Typically, during the federal buying season, Cisco partners are heads down selling solutions and processing orders. Whether you consider it “buying season” or “busy season” is based on which side of the deal you are on, but September often brings a flurry of activity as the federal fiscal year closes out.
The EDGE360 editorial team recently spoke with Jennifer Keating, Director of Cisco’s Public Sector Partner organization, about her insight on how this federal fiscal year is different from past years and advice she has for partners looking for a strong close to the year.
Keating noted that this last quarter of the federal fiscal year has had a significant uptick in spending, which she says is typical for an election year, “because people want to make sure that all of the money is spent before there’s a potential changing of the guard.” Yet, spending this year has accelerated due to the increase of dollars added to federal budgets in order to stimulate the economy during the pandemic.
With this boost, Keating is optimistic about the close of this federal fiscal year.
However, she has noted that this year has been radically different with many peaks and valleys. “In the beginning of the pandemic, there was a mad rush to enable remote workforces for customers who didn’t have the infrastructure already in place,” Keating stated. Then, there was a plateau and in some cases, certain customers had to work at fifty percent capacity. “Now customers are looking to accelerate longer-term modernization efforts to enable collaboration and productivity for the long-haul.”
To enable these remote and hybrid work environments, Keating told us that Cisco and Cisco partners are seeing a surge in demand for security, core network infrastructure, and collaboration solutions.
While the federal buying season is where many of these orders are placed and processed, the pandemic has added some complexities to the environment. Keating noted a shift in how partners are connecting with federal buyers. “It’s really about customer intimacy,” she told us. “Typically, we tell partners to map the opportunity, follow the money, create relationships beyond the end-user, and really understand the contract vehicles to utilize as part of the strategy. But in today’s environment, it is more about understanding your customers from a basic human foundation.”
This includes showing compassion for the unique situation that every person is facing. “For example, many customers may have children going back to school for the first time, or going virtual, and they may not be able to schedule a conversation during the school day as they juggle both work and life,” Keating explained. It is not just about getting the order done today but demonstrating understanding.
Creating a deeper connection with customers will be critical for building long-term relationships that will not only carry you through the close of this fiscal year but in the future as well. “Now is the time to create more customer intimacy than ever before,” Keating advised.
That same message holds true for how Cisco is approaching their partner community. Keating noted that Cisco recently held a virtual lunch and learn and delivered meals to each attendee’s home. “It helps to keep morale up because now is such a busy time processing orders and getting paperwork submitted. For Cisco, this is an opportunity to build greater partner intimacy.”
“At the end of the day, we must all remember that while we may be in the same storm, we are not in the same boat. Some of us have yachts, while others are treading water. It important for us to remember that and to stay connected to each other so we can offer support when needed,” Keating concluded.
That said, Keating also expects to see the government continuing to stimulate the economy during the pandemic. She predicts that federal budgets will continue to grow during federal fiscal year 2021, presenting new opportunities for partners who have been successful in building relationships with their customers.