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Manufacturing Great Relationships! Account Management For Subcontract Engineering Companies

Sarah Venning
Machined part on top of engineering technical drawings

Across all industries, the nature of sales is often misunderstood and engineering is no exception. Many companies put all of their efforts into chasing new business opportunities and bringing new customers on board; however, it's essential that we don't forget to look after our existing customers in the process. Getting a new customer to put enough faith in your business to place an order is often the biggest hurdle to overcome - once this has been accomplished, it's important that we continue to successfully manage the relationship so that it reaches its full potential.

Account management is quite simply a case of keeping your customers happy. Although unexpected circumstances can occur which may affect your ability to maintain the relationship (after all, we can't hold onto every customer that comes our way), there are a number of steps you can take to ensure that the majority of your clients keep coming back for more.

Take Time to Understand Your Customers:

Good account management starts with understanding your customers and giving them what they value.

Account management isn't always a 'one-size-fits-all' activity. Your customers will vary from company to company, and from person to person. Therefore, good account management starts with understanding your customers and giving them what they value. For instance, one of your clients may enjoy talking regularly with you on the phone, whilst another might be too busy to entertain phone calls more than once a month. You may also have some customers that seek a good price above all else, while others may focus more on great quality components or a fast turnaround. Without exploring the inner workings of your client relationships, it's impossible to know what you should be doing to keep each of your customers happy.

Why not schedule a visit to your customer's premises to learn more about their business? They will be grateful that you've taken the time to understand their setup and it'll also give you an opportunity to strengthen the relationship by chatting more with them one-on-one. You may also be able to identify potential value-adds that you can offer - for instance, a customer ordering large batches of parts may benefit from a KAN-BAN solution, whilst another customer may benefit from secondary processes that they are short on capacity in-house.

READ: How to Grow Your Engineering Business

Communication is Key:

Communication is the lifeblood of your relationship with the buyer.

Even the most phone-shy customers require clear communication - it is the lifeblood of your relationship with the buyer. If your customer is left guessing about delivery timeframes or their order progress, then they'll probably take their business elsewhere in future. This is why it's so essential that you communicate with your customers and make them feel like a priority.

If you struggle to get hold of your customer by phone, then drop them an email - either way, you have to be seen to be communicating with your customer regularly if you want to keep their business. You also need to clearly communicate any changes or deviations from what you agreed with your client - while these can be difficult conversations to have, it's much better to face up to any problems than it is to bury your head in the sand and hope that your client doesn't notice. At the end of the day, unexpected circumstances can - and will - occur. Most of your customers will be very understanding, so long as you communicate these changes at your earliest opportunity so that contingencies can be put in place.

READ: How Can Small Engineering Companies Compete With Larger Outfits?

Be Consistent:

Position yourself as a reliable supplier from the offset.

All businesses value a consistent service from their suppliers. A buyer wants to know what to expect when they place an order - it's not comforting to be left guessing if the quality of the components will be up to scratch, or if they are going to incur additional charges that weren't included in the original quote. Therefore, as a supplier, your duty is to offer a service that can be relied upon. It's not enough to offer your customers a plethora of promises at the start of your relationship which fall by the wayside further down the line. Instead, position yourself as a reliable supplier from the offset and make good on it always - make sure you're sending out high-calibre parts consistently, delivering on time consistently, and communicating consistently. This way, your clients will be sure to put their faith in you time and time again, which means increased business for you and customer satisfaction for them!

READ: How To Add Value To Your Quote

Deliver Within Agreed Timeframes:

It's better to be honest about the lead times your customers can expect from the start.

A customer who is left in the lurch will not be quick to place more business with you in future - after all, supply chain disruptions and late deliveries can mean a fair amount of grovelling to their own customers. The importance of reliable delivery really cannot be understated when it comes to account management within the engineering & manufacturing sector. This means that it's better to be honest about the lead times your customers can expect from the start - don't promise an unachievable turnaround in order to win the business, when you know that you cannot deliver on what you have promised. This will only lead to headaches all round - for both you and your customers.

The same sentiment goes for price as well. Introductory discounts may be enough to entice a new customer through the door, but they're not likely to stick around for very long if you increase your price dramatically shortly after. By quoting a realistic price from the beginning, you're likely to attract a more desirable type of client on board - that is, those who look at the bigger picture of what you're offering, rather than just the cost of your service. These types of customers are also more likely to work with you on a long-term basis, instead of chasing the next low price that they come across.

READ: Finding Your Niche As a Subcontract Engineering Business

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If you're looking for further advice on how to keep your manufacturing customers happy, then Qimtek is more than happy to help! Call us on 01256 394 500, or email sales@qimtek.co.uk.

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About Sarah Venning

Sarah is a sales & marketing content writer, with eight years of experience within the engineering & manufacturing industry.  Working both at Qimtek and on a freelance basis, she can usually be found hammering away at a keyboard or with her head in a pile of engineering drawings. 

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