This simple exchange cut to the heart of the fundamental problem most large service providers face in creating sustainable relationships in the mid market. Technical, product-focused relationships are fine. Strategic relationships often don’t exist.

It’s a huge problem when, from our perspective as mid market customers, the services of banks, accountants, technology businesses and even lawyers look increasingly commoditized. If all I’m getting is product and no value what is to stop me switching? Where is the sustainability of a real relationship?

Corporates have done a great job at giving their client-facing teams technical training. They know their product. Yet there is little competitive advantage in that any more and less sustainability. The neglect of broader human intelligence and critical business intelligence skills in those who seek to service the mid market is increasingly telling.

Those who realise this and upgrade their relationship teams to have the knowledge and confidence to offer genuine strategic insight and challenge to customers will clean up in this market place. They will find a ‘mini MBA’ for their relationship teams will yield dividends.

I know this not just from experience of sitting on the customer end of these relationships but in coaching banking relationship teams on basic human and business strategy who come back time and again flushed with excitement having had a customer email to say ‘thanks, that was the single best meeting I have ever had with a bank’.

Yet there is an even bigger problem for corporate suppliers who persist with a product, technical focus in client relationships in the mid market. Fast-moving, converging markets mean that in 3-5 years’ time most ‘relationship managers’ will be talking about products that are not even on their radar today. And in that world a reliance on ‘rapport’ over relationship and technical knowledge over strategic advice is simply not flexible and agile enough to adapt.

In this new market place those who win the strategic value and relationship battle will win the war.