It’s November in the Northern Rockies and the snow has begun to fall. Skiers all over the world are getting excited for the forthcoming dumps of powder. Gear is getting dusted off and tuned while ski mountains are grappling with their own variant of business resilience: ways to keep their mountains open and their pass holders safe amid the pandemic. This permeates their entire business, as it’s not just the ski hills, but the lodges, locker rooms, and of course their instructional and youth programs. As a parent of ski racers, I know the concept of utilizing the right tools to drive the outcome of a successful ski season is quite an undertaking. There’s ski equipment, cold weather gear, speed suits, finding the right ski program and coaches, but at the end of the season, it’s always worth it to enjoy that last sun-drenched run as a family. You see each child’s improvement and the culmination of an enjoyable and safe ski season.

In much the same way, over the last six months I have authored multiple blogs focusing on the power of our sales play tools and how they can elevate our customer conversations and accelerate outcome-based engagements.

Now as we take a breath post-Cisco Partner Summit Digital, we find ourselves entering a new season where we have been introduced to a number of new tools, and now need to understand how we use them together. Much like a ski coach assembles his racer’s toolsets to architect a successful ski season, we need to ensure repeatable outcomes for ourselves and our customers.

To dig into this analogy, let’s start with relationships. “Know your audience” is a commonly uttered phrase across sales and it is foundational in establishing customer trust. There are many components to building this type of relationship, and one such tool that helps drive relevance are validated use cases. The more specific to our customers that we can make them, the better. Further, being able to understand the different buyer personas and their unique care-abouts are all things that will help us create a compelling narrative. In much the same way, well-fitted equipment is the foundational tool for any ski season. Sure, the quality of the equipment can improve speed, but a correct fit enables skiers to adapt to different snow conditions and trust their equipment, which builds confidence. This outcome of enabling confidence is the exact reason we have focused on building out use cases across architectures and industries so you, our partner sellers, can relate to our customers with confidence.

The second outcome is all about positioning and closing multivendor solutions. With this outcome there are two required tools: mapping out the customer journey and identifying the additional solution partners and components. Let’s start with the customer journey. Very few of our customers are ripe for greenfield-type opportunities. Most require leveraging their current investments and building a phased approach to large scale implementations. This is why we have focused extensively on reference architectures and documented customer journeys throughout all of the sales plays. These reference materials help you, our partners, build a customized journey based on milestones that are supported by validated architectures and your integration services.

Back on ski the slopes, these types of multivendor solutions abound and a few of them have been driven by the pandemic and the need for business resilience. Let’s reflect on something as mundane as checking lift tickets. Operators need to be in-line to physically check/scan lift tickets and ensure validity. Social distancing throws this whole process for a loop. Enter RFID passes that can be worn in the sleeves. This is a great example of how ski resorts have adapted with the help of a new solution that requires rock solid connectivity. There are the readers, the passes/cards, and connecting all of this in sometimes very remote rough terrain and in extreme conditions. These examples are exactly why we have focused on including the toolsets of customer journeys, reference architectures, and mapping ecosystem partners into our eight core sales plays. Leverage Cisco’s Portfolio Explorer to dive into use cases and the partners that complement and enhance the solution.

So, let’s say we’ve utilized the use cases and persona enablement to build great customer relationships, we’ve studied and shared the reference architectures, and created solutions that truly help our customer maintain their business resiliency. A major hurdle still exists: how do we drive adoption and keep this deal from being a one hit wonder?

It’s this critical last piece that focuses on customer success and/or adoption-based services and multiyear buying programs and agreements. This final tool builds on the previous outcomes and drives a recurring success and revenue stream. Each sales play maps to the relevant buying program and enterprise agreement offerings to make it easier to structure your customer deals. Without them, the above sales tactics don’t often scale.

If we use this example and go back to our ski hill, let’s focus on an integral aspect of any mountain program: youth ski education. You can have the best rental gear shop, competent instructors, and even adopt new capabilities that let you deliver safe operations via RFID and other technologies, but there is a critical tool left to scale the business and profit: it’s your ski education strategy and plan. Kids (and families) need to enjoy skiing after participating in the programs! It’s the same argument as technology adoption and activation. If kids don’t have fun, families won’t continue to buy passes year after year, and they’ll go find another mountain program, or even another sport!

To summarize, the current pandemic has forced us to focus on the different aspects of business resiliency. Cisco’s core sales plays are the main toolboxes to assemble our customer strategies. These include use cases, reference architectures, ecosystem mappings, and lastly buying programs and adoption services. The tools in the toolset build on one another and much like our skiing analogy, businesses will simply not scale without establishing value via adoption or a buying program. These toolsets need to be used together to drive profit and true customer value. Explore the toolset for Business Resiliency.


Go Rip Some Turns!


Matt O'Brien

Senior Business Development Manager

Global Partner Organization (GPO) - Digital Transformation and Industries