Sales reps: Tips for 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 a wine importer and distributor. 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 sales people 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 sales person it 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.

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 sales person 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 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 favour 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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How can importers and distributors support their retail customers via social media?

If you are not using social media to drive business and consumers to your retail customers’ doors then your competition most certainly is.

We might spend an increasing part of our social life glued to our favorite social media platforms on our smartphones and tablets, skills we might think are not relevant to our business life. Well, think again. Social media now gives importers, suppliers, and distributors the chance to be more relevant, more effective and more valuable to their retail customers than ever before. Here are five reasons why.

1. Up, close and personal

Social media allows us to get up close and personal with complete strangers in a way that has become a completely accepted way of life. Imagine 10 years ago receiving a knock on the door and being offered a personal, handwritten letter offering you a 20% discount from a supplier or brand to go and spend in one of your local retailers. Well, that’s what a promoted tweet direct to your Facebook or Twitter feed effectively is. If you can help persuade your social media followers to take that promo code and spend it with your chosen retail customer then everyone is a winner

2. Fans and followers

The reason why it’s so important for importers and suppliers to build up their own social media networks – their own followers and fans. You have to have a captive audience to influence. The more fans and followers you have, the more chance there is to please them and your retail customers by giving them reasons to go and spend their money in their stores.

3. Retailer ambassadors

As an importer or drinks distributor, you might only have one, two or three products with any given retail customer going into either its wine, beer or spirits departments. But the retailer itself is selling thousands of products across multiple categories. They only have the time or budget to promote a handful of them. It is why the most effective distributors are now the ones that can do the retailer’s promotional work for them. Act as their ambassadors and help push the brands they are selling direct to potential shoppers on social media.

4. At a distance

Social media might allow businesses to engage and connect with people online like never before, but for retailers, it is a relationship they need to handle with care. Yes, they are attracted to the idea of communicating directly with their customers on social media, but at the same time, they are wary of bombarding them with too many unwelcome promotions and offers. Which is why an importer or distributor can be a valuable ally. They can handle and nurture that consumer relationship on the retailer’s behalf with targeted and personalized activity on social media about specific products that retailer sells.

5. Repeat business

The alcohol category has long been one of the most important and effective footfall drivers for any retail business. It is why the retailers spend so much money promoting their beers, wines and spirits offers. But getting a customer through the door once for a promotion is one thing, getting them to repeatedly come back is nirvana. Imagine how valuable you will be to any retailer if you can use your social media relationships to identify the core consumers willing to engage and go back time and again to the same retailer with the right repeated targeted promotions. That’s a social media strategy that drives bottom line sales for both you and your retail customers’ businesses.

International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show(IBWSS) London Exhibitor Registrations Now Open. Register Now.