We have researched major companies in a wide variety of professions and countries to obtain their thoughts about the relationships with their suppliers. Many of their concerns are similar. A few of the more commonly expressed concerns are these:
Make an impact on our business; don’t just be visible and offer a product or service;
Spend more time helping us think and to develop strategies for our markets;
Don't tell us what we already know. Know more than we do about our business. Tell us what our business is going to look like five or ten years from now;
Give us a competitive advantage - help us to out-compete our competitors;
Stay up-to-date on what's going on in our business. Use our data to give us an extra level of analysis. Ask for it; don't wait for us to give it to you;
Make an extra effort to understand how our business works: sit in on our meetings;
Tell me why our competitors are doing what they're doing;
Discuss with us other things we should be doing - we welcome any and all ideas!
What many of these issues have in common is a requirement for Account Managers to spend serious effort on getting to know the customer's business and industry in great depth. This will require greater contact with the customer at higher levels, certainly higher than the traditional salesperson-buyer level.
It is also clear that account customers want a strategic business partner, not a supplier or friend. The good news is that customers are saying that they clearly do want a long term mutually beneficial relationship.