Some problems that a customer may face will require us to present a solution that has been put together by an ecosystem of partners. Many parts of these solutions are built by start-ups that enhance Cisco products and technologies. Again, we don't automatically assume that a start-up means a competitor because they might be critical in solving a customer's problem. The focus is on what are we doing to help a customer solve a problem.

Question #6

Cisco has become legendary, or at least in my finance circle, for the use of its technology to make meetings more efficient. Help us all with a few tips on getting us in and out of meetings quicker!

Virtual meetings today are so different now than they were in previous decades, and the capability is increasing all the time. The move from audio-only to a fully interactive meeting experience with video, desktop sharing, real-time editing, and the ability to do everything from any device and from any location is an important change for those of us who participate in meetings for the majority of our days. It also works to keep teams connected and engaged, regardless of where their desk maybe located.

Being able to make eye contact and interact in real-time allows us to appreciate real people, and not just a voice at the other end of the line. We're more inclined to work together and align with that "one team, one fight mindset" mentioned earlier if we are seeing peoples reaction to our dialogue or having the ability to determine if "Yes" means I hear you or if "Yes" means I agree. Video eliminates these barriers to communication, which often leads to longer meetings.

In terms of tips for making meetings more efficient, utilizing the full suite of features available with meeting technology is the best way to get things done quickly. Always share video so you can respond to verbal and nonverbal cues, record a meeting so you can go back and reference the materials, and share materials via real-time instant messaging and screen sharing so that you can collaborate without relying on a huge email chain.

Cisco's WebEx Meetings technology offers these features and has seriously streamlined my workdays, about 70% of which are occupied by meetings. I often present to a live and a virtual audience and I always try to include the virtual audience into the discussion. I often ask questions to the live and virtual audience to engage in the topic. Keeping things lively and moving is critical.

Question #7

Unfortunately, market conditions continue to be challenging in the U.S. Even though the Americas division has been a top performer for Cisco in recent years, an interesting development seems to have occurred: more discounts and rebates needed to drive a sale. When is the right time for a business owner to offer a discount, and is there a smart way to do it as to make it financially impactful?

The focus on price occurs for many reasons, some that you have mentioned. It is hard to agree with your generalized comments on discount and rebates given the breath of our products (hardware and software), solutions and services. Our "go-to-market" includes dealing with our partners and often contracts where if we did not ensure that the customer did not understand the value of the acquisition we would be focused primarily on price, discounts and rebates.

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