Companies involved in IT (or other fields), usually develop relationships with vendors/consultant firms over years of working with them.  We are no different and also have such relationships.  However, the time has come for our account manager in one such company to move on to bigger and better things.  Generally, it’s customary for account managers to introduce you to her/his replacement and the replacement to set up a “quick” meeting for introduction.

This exact same thing happened a few days ago and I am booked for one such meeting now.  However, that got me thinking.  Most of the time, the introduction is nothing more than a face-to-face conversation, repetition of what the company’s website already says about their services (which by-the-way, we already know!) and a reminder that there will be no change in the level of service after the replacement.  Wouldn’t it be nice for a change if the company has a few lines about this but spends the rest of the time asking the question: What can we do for your company?  I can’t remember the last time when an account manager came to ask what business issues I face every day, understand them and then come back with a solution, using the technologies they’re good at.  Wouldn’t that be a win for both parties?  Our company will benefit from a turn-key solution and they’ll get more business – not to mention a longer relationship due to support and further development of their solution.

Now I understand it takes much longer and companies aren’t always very forthcoming with that information to begin with but if you want to build a solid, long-lasting relationship with a company, you have to put in the hours.  This is especially true for companies you already have a relationship with because maintaining existing business has traditionally been easier – it’s much harder to get your foot through the door for new business.  This is true because, while I don’t like long tie-ins, I do prefer working with companies I’ve had good experiences with.  I don’t want to waste time developing new relationships all the time and I also don’t want lots of them!

There are a lot of companies out there offering similar services.  If a company wants to differentiate itself from others, it should demonstrate the ability to align its solution offerings to the business needs of customers, rather than its product portfolios.  I don’t know what the meeting with our new account manager will be like but I hope it’ll be the kind I am looking for.  Well, I might let you know how it went – stay tuned for that! 🙂

Update (31/10/2010 15:00 GMT): I met our new account manager who is a pleasant person – always a positive for account managers!  With respect to my post above, it went as I predicted i.e. their product offerings were the main  focus.  However, in this particular case, I can give him benefit of doubt.  This is because the meeting came at a time when we’re “tightening our belts” (being a public sector organization) and this fact came out quite early in the meeting.  So, there wasn’t much point for him to push for more business at this time.  However, we do have projects running all the time so we might need their services in the future.  As we have a long-standing relationship with that vendor (and we already know what they do as mentioned above), I am not too fussed at this stage.  For now, just an introduction would do 🙂