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Comstor touts Executive Relevance Selling

Specialist Cisco distributor promises game changing training for channel partners

Comstor touts Executive Relevance Selling
D’Souza says Comstor has over the past four quarters focused on Cisco’s collaboration solutions in the Middle East.

The Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) is by nature a disruptive data centre product - one that Cisco's distributors and VARs acknowledge requires a convincing conversation to sell top customer executives on the idea of replacing their existing data centre infrastructure with Cisco's architectural vision.

Acknowledging that it takes a little something extra to make that conversation happen, Comstor, the division of Westcon Group responsible for the distributor's Cisco business, has in place a programme called Executive Relevance Selling (ERS), which teaches sales associates how to engage customers in those types of business conversations.

The idea, according to Comstor, is that data centre sales in the cloud era now involve CEO, CIO and CFO-level executives, not just IT workers making procurement decisions. According to the Cisco specialist distributor, ERS teaches VARs and solution providers how to engage with the high-level decision makers, as well as create demand generation activities and model return-on-investment (ROI) scenarios specific to a customer's situation.

Comstor's belief is that as Cisco pushes more responsibility for customer leads to VARs - through its much-touted Cisco ‘partner-led' initiative, it's the distributors that have to pick up the slack with value-add training programmes along more sophisticated product lines.

"If we're going to grow our partners beyond a pick-pack-and-ship mentality, and in turn grow the Cisco business, we need to focus on building a specialty practice," said Andy Banks, vice president for Comstor. "It's a scaleability issue for Cisco, because it's very expensive for them to have a direct relationship with the partner. As they move toward partner-led and the [solutions selling], they're relying heavily on distribution."

The programme has been favourably reviewed by the 40 VARs that have been through the training so far in North America, which include about 500 individual sales professionals, Banks said. What's more, ERS has also attracted Cisco's attention with the networking giant now using Comstor's programmefor training its own global Data Center go-to-market team, teaching those Cisco sales specialists the most effective ways to sell UCS and have that data centre revamp conversation with prospects.

Although details of how the programme will filter through and be implemented across the Middle East region are still murky, Renton D'Souza, divisional director, Comstor ME said: "We have not yet started running this programme here in the Middle East region." D'Souza added that Comstor in the Middle East region has over the past four quarters, focused on Cisco's collaboration solutions.

Saeed Agha, regional manager, Cisco UAE, said in a recent interview that the partner-led programme is a change in the way Cisco approaches its sales coverage model and the initiative has been designed to put even more emphasis on being a channel-based go-to-market vendor. "We will rely even more on partners for sales to the mid-market and SMB segment and to make that happen, Cisco has come up with this initiative to reward partners for their investments in the SMB and mid-market sectors," Agha said.

"Everything is now being elevated to the executive suite," added David McNicholas, director of strategic business development for Comstor. "So how do you use that to drive market share around UCS? ERS focuses on process improvement, and when you take the innovation Cisco has put in UCS and talk about it with that process improvement engine we have with ERS, you are empowered."

"The speeds and feeds conversation is a 10-year-old model of sale," added Banks. "Budgets are tight now, data centres are being consolidated. The technology is not the leading driver, the end-user business problem is the leading driver."

Comstor recently launched ERS for VBlock, the pre-assembled data centre configuration comprising Cisco, EMC and VMware products and also for Cisco Contact Center products. There are programme modules related to other Cisco technologies, as well as the various, pre-configured ways of selling UCS, such as with Vblock, and with FlexPod, the version that uses NetApp storage technology.

Comstor says ERS further includes specialised audits and other tools, as well as direct-upload integration with Cisco's corporate SIRE system for tracking network assessments.

To use ERS, Comstor partners pay a one-time cost of $2,500 per license. They need to be certified on Cisco's B-series UCS products and also sell virtualisation to qualify for the programme.

Comstor Worldwide, which was formed by consolidating Westcon's various Cisco-centric Comstor business units in 2009, represents about 50% of Westcon Group's roughly $4 billion revenue pie and accounts for about $700 million in the United States.

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