How To Find A Good Account Representative

If you’re in IT then probably buy lots of gear.  Some IT shops do things on a project basis and some do continuous upgrades.  Either way between budgets and project approvals, you have to buy stuff.  Having a good account rep can make your job easier and makes you more productive.  They can also save you money, which is often the first thing that people think about when they think about buying stuff.

Save you time:

  • You can call them and tell them what you’re looking for and they can chase down the part numbers or pull in the right people and come up with a solution. This isn’t a big deal if you’re ordering some mouse pads, but if you’re ordering a server and a wall mount rack and you want to make sure it will fit, it can save you a bunch of time, and if it doesn’t fit, it’s on them to resolve it.
  • When it comes time to put together your yearly budget or get some pricing for a project, they can do the leg work to put all the pieces together and give you some numbers that will make you look good.
  • If you have an issue with an order, instead of going through the normal channels of support, you can reach out to them for an advanced replacement or exchange. These kinds of things aren’t advertised on websites, but if you have a good relationship with your rep, they can make things happen.
  • A good rep can also arrange to have demo items sent to you so you can get your hands on something you’ve only seen pictures of.
  • They also share information that you can’t get through normal channels. For instance they may call and say, I know you’ve been ordering a lot of this model of workstation and that model is reaching end of production.  Did you want to order a few more before they’re gone, or can I send you some demos of the model that is replacing it so you can select your next model?

So now that you know what they can do for you, how to find one?  The first piece of advice is that to have a good account rep, you need to be a good customer.  If you’re a bad customer, no matter who you go to, you will probably have a bad account rep.  Even if a friend recommends a rep that they say is very good, if you’re a bad customer, they will probably not be a good rep for you.  How can that be?

Account reps are like everyone else.  They only have so many hours in their day.  When requests come in from multiple clients at once, who do you think gets priority?  If their nickname for you is “Low Bid Bob” are they going to work on your stuff when they have more profitable customers waiting?  If you only buy 1/3 of the things you have them quote, are they going to put much time in to researching a solution for you?

A good customer figures out as best as they can what they need and explains it to their rep so they don’t have to come back multiple times for questions.  If it’s an email, it’s written so that it can be forwarded on to the different manufacture reps and they can come up with a solution.  If a good customer has all the part numbers of exactly what they want, they just go to the website, plug in the numbers and order right from there.  A good rep will provide you with a portal that will automatically give you discounts, so there’s no need to bother a human with a request like that.

Even if you’re a good customer, that doesn’t automatically make your rep a good rep.  If you’re an IT Manager for any length of time and don’t screen your calls, you will probably get calls daily from resellers that guarantee you the lowest price and tell you they have the line card with the most vendors on it.  That doesn’t really differentiate them though.  When I used to buy a lot from Dell I had my share of good reps and bad reps.  The bad reps had a voicemail that played that said for the best service to send them an email.  They also never used their out of office reply and I never knew when I was going to hear back from them.  This was frustrating if I needed a quick price on something.

The other type a bad account rep is what I call the “part number monkey.”  This rep was absolutely useless unless you had the part number of what you were looking for.  Worse than not understanding what you were looking for, they typically didn’t understand English well enough to pass your request around to their team to find the right solution.  If you already have a part number, a website will do what you need.

So let’s say that you moved in to a new role and now all the sudden, you need to find a good rep.  Where do you start?  I would first reach out to colleges at other companies and see if they can recommend someone.  Sometimes reps are territorial and or only work with certain client types, so you can’t use them.  In that case I would call some of the big vendors (CDW, Insight, Zones, PC Connection, etc) and give them a sample project to work on.  Ask them about their background and how long they have been with the company.  Then see how they process goes.  Did they take days to get back to you only to ask more questions about your request?  Were they easy to get a hold of if they called/emailed while you were out?

With some luck you’ll find one that seems to work pretty well with you and from then on you can just send everything to them first.  If they’re working good for you, there is no need to send everything out to 3 vendors to quote it, unless you are required to.  That just leads to more phone calls/emails that suck up more of your time and doesn’t really save you much money.  If you really want to spot check prices, websites can do that, and you can use your back up rep for that every so often.

Backup rep?  In my experience, it’s a good idea to have a backup rep that you purchase from every so often.  The reason for this is that if you only have one rep that you run everything through, and they leave the company, get promoted to another division, etc and you have to find a new rep at a different company, it can take a while to find one, and even if you, it can take time to set up things like net 30 terms that allow you to purchase large amounts of stuff without all kinds of paperwork.

So there you have it, finding a good rep and being a good customer will build a relationship that will help you get the most out of your working hours.

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Mike Davis