sales forecast tool, assuming the opportunity was created and some top line forecasted revenue was entered.

Reason number five: Your CRM is not a Cisco Tool

Some critical data from Cisco and the Distributor is not available at all as an Export, and must be calculated manually.  Your CRM system was not made for Cisco Resellers but can be “programmed” to provide this critical data. The Cisco Reseller is highly motivated by additional profit margin to capture this data.

Wouldn’t it be great if every time you downloaded a Cisco Deal to your CRM Opportunity, it also provided with the anticipated Value Incentive Program (VIP) rebate amount paid back to you by Cisco?  Wouldn’t it be even better if that rebate was based on the actual price you paid to Cisco or Distribution too?  Your CRM is not a Cisco Tool and is not programmed to do this for you; and so when you really, really need to know the data, you turn to Excel.

All Cisco Partners consider their VIP rebates to be a critical part of their overall company financial performance.  Some offer sales commission on this as additional gross margin; and others do not.  Neither has any idea how much money they have at risk on any specific deal and their CRM Opportunity is not providing answers.  Strange as it sounds, when the Cisco rebate check arrives, there is virtually no way for the Cisco Partner to reconcile the statement against the company data, which should be captured in the CRM system.  If your CRM system is not helping you manage and optimize VIP then it is failing to deliver results.

              Some Conclusions:

We have looked at the five most common reasons that CRM implementations fail in Cisco Reseller Partner organizations, which are a large subset of ICT VAR’s, and concluded that:

  1. Without proper automated data integration between Cisco Commerce portals and Cisco Partner CRM platforms, the sales, operations and finance portion of CRM will not yield a proper sales forecast, profit margin analysis and many other basic business reports.
  2. Most Cisco Partners try to fix this problem with off the shelf or custom built CPQ and Quoting tools, which get quotes in customer’s hands but write back to the CRM only the most basic historical data, which does not pay for the cost of the CRM.
  3. Cisco Partners have very unique requirements that are not being met by off the shelf solutions from Cisco or the CRM & CPQ vendors.
  4. If the solution to the problem is not made essential and simple for the entire organization, there will be a lack of adoption and eventual failure. Expensive CRM licenses need to be adopted – quality and quantity of adoption needs to be high.
  5. Cisco Partners who solve this problem have a distinct market advantage over those who do not have the data.  Intelligence wins deals, and knowledge is power.  Controlling payroll costs by simplifying data integration has an immediate effect on the company bottom line.
  6. Most Cisco Partners are guessing at their profit margin per Deal and have no real way to amplify their participation in valuable Incentive Rebate programs.

If you are a Cisco Partner seeking a solution to these problems, please contact StrataVAR.

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