Stecker Machine Blog

How to Harness the Power of a Technical Sales Process in a CNC Machine Shop

12/15/2023 | Scott Waak

Modern CNC machine shops have a choice to make. They can approach sales as just another part of doing business, or they can do more to stand out.

For the most successful shops, the sales process is really seen as a technical sales process – a way to share technical know-how, add a unique value proposition to the business relationship, and become a true trusted partner as sales occur. A skilled technical sales team and customer-friendly process give customers confidence that the partnership will be done right.

Sitting down and explaining the advantages of a technical sales process helps a CNC machine shop stand out while reassuring customers. This above-and-beyond approach differentiates a shop among quality competition while letting customers know that this is the right place to source parts.

What Makes for a Great Technical Sales Process?

Specifically within CNC machining, having a team with real machining experience — they’ve done it with their own hands — is invaluable. These experts have worked their way up through the ranks, starting as machinists.

That intimate know-how establishes a high baseline of quality manufacturing and engineering. Instead of delaying conversations and asking an engineer, the team member can answer or provide feedback immediately.

Customers appreciate speaking the same language with someone who “gets it.” From reviewing parts to providing input, a customer receives complete and accurate information. Typical sales people can’t fake discussions to earn that level of trust.

Culture of Excellence

So, how is a technical sales team formed?

It starts at the top. Leadership needs to promote from within, celebrating technical knowledge and quality. Strong leaders create a culture of learning and development, and they put the right people in the right places.

Every shop has its own version of career progression. However, most shops don’t have predetermined or regimented paths for technical sales. Passionate machinists who want to apply their experience to sales are inspired to join.

A machinist just doesn’t transform into a technical salesperson overnight. Training sharpens sales skills, including learning about casting and project estimating. Often, CNC machine shops encourage employee development by reimbursing outside continuing education expenses that advance a career path.

Casting Sets the Tone

Requests For Quotation (RFQs) vary greatly, and the best shops need to be flexible. For instance, a customer asks to quote a part using XYZ as the casting supplier. If the CNC machine shop is unfamiliar with that foundry, research and communication would need to happen to ensure a smooth process and quality part.

Based on experience, sales may recommend an alternative to XYZ, which requires clear communication, especially if the piece price is higher. Sales will discuss the overall value and the long-term impact of using a supplier that’s the best fit for the part.

Some RFQs request simple machining on a casting. Of course, the best shops want to be Tier 1, offering insights and management to ensure a complete, reliable part. Whatever the part’s complexity, the deliverable is always a high-quality, low-cost machined part that meets customers’ needs.

Foundry partnerships impact sales. OEMs ask for foundries’ opinions on machine shops, and their previous experiences often drive their recommendations. Without a doubt, every relationship is important.

The Power of the Technical Sales Process

A technical sales team approaches an RFQ differently than a typical sales department. For one, a design for manufacturability (DFM) mindset is used throughout to pinpoint ways to smooth the process in production.

Then, the following technical sales process is followed:

  1. Gather information: part drawings, models, quantities, material, estimated annual units, etc.
  2. Review casting sources: initial part review helps determine the best foundry fit
  3. Obtain quotes: could be casting only or include other operations (paint, etc.)
  4. Create estimate by asking the right questions (ensuring that the part works with the customer’s fit, form, and function):
  • Who is the casting supplier? What are the casting costs?
  • What process is best?
  • Which machines maximize the process?
  • How will design changes be shared with the customer?
  • What is the machine cycle time?
  • and many more
  1. Send quote: include initial input and notes for the customer to consider

The technical sales process is a great opportunity to review a part’s design to possibly improve its casting, performance, or cost. Although existing designs are often quoted quicker due to familiarity, it’s always important to look closely to see if any changes could make a part better.

If selected …

The Project is Awarded … On To a Successful Launch!

Once chosen for the project, the CNC shop conducts a design review. Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) helps ensure everything is planned for a successful launch:

  • Timeline development
  • Design changes
  • Fixture designs
  • Engineering and quality programs
  • All documentation

Once the APQP process and engineering detailed designs are complete, manufacturing is validated. The prototyped part is machined according to the designed processes, checks are made to ensure it meets drawing specs, and it’s presented to the customer.

After successfully completing the Production Part Approval Process (PPAP), it’s off to production. While some machine shops step back and let production roll, others continuously look for improvements in the cycle time or tooling processes. Opportunities to improve should be top-of-mind and can’t afford to be missed.

Stecker Machine’s Insight is a Value-Add for Customers

The technical sales process may not suit every CNC machine shop, but it works when leadership invests time and energy into technical reviews that make parts and projects better. Constantly looking for cost-reduction opportunities isn’t easy given today’s demands on timely delivery, yet it can set a machine shop apart while making processes better.

Decades of success are an invaluable teacher. Experience — both as machinists and as “salespeople” — gives Stecker Machine’s team an edge when connecting with a customer who wants true collaboration, an internal voice-of-the-customer, and a forward-thinking partner.

That’s the level of service that modern companies need to deliver in order to excel. As a 50-year-old Wisconsin manufacturer and 2022 Top Shop, Stecker Machine not only relies on accurate machining, assembly, and testing, the technical sales process also provides an exceptional customer experience.

One of Stecker’s customers, a Fortune 500 OEM manufacturer, had a unique quality control problem. Want to see our solution? This case study explores part design and manufacturability, the casting supplier selection, and a tight deadline. Click below to get your copy!New call-to-action

Scott Waak

About the Author

Scott pushes Stecker Machine forward. He brings a hands-on approach to a dual role of Sales Account and Customer Service Manager. Scott has over 25 years of experience in the CNC machining industry, starting as a Machinist, and advancing to his current roles. He credits his success to hard work, dedication to manufacturing, and a drive for excellence.