The Single Best Way to Accelerate Your Wine & Spirits Sales

Of all the things you could do to accelerate your sales, this one is by far the most impactful -shift your time, energy, investment and focus away from low value accounts and restrict yourself to only the high value target accounts. Not all accounts are equal – not by a long shot. In fact, the accounts capable of the most volume do about 20 times more volume the average accounts.

But, please don’t take my word for it. Look no further than the Comptroller’s office in Austin which shows the top 50 on premise accounts in Texas buy 19 times as much wine as the average of the top 10,000 accounts. (I didn’t even include the bottom 16,000 accounts in my analysis). If I had, these comparisons would be even more dramatic. Even if you narrow the analysis to just the top 500 on-premise accounts in the state, the top 50 do 3 times the volume of the average of the next 450 accounts. The 80/20 Rule is real, folks!

So, let’s say the average wine & spirits salesperson can reasonably take responsibility for 50 accounts over the course of 1-2 months’ time. WHICH 50 ACCOUNTS ARE YOU GOING TO CALL ON? Keep reading for a few clues.

Now YOU know the single best way to dramatically grow your sales. Narrow the focus of your time, energy, and investment to ONLY the most attractive and responsive accounts. This means if you’re not already practicing this discipline, at the very least you should be able to triple your sales by adopting this simple strategy.

Naturally, this begs the question: why don’t more salespeople do it? Several reasons. First, no one above them is directing them to do it. Second, they allow themselves to be led around by the distributor sales folks who, in spite over their best efforts, lack the freedom to apply the 80/20 Rule to their jobs. Lastly, very few if any sales people or sales leaders stop to analyze the account base and identify the highest value targets in each market. Even if they committed themselves to the exercise, most wouldn’t know where to begin. BTW, don’t waste your time asking the distributor and lists like Zagat and Wine Spectator don’t show you where the VOLUME is being done.

Texas makes it easy. They identify the exact accounts for you (for free). But what about the other 49 states? How do you identify the richest targets in those states? Well, the truth is all you need is a high-speed internet connection and a little help from someone like me who knows exactly where to look and what to look for.

Just one last thing. For those skeptics reading this article who might say, “Most of the top accounts aren’t accessible to small family wineries and craft distilleries,” or “What you say is true in theory, but in the real world the top accounts are controlled by the big suppliers and big distributors.” To these doubters, I simply reply, “Would you like to visit The Post Oak Hotel, the Gaylord Texan, Pappas Brothers Steakhouse, B&B Butchers, Nick & Sam’s and III Forks (all in the top 10 on premise accounts in Texas) with me to see if we can find evidence of them buying wines or spirits from the ‘little guys?’” If you accept, you’d better bring a toothpick because crow tends to get stuck in your teeth in the worst way.

About the Author:
Ben Salisbury is the Founder and President of Salisbury Creative Group, Inc. which specializes in helping wineries and craft distilleries achieve high levels of sales effectiveness. Leveraging his knowledge and experience from three decades in the industry, Ben and his team deliver sales, marketing, and distribution expertise to a wide array of adult beverage clients. Prior to starting his own company in May of 2014, Ben spent 17 years as VP of On Premise National Accounts for both Ste Michelle Wine Estates and Constellation Brands.
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The Secret to Selling Wine & Spirits On Premise

I call this is a “secret” because, it seems, so few people know about it. I recognize there are a solid number of you reading this who will say, “Duh, I’ve been selling this way my whole career.” And, I for, one salute you for it. We need more of you so keep setting a good example. But, for the rest of you ham-handed, self-centered hacks who don’t have a clue what makes someone buy one product over another, allow me to use this forum to enlighten you. Selling wine, spirits, beer (or anything) is not about you or your product.

Here’s what else it’s NOT about: price, taste, ratings, presentations, and all manner of “product attributes.” I’ve got news for you. Your wine is not that special and there are a thousand others just as good at the same price. You can sit there and talk until your blue in the face (or the buyer’s is red) and babble on about your oak regimen and lees stirring and soil types. At the end of the day, in a restaurant operation, none of that matters.

The best place to start having success selling wine and spirits (or anything else) to restaurants is to take the focus off yourself and your wares and put it on the buyer and the restaurant operation you are selling to. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, what makes a restaurant buyer choose one product over the other rarely has anything to do with the product itself. It has to do with the person selling it and that person’s ability to service the account.

Service. Dependability. Trust. THESE are the things that matter to restaurant operators! Will you make sure they don’t run out of product? Will you be there for them when they need an emergency delivery? Will you take the time to educate their staff (not just on your products but on all their products)? Will you honor the price you quoted? Will you keep all the promises you made? Can they reach you when they need you? Will you keep your excuses to yourself? Will you put their needs ahead of yours?

You see, restaurants are all about service. They “get” service and place a very high value on it because that is the “currency” of their business. As a seller to restaurants, you must understand what is important to your buyers. Every restaurant wants three things above all else: grow revenue, control costs, and improve guest satisfaction. How will doing business with YOU help them achieve those objectives?

Put down your spit cup and your aroma wheel for a second and ponder these things: The keys to growing revenue in a restaurant operation are to increase foot traffic, increase incidence, and raise the check average. Can you help your buyer do that? Controlling costs is about reducing inventory, increasing efficiency, minimizing waste, and stabilizing prices. Can you help your buyer do that? Improving guest satisfaction is all about delighting guests with quality, value and experiences. Can you help your buyer do that?

When you walk in the door with your sample back full of products you need to sell, where is your focus? It’s certainly not on the customer. When you do more talking than asking questions, are you exhibiting sales professionalism? Absolutely not and your ineptitude offends not only the buyer but every professional salesperson out there. You give sales a bad name.

Would you like to sell more wine or spirits? Would you like to blow away your quotas and consistently pocket hefty bonus checks? Would you like to win more incentive trips? Would you like to keep your boss off your back? Then, here’s the secret: the more you act like a “salesperson,” the less you will sell.

Selling is not about product presentations, overcoming objections, and closing skills. Not real selling, anyway. It’s about service, dependability and trust. It’s about providing business value to your customer relationships. If you consistently seek to provide these things to restaurants, bars, and hotels, you will “own” the by-the-glass list, the wine list, the room service list, the banquet list, the happy hour list, the late-night list, the well, and the back bar. You will have earned the right to dominate your territory. And all your competitors will scratch their heads and wonder who you slept with or who you bribed because their feeble minds are incapable of “getting it.” To the amateur, success in selling will forever remain: a secret.