Its No Coincidence That Conference Attendees Make More Money

I attended Cisco's partner summit during the first week of April.

I attended Ciscos partner summit during the first week of April. So did about 3,000 Cisco partners from 77 countries whose firms represent "the vast majority" of Ciscos revenues, according to Tom Mitchell, senior VP of worldwide channels.

But those attendees amounted to only 1 percent of all the employees of Ciscos 40,000-plus partner firms. Where the heck were the rest of them? I can imagine their excuses: too busy trying to make ends meet; cant afford three days in Las Vegas; dont have time for rah-rah speeches.

So how did the absentees spend their first days of April? Probably hunkered over their phones, blindly cold-calling for one long-shot lead out of 100 contacts, hoping to make enough money to pay Mays electric bill.

There are good reasons why 1 percent of Cisco partners make most of the money. Theyve learned to think big, by getting the big picture directly from their big partner. They get out of their little bailiwicks and meet potential partners from all over the world. They know that a total of just one hour of quality "face time" with the right people is a priceless return on an investment of three days.

From Cisco, attendees learned firsthand what the high-growth markets will be in the coming year: IP telephony, mobile and fixed wireless networking, content delivery, storage area networking and security. They learned how to prepare themselves for those opportunities, where to find them and how to sell them.

I can hear some little absentee partner muttering, "Oh, but none of those things is relevant to my business plan." Well, maybe your business plan isnt relevant to the big, wide world, pal. It doesnt matter what you want to sell. Wake up and align your business with what the global market wants to buy.

An IP-based coffee distribution system demonstrated by Sue Bostrom, Ciscos senior VP of the Internet Business Solutions Group, is a good example of what customers want. Using a Web browser, a distributor could monitor the level of every type of bean in every store in his territory; send streaming video ads to monitors built into the store displays to stimulate demand for specific beans; change prices remotely and instantly; compile restocking orders for route drivers; and download fuel-efficient routes to drivers handheld computers. Think of how many firms could use a solution like that!

While the "big picture" presentations were valuable, the rubber really met the road in the cocktail lounges, corridors and even elevators. It was humbling to learn how little time attendees had to talk with reporters. "Yeah, [email protected] Partner—good mag. Call me next week, will ya? Im trying to do business here." Fair enough; those folks were squeezing every nickels worth out of every minute, cutting deals with newfound partners faster than chips flew at the craps tables.

Who did you talk to last week—the same three partners youve dealt with all year? And what did you talk about—new business opportunities or how badly existing business is going?

If you want to run with the big dogs, you gotta get off the porch. You cant just sit at home reading magazines, browsing the Net, and grubbing in your yard for roots and berries. Get out and meet the big vendors who can give you the big picture. Rub elbows with successful partners and let their success rub off on you.

Denver-based Dave Hakala is [email protected] Partners senior editor for networking. He can be reached at [email protected]