This is Episode 2 of the “Profit and Win: Future Ready Software Selling” series. Get started by viewing Episode 1: Cisco Partners Make More Money Selling Software.

Customers are increasingly buying software delivered as a service, shifting away from transaction-based purchasing. This trend gives customers more predictability, flexibility and control in their software purchases, enabling them to realize value throughout the product lifecycle.

Partners who respond by taking a software-led approach to their practices directly benefit from this shift in customer needs. By offering software as part of their sales motions—whether developed in-house or in partnership with a third-party developer—partners maintain and can even increase relevance with their customers. For example, partners can align their software offerings with meeting the needs of LOB-driven business outcomes, while also accessing growing LOB budgets.

Adding software sales to a partner’s sales motion not only increases overall revenue but also provides more predictable recurring revenue that comes with selling subscription-based software licenses. In addition, by developing new services and capabilities based on software, partners can further differentiate themselves as they build customer loyalty and relevance.

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To help its partners understand the ways they can build a software-led practice, Cisco provides the software-led business framework, which is built around four fundamental pillars:

  • Software solution sales: Software-led sales motion focused on delivering software by taking advantage of Cisco buying programs such as Enterprise Agreements
  • Software asset management: Scalable sales methodology, systems and tools to address customers’ licensing and financial needs
  • Partner lifecycle services: Portfolio of repeatable and scalable service offerings designed to help customers maximize the value they realize from their software purchases
  • Software development: Leveraging Cisco APIs and open platforms for programmability and creation of custom applications and integrations
Figure 1: Software-led business framework

Software solution sales

One pillar in the software-led business framework is to increase software solution sales by selling based on a customer’s desired business outcomes and taking advantage of Cisco buying programs such as Enterprise Agreements.

In fact, selling Cisco Enterprise Agreements offers partners several benefits. On average, Cisco Enterprise Agreement software revenue is two to three times higher per customer than transactional deals. Customers can add software suites as needed to their contracts, which means larger deals for you. Partners can leverage VIP Activation Bonus and Lifecycle Advisor Incentives to drive adoption, which leads to better TCO for customers, easy renewal, and better upsell opportunities for partners. In addition, selling Enterprise Agreements helps partners build strategic, long-term relationships with their customers.

Cisco partners can learn more by watching this solution sales e-learning module.

Software asset management

Figure 2: Software asset management

Software asset management provides visibility into a customer’s software and IT assets. Providing asset management requires partners to have methodology, processes, tools and systems in place, not only to provide this visibility and enable management of the customer’s assets, but also to give sales and customer success teams the ability to drive further activities throughout the lifecycle.

Software asset management allows a means to provide recurring value to customers and recurring revenue to partners. It consists of four elements:

  • Utilization measurement: Utilizes industry standard tools that provide activation and adoption data (this data is a prerequisite for driving customer success motions)
  • Asset identification: Records an accurate view of IT assets whether they include software, hardware, or service contracts
  • Entitlement reconciliation: Provides a single source of truth to view and reconcile all assets and their adoption, leading to greater efficiencies in the IT asset lifecycle
  • Customer value: Drives renewal motions by showing customer value through a functional focus in areas such as relationship management, service management, and financial management

Cisco partners can learn more by watching this licensing expertise e-learning module.

Partner lifecycle services

There are a number of ways partners deliver value to their customers throughout the customer lifecycle. These services can include:

  • Defining KPIs and business outcomes
  • Delivering activation, adoption and customer-success services
  • Managing quarterly business reviews
  • Providing software portfolio and IT asset management
  • Conducting multinational deployments

Selling these various services actually begins during presales, as partners highlight their available value-added lifecycle services. These services not only help to differentiate partner practices, but also help with activation, consumption, and integration of customer technology investments into their daily business.

Cisco partners can learn more by watching this partner lifecycle services e-learning module.

Software development

The software development pillar includes partners leveraging Cisco APIs to create their own applications to meet identified customer needs. When partners build their own software and solutions business with Cisco, they create intellectual property that runs on top of Cisco’s market-leading platform. According to the IDC, building a software practice can double profit margin and help fuel revenue growth.

Figure 3: Developing software yields higher margins

Once you have integrated your intellectual property with your customers’ environments and back-end systems, you can drive maximum customer stickiness and loyalty. And as you continue to provide value through applications and solutions throughout the customer lifecycle, you can identify new opportunities for you and your partners in these accounts.

Cisco partners can learn more by watching this software development e-learning module.

Four steps to building a software and solutions practice

To start this transformational journey, Cisco partners need to consider four steps.

Figure 4: Four steps to building a software and solutions practice

Step 1. Gain executive sponsorship and make the transformation activities around evolving your practice a corporate priority. This can’t be stressed enough. Also, Cisco partners can leverage the resources in the SalesConnect Hub to help develop the framework for your business plan and GTM program. Be sure to include partner incentives and customer experience specialization opportunities.

Step 2. Cisco partners can complete the software-led Partner Business Transformation Assessment, which includes identifying partner stakeholders, reviewing recommendations, and choosing the appropriate priorities for your business as you build your transformational business plan. Do this in parallel with financial modeling, so that you can prioritize investments and understand your potential ROI.

Step 3. Cisco partners can leverage the Business Value Calculator (BVC) to prioritize investments and understand your potential ROI.

Step 4. Cisco partners can begin execution and change management while also leveraging resources available from the SalesConnect Hub.

Partners who execute these key steps are well on their way to transforming their businesses successfully.


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Gary Wolfson

Director, Global Partner Software Sales