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With thousands of sales reps out on the field, competing for sales of their products on limited retail shelf space, selling your wines can be a tricky business. But if you know the basic do’s and don’ts of selling then you will find success not only in finding new buyers but also in retaining the accounts you already sell to.
Sid Patel, CEO of Beverage Trade Network knows a thing or two about what sales reps in the industry should never do. Over his 17 years of being in the industry, Sid knows what a great sales rep looks like, and how they can sell to their accounts effectively.
Retailers always prefer to see their sales reps and give orders in person, especially if it’s the first time. Make sure you set up an in-person meeting with your buyer instead of giving them a call and trying to get an order on the phone. Personal interaction will set the right tone for a long-term relationship with your retailer.
If you are seeing the account manager on Monday at 10 am this week, make sure you show up on Monday at 10 am the next week too. Your discipline of coming in at the same time every week shows the buyer that you’re strategically prepared for the next order. More importantly, retailers will expect you at that time every week, which means that they will think about your products and start preparing orders for you in advance. They will know to keep their calendar free at that time knowing that this is your time to come in to meet them. This may also translate to you not needing to wait or come back another time to meet the retailer making both your and their job easier.
Buyers usually have meetings lined up all week, so if you’re planning to stop by, don’t give them an estimated time. Instead of saying “I will stop by next week when I’m in the area,” ask“I will be coming at 11 am on Tuesday, would that work for you?” Assure your accounts that you are precise and that they can count on you to appear as promised.
As a sales rep, you need to get used to waiting for the buyer. The majority of the time, buyers are busy with their customers, other reps, or bigger brands that came before you. It’s best to be patient and wait for your turn. Never leave your buyer’s office saying things like ‘here is the info, I will get back to you next week’. Instead, ask to come back at a later time.
When retailers give you an order, you should be able to tell them if a particular wine in a certain quantity is available or not. Never tell your retailer ‘let me check with my office and confirm your order’. There are going to be many other reps with the same varietal you’re offering, at a similar price point. Making your retailer wait for confirmation can easily gravitate them towards other brands.
One of the main things buyers look at is the price of your wines. So make sure you have all your prices on hand, with the best discounts and deals you can offer the buyer.
In order to serve your convenience don’t inconvenience the retailer’s prime stars - their customers. These spots are reserved for buyers to come in, make their purchases and make a quick exit. The retailer would not like to hear of a customer not being able to find a parking spot, because it was taken by you! Some customers may also be making a bigger purchase and would not like to carry the heavy stock back to their car parked some distance away. There are usually other spots you can park at and walk the short distance to the retail store.
Make sure to always update your buyers about your availability. Whether you’re sick, on vacation, taking a leave, or even leaving the job; update your account and inform your buyers. Have a smooth transition in place, especially if you need to connect the buyer to someone else.
Believe in your product and back them up with real trends. If chilli infused vodka is not a fast-moving category right now, don’t lie to your buyer that it is. The likelihood of your buyer being updated with trends in the industry is very high, so they will know if you are leading them on the right track or not.
As a sales rep, you need to keep up with how your products are doing. Are they selling? Does the retailer need more? And how can you help? The best way to show you care about your products is to walk the aisles, dust your bottles, make sure all the merchandise is in place, and see how your products are selling. If something isn’t selling, don’t try to sell it back to the retailer. Instead, show them that you’re there to help the wines sell. A great way to do this is by offering your retailer a free tasting to help get your wines off the shelves.
Working the aisles at the retailers is crucial, but it’s also important to keep the buyer in the loop for everything you’re doing on the shelves. At times you might want to move your bottles to a higher level shelf or add new shelf-talkers or case cards. Before doing so, ask for the retailer’s permission. A great way to do this is by setting up a meeting with your buyer and talking to them about how a new case card will help the wine sell better. Or how moving the bottles to a higher/lower shelf will increase the chances of stock clearance.
Buyers are always looking for those brands and reps that are prepared. When appearing for a tasting, make sure you’re prepared with all the things you might need to go through with the tasting. Prepare a checklist for yourself before going to the meeting. For example, make sure your whites are cooled, you have a wine opener on you, and the bottles are clean. As a sales rep, asking a buyer for a wine opener shows that you are unprepared and not professional.
Keep in mind that retailers are busy with a lot of things including weekly tastings and deliveries. As a sales rep you want to make their job easier for them. So if you know that your account is bound to be busy, don’t show up during those times. They won’t be able to pay attention to you, and your presence might hinder their productivity. Make sure you know when your buyers are available to meet.
As a professional, your job is to make your wines seem unique and better than others, but not by putting your competitors down.
In the end you have to sell the wines in your portfolio. If you badmouth your supplier, then your buyer won’t be inclined to purchase those wines from you.
The key to being a strong contender in the sales game is to build strong relationships with others in the industry. Keep in mind, word gets around in the industry, and it’s important for you to be a part of the community where buyers can trust and depend on you.
If a delivery is late, or a bottle is broken, don’t blame the driver or the office. Instead, ensure your buyer that you will fix whatever has gone wrong. For example, if your delivery arrives with a case of broken bottles, then talk to your retailer account and tell them you will replace it, or offer a discount for the next shipment to make up for the loss.