I was unfortunate to join a company that had amazing products ...
... with an unwelcome package that came with it, arrogance. As the year with them progressed, it became apparent that senior management only ever wanted to know what was going on "on the ground" through reports, spreadsheets, forms, tables ... etc.
I was told to "let go" of a partner company because they only brought in 50% of the target set for them by my company the previous year (this happened in the middle of a recession). A classic example of cutting the nose off to spite the face because they continued to offer the partner the same level of discount they previously had, but removed their access to the customer resource centre. This made the simple administration and data collection activities the partner needed to offer their customers an efficient service, very difficult. As they had to request the information via emails to the relevant departments (which could take up to a day, instead of instantly). When I raised the concerns the partner and I had over the recent decision I was given the response "$*%! 'em, they only brought in £X last year anyway". That was the final nail in the coffin of my career there and I'm pleased to say I'm now with a company that embraces good customer service and support foremost.
While I appreciate that statistics play a role in strategic planning, having your ear to the ground by listening to your customers and customer facing employees far outweighs the former. Feeling their pains and finding ways to both reach success helps solidify the long term relationship that SME's thrive on.
Differentiate yourself from the arrogant "faceless organisations" that offer products without any concern over how they treat their customers ... by making things easier for them. Customers want a solution, they want to be able to have a more cost effectiveness, more efficiency, cheaper costs, better service/support ... a product just happens to come with it.
Corporate formalities ... ugh. I'm still surprised by how many people forget that those days are nearly gone! P2P is here and its here to stay. People have a lot more choice these days, there are hundreds of companies offering similar solutions and they're all making sure they are offering as much product/value as their competitors. Unless you're offering a very unique product, remember that customers preferences have shifted towards the relationship that can work with, rather than those the book says they should work with.
Relate to them, they're human too!
Find out what the company's goal is, do they want to be cutting edge, or extremely efficient ? Research their industry for them and find out what the latest buzz is (buzz sumo is a great tool for this). Find out what the secretary's name is, so that they next tine she answers the phone to you you can be on first name terms. Find out what projects they're working on and what the deliverables are. Call them right after a milestone due date to ask them how it went (whatever you do, don't call just before !).
Pick up on your contacts personal interests ...
... do they want to impress someone in the company or do they want to create an innovative way of delivering their solutions. Research their industry and provide them with useful nuggets, keep your finger on the pulse for them.
Having an extra set of eyes and ears on the road is invaluable to a company ... there are loads of ways of becoming the "go to" person ... just keep in touch with your contacts and the industry and you'll naturally get there!