Sales reps: Tips for Wine importers and distributors on how to retain them
Sales reps are often the only point of contact a retail customer, or on-trade operator will ever have with wine importers and distributors. But how much care and attention are giving to their well-being?
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.
1. It’s all about the money, money, money…
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 know how other wine importers & distributors are paying to their sales reps? I.e. 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.
2. Handcuffs behind the back
That said it is one thing having attractive and industry-leading salaries and bonuses, it is another delivering 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.
3. It’s all about the leads
“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 house. 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 on and build the confidence and foundations to go out and pin down the more elusive customers.
4. It’s the wine stupid
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. Wine importers and distributors may find the wines ranges as unfashionable in just a matter of months if they don’t have enough of the go-to, on-trend wines on there. 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.
5. Part of the family
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 day out about how well individual wines on that list are being tasted and what is in favor or not. It is surprising how far down the pecking order an average sales reps’ 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.
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