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You may have the best sourced and priced wines available and the most competitive and well-thought-through wine list in the country, but where would you be without the salespeople to go out and sell them to your customers? Yet, the turnover of sales reps in an average wine business would suggest that more time and trouble needs to be taken to keep them as well cared for as the wines they are selling.
It might be obvious, but ultimately the whole purpose of being a salesperson is to sell, hit targets, and bring in money for the business. Those who sell the most, receive more money. That’s the way the world goes round. But does it? How well are you paying your sales teams? Do you know how your payment terms compare to your competition? Do you benchmark your salaries and benefits against the competition? Do you only get round to paying an employee more once they threaten to leave? Don’t let it get to that stage. Pay them what they are worth.
That said it is one thing to have attractive and industry-leading salaries and bonuses, it is another to deliver on them. The quickest way to demotivate a sales rep is to offer them the world and then put in so many hurdles in the way that bonuses end up becoming unfulfilled dreams. Very soon your sales reps will behave like they have millstones around their necks, which will only help drag your own business down with them.
“Just give me some good leads,” is what the legendary Jack Lemmon pleads for in the classic Glengarry Glenn Ross, a film that tells you all you need to know about the mentality of a sales rep down on their luck. For Lemmon, it was all about persuading Kevin Spacey to give him some good leads to go and try to persuade homeowners to buy aluminum sidings for their houses. For a wine sales rep, it is about giving them enough good accounts that will give them the easy sales on which they can rely and build the confidence and foundations to go out and pin down the more elusive customers.
When a wine salesperson starts having trouble selling wine, the immediate response is to start questioning how good they are at selling wine. But what if it is the wine range and the individual wines that are actually the problem? Just looking at the bottom line sales figures does not always tell the full story. Wines ranges can become unfashionable in just a matter of months if they don’t have enough of the go-to, on-trend wines. It probably would not have mattered three years ago if you did not have an Albarino, a Picpoul de Pinet, or a Falanghina on your list. But pity the poor sales rep trying to sell in a range without them today.
How involved are the sales reps in the big decisions being made about what wines are being kept or dropped in your next wine list review? After all, they are the ones talking to customers day in and day out about how well individual wines on that list are being tasted and what is in favour or not. It is surprising how far down the pecking order an average sales rep’s views are. Being out on the road can get lonely, and any steps that the main business can take to make their salespeople feel involved, and included in the wider business will go a long way to keeping them happy.