Tami Swearingin is Regional Sales Manager for Aerospace North America. She leads a dynamic Sales and Technical Service team. But her fast-paced job – and more than 20 years working in the industry – isn’t Tami’s only connection to aerospace. She is also a licensed single-engine aircraft pilot. “I’ve been fascinated with aircraft ever since I was a child, so learning to fly was a goal I had to achieve.”

Today, Tami channels her passion for aircraft into driving the success of Aerospace Coatings in North America. “To me, a sale is never a one-off,” she says. “We build life-long relationships with our internal and external customers, deliver on our commitments and provide best-in-class service.” For Tami and her team, the focus is always on creating long-term value for the company, and promoting AkzoNobel’s premier technologies and products every day to win and grow our business.

Tami sets the strategies and interfaces with customers to propel the company forward. “I love the art/dance of it all. Building the business, the team, the culture,” Tami continues. “And most of all, I love walking through the airport and seeing our Aerodur and Aerobase products on all the aircraft lined up at the gates – American, United, Southwest, and Alaska Airlines, just to name a few.”

Building a team with passion

For Tami, the key to sales success is the right team with the right skills. “We continuously need to do more with less, so we have to find the right people who are passionate about the company, industry, customers, products, and our aerospace teams,” she says.

Leading by example is part of Tami’s strategy, as it has helped her to build the right culture. “We need a team that supports the entire business and allows us ALL to win including our customers and business partners, and that starts with me,” Tami says. She encourages her team to act as each other’s sounding board, support network, and biggest fans. “We have pride in what we do and the company we do it for. Failure, or not delivering on a commitment, isn’t an option.

Going beyond the sale

Tami goes on to explain that the Sales team members have to be more than just good salespeople. They have to be good project managers, great relationship builders and have to support their colleagues by working together as a team. They must provide our customers with best-in-class support and service.

That includes her dedicated Technical Service Team, who spend long hours supporting paint applications, and providing training to ensure the best possible paint application. “Our customers tell us we have the best Technical Service Team in the industry, hands down,” Tami explains with pride. “This reputation affords us many opportunities to expand our product offer to current customers and gain new customers.”

Taking our place in the industry

Tami credits her diverse team as one of the reasons AkzoNobel is seen as the ‘go-to’ company in the industry. Team members from a variety of backgrounds come together with a common goal, and broad interests. Besides their ‘normal’ Sales background, Tami’s team members include Aerospace Engineers, Aerospace Painters, a Military Helicopter Colonel/Pilot, Marketing professionals, an Aerospace Corrosion Specialist, and more. The team also participates in industry organisations like SAE, ACPC, EAA, AAAA and NGAUS, which helps them stay connected to the industry and to customers.

Facing the challenges

Despite their drive and passion, the Sales team is not without challenges. They work hard to keep their internal relationships as strong as their external ones. “We are all remote employees and don’t work at an office where we would see our teammates on a more regular basis,” she explains. “As a team, we believe that our internal customer relationships (the teams that support us at AkzoNobel) are just as important as our external customer relationships.”

On an industry-wide level, Tami has set her sights on a lofty goal. “I would like AkzoNobel to be first to the Aerospace market with Qualified Products that allow us to remove the hexavalent chromium Cr+6, from all our primers, and yet maintain the protection quality of our chromated materials.”

AkzoNobel currently leads the Aerospace industry in this area with our Non-Chromated Primers for Decorative Applications, such as Aerodur 2111, 2118 and 2100. The labs are working hard to make us the first to the market with structural and fuel tank primers without chromates. “Since they will be AkzoNobel innovations, I know OEMs will be able to use them with confidence, and we can finally eliminate chromates from every product that protects aircraft,” Tami concludes