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November 22, 2023
In her channel-facing role, Kristyn Hogan, Cisco's vice president of global collaboration partner sales, works hand-in-hand with partners, overseeing the big picture of what they hope to accomplish, managing a crew of salespeople and more who all aim for more elevated sales.
In a sit-down with Channel Futures, we touched on everything from the prospect of sales to opportunities awaiting the channel in the new year, including growth, to the firm's unique approach to storytelling that impacts its channel partner strategy.
Hogan said hosting three events in the past few weeks, Webex One being one, helped to set the tone for the upcoming year. She is looking forward to more innovation from the company and the approach it will take toward its channel partner strategy in 2024.
At Webex One, the company released a slew of AI-centric contact center tools. Cisco also hosted its Partner Summit in late October, an event that brought together more than 550 in-person partners and over 4,000 virtual ones, Hogan told Channel Futures.
Hogan contends that AI is not a standalone product but should touch every aspect of an offering to extend value to humans. She says at Webex, they don't view AI as a future that should be sold separately but something that should span the entirety of one's platform.
Cisco's Kristyn Hogan
"We have AI that fits our entire platform, and that's pretty unique," the Cisco exec said.
Hogan cited the Webex Assistant, the AI-powered tool that enriches the agent and employee experience by extending pre-, during, and post-meeting insights such as automatic transcripts and data about the customer. That assistant scales the entire Webex platform, offering various other rich insights.
"It's one thing to have it, but how do partners go to market with something like this?" Hogan said.
She further told us that partners must know how to package, talk about, and quantify what such a tool could do for customers to underpin the importance of fusing AI into various workflows for greater efficiency.
As for partners making money, Hogan said, "You will not see a SKU on our price list. And for collaboration tools, even the ones that leverage AI, we sell through our partners, and that will not change. We're just making the process better," Hogan said.
The real work gets done by doing demos, not just presenting PowerPoints, Hogan contends. That and trials, which she says usually lead to many closed deals as the technology speaks for itself, a pivotal part of Cisco's channel partner strategy that will continue into 2024.
According to Hogan, partners also stand to benefit from the tools that help set their offerings apart from competitors in 2024. For instance, Webex has a feature that knows if someone steps away from their desk during a meeting and can present a message stating, "so and so will be right back." It turns off the camera and the meeting persists.
It then turns the camera back on when you arrive at your desk and summarizes what you missed.
"In our eyes, that's a unique differentiator because I don't know a lot of companies doing this," Hogan said.
Hogan told us that telling stories about use cases and how customers can use technology is a "huge differentiator" for the company, and one that is not only personal but appears to be working when it comes to partner sales.
Cisco is working hard through its partner program to get new technologies into the hands of companies and their end users who need it most. With a wide range of partner types, paired with increasing partner sales, it appears this channel partner strategy may have some validity.
Contributing Editor, Channel Futures
Moshe has nearly a decade of expertise reporting on enterprise technology. Within that world, he covers breaking news, artificial intelligence, contact center, unified communications, collaboration, cloud adoption (digital transformation), user/customer experience, hardware/software, etc.
As a contributing editor at Channel Futures, Moshe covers unified communications/collaboration from a channel angle. He formerly served as senior editor at GetVoIP News and as a tech reporter at UC/CX Today.
Moshe also has contributed to Unleash, Workspace-Connect, Paste Magazine, Claims Magazine, Property Casualty 360, the Independent, Gizmodo UK, and ‘CBD Intel.’ In addition to reporting, he spends time DJing electronic music and playing the violin. He resides in Mexico.
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