As Federal Busy Season 2020 closes for partners, it’s important to reflect on the lessons learned from this unusual year. While the post-pandemic environment is unique, it raises some key points from experts on how partners in the IT channel can connect and engage with customers early on in the process and serve as a trusted advisor as federal agencies look to fulfill their federal IT priorities.
Many leaders in the federal IT channel have offered lessons learned from this year’s federal busy season and the EDGE360 editorial team has featured a few of them here for consideration:
Leverage Technology to Make a Connection
While face-to-face meetings are rare in this post-pandemic world, there are many digital ways to connect with customers along their journey. “Companies are going to have to take a new approach to how they reach the federal customer,” Larry Allen, Federal Sales and Marketing Consultant, told Tom Temin in a recent Federal Drive interview. “It’s not enough to be able to use the technology — Cisco WebEx, Zoom, whatever your platform is — you have to know how to turn it into a marketing tool so that your people are really conversant with how to get the most out of that platform to get the message across just as if you would be if you were sitting face to face with someone. So, if you’re a contractor, it’s not enough to have basic familiarity with online tools. You really have to know how to use them so that you’re delivering that in-person message and trying to do the next best thing to developing an impersonal relationship because relationships do matter.”
Make the Connection Personal
During times of uncertainty, trust is critical. Customers will buy from people and companies that they trust. The EDGE360 team recently spoke with Jennifer Keating, Director of Cisco’s Public Sector Partner organization, who focused on the importance of developing customer intimacy.
“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. It’s not just about getting the order done today but demonstrating an understanding of what the customer is facing in today’s environment.
Lean into Distribution Partners Resources
During federal busy season, agencies are looking for the easiest way to purchase the technology solutions needed to fulfill their IT priorities. Ed Somers, Vice President of Public Sector and Vertical Markets at SYNNEX, recently told us that there has been an upward tick in the usage of contract vehicles. In a recent interview, Somers highlighted opportunities to leverage Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), GSA, NASA SEWP, and NITAAC CIO-CS, which make it easier for federal agencies to procure IT infrastructure and services to more effectively implement IT modernization initiatives.
Often, the best way for partners to leverage these contract vehicles is through their distribution partners. “Partners can take advantage of the access to the GSA schedules that SYNNEX provides,” Somers said. “This allows them to use the contracts to sell and provide the billing, and then we handle all the back-end contract administrative details.”
While the federal fiscal year closes on September 30, these lessons learned from the 2020 federal busy season are ones that partners can take into the next fiscal year. The ongoing pandemic and the upcoming election continue to cause uncertainty, which is why leveraging resources and developing deeper customer connections will continue to be critical to future success.