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A Consultant's Tips for Growing Your Machine Shop

An outside salesperson is only one element of a coherent business development strategy, says David Bassler of Bassler Sales and Management Consulting. The entire team should embrace the following tips.

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In search of new customers, new markets and new business, a machine shop might consider hiring an outside salesperson. When this person finds new business, it is important that he or she not be met with internal resistance. For instance, a shop might have to change its culture by making new types of parts or working for unfamiliar customers. The shop also might need to update its equipment and certifications to meet the technical requirements of new jobs. Unless this salesperson is backed by the entire team, business opportunity will be lost, says David Bassler, president of Bassler Sales and Management Consulting LLC.

With that said, an outside salesperson is only one element of a coherent business development strategy. Mr. Bassler has developed a list of tips that owners or managers of growing machine shops, along with their entire team, should embrace:

  • A website. If you don’t have one, get one. A subcontractor can easily and affordably build one.
  • A company page on a social media platform. The same subcontractor can create this as a package deal with the website.
  • Brochures and other marketing material.
  • An updated quality system. If you are not ISO compliant, many big OEMs simply don’t want to talk to you.
  • An understanding that when you solicit machined parts from a new prospect, they will likely only send you their hardest, most complex parts. Why should they send you easy parts? They can do those themselves.
  • Additional inside sales staff or someone dedicated to the role. Someone has to respond to all inquiries accurately and in a timely fashion.
  • An understanding that your machinists, engineers, sales staff and management will need to continue to grow, along with the organization, and that there is a need for continuous training.
  • An understanding that you will have to do things differently than you did in the past.
  • An understanding that a new customer is not a hindrance, but something the whole organization should embrace enthusiastically. If leadership embraces it, the rank and file will too.
  • An understanding that new machines, tools, measurement systems, software systems and specific personnel with niche training will be needed to aggressively pursue new business.
  • An understanding that this is good for everyone. Everyone needs to grow together.

A shop that does this can pursue new business from a whole variety of new customers, and win it, he says. And when the outside salesperson shows up in the prospect’s office, he or she is not the only one showing up—the entire shop is. Then and only then, can they all grow and succeed.