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Tips for Liquor Sales Reps to Sell More Effectively

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12/12/2018 Execute these tips carefully and sell more during the slow period

For liquor sales reps, it is important to be able to make it through the slow times of the year when it can seem close to impossible to make a big sale. One of those times is the post-holiday period when both on-premise and off-premise accounts are no longer stocking up for the big holiday rush. So what are some sales tactics that you can use to get through this slow period?

Take the big picture view

Sales is a relationship-driven business, so it’s no wonder the lack of sales during any time of the year can start to chip away at any person’s sense of self-worth. But here’s the thing – the lack of sales is not a statement about you, your wines, or even your company. Instead, it’s simply due to natural slowdowns in the business cycle. For the on-premise and off-premise industries, sales will naturally be a lot slower in January and February.

That’s why it is so important to take a big picture view of the situation. As experienced liquor sales reps sometimes like to point out, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” What this means is that you need to stop focusing so much on week-to-week or month-to-month sales, and instead focus on annual sales. That will help you develop the right mindset throughout the year.

Embrace creativity and innovation

Another way to get through a sales slump is by coming up with creative approaches to selling that your competitors are not using. For example, during the winter months, everyone might be focused on showing big, bold, full-bodied reds. So why not think a little differently and show some wines that others are not, such as a very food-friendly rosé or a sparkling white? Both of these can make very nice accompaniments to any holiday meal. Plus, after hearing sales pitch after a sales pitch for Cabernet Sauvignon wines, on-premise and off-premise accounts will be relieved to hear about something new.

And your creativity and innovation don’t have to stop there. For example, one way to put this creativity to work is by coming up with new ideas for your accounts to move any inventory that might have to remain from the holiday season. For restaurant accounts, you might help with the design of new drink menus, or by coming up with new Happy Hour specials or promotions. Smaller, independent restaurants and wine bars often lack the resources to come up with a lot of new marketing ideas, and any advice you can offer will be much appreciated (and might even result in some new sales). For retail store accounts, you can help to come up with innovative themed tastings that will help to draw foot traffic into those stores.

Think in terms of relationships, not transactions

For any buyer, it will be obvious when you are just trying to reach personal sales goals rather than truly offering wines and spirits that make a good match for their current needs. To avoid this, you will need a change in mindset. Instead of thinking solely in terms of transactions (i.e. making the next sale), you should be thinking in terms of relationships.

By doing so, you will be incentivized to come up with individual tasting selections for each account, rather than assuming that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is best. Moreover, you will expand your own knowledge of wine when you focus on curating great wine selections, rather than just looking at what you need to sell more of in order to “make your number” for the month or quarter.

Anticipate client needs before anyone else

Moreover, by thinking in terms of relationships and not transactions, you will be able to anticipate future needs. For example, in the post-holiday period, one upcoming need would be wines and spirits for Valentine’s Day. Usually, this means plenty of high-end, premium spirits and plenty of sparkling wine (including Champagne), so the sooner you can start putting together a customized selection for accounts, the better. You will literally be one step ahead of the competition.

Find new ways to diversify your account portfolio

One way to avoid any sales slump is by diversifying your account portfolio. If all of your accounts are in the same geographic area, or all are the same type of venue, or all have the same client base, it will be a lot harder to avoid slumps. That’s why many experienced liquor sales reps advise diversifying as much as possible, even down to the neighborhood level. For example, in some neighborhoods, key accounts may be out of town frequently and hard to reach. It only makes sense, then, to make sure that you are not always relying on this one neighborhood to make your numbers.

Many sales reps are only thinking in terms of product diversification, that is, making sure they have a wide range of wines and spirits at different price points to show accounts. But account diversification is something very different. In order to do this effectively, you need to know your accounts and their clientele very well. And this is exactly the type of knowledge that will serve you well throughout the year.

Be present

This piece of sales advice might seem obvious, but it is always surprising how many people forget it. The majority of sales success simply comes from showing up. So make it a habit to stop by accounts during slow periods, if only to chat and catch up. You never know where a conversation might lead you. For example, small talk about the difference between oaked and unoaked Chardonnays might lead to an order for a new Chardonnay in your portfolio.

Be thankful

And, finally, take time out to show gratitude to your accounts. A slow period is a great time to take people out for meals or drinks, and just to reconnect. This builds on the idea of creating great, long-lasting relationships that you can count on year-round. Just saying “thanks” goes a long way.

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By leveraging these tips and tactics, you will be able to sell more effectively throughout the year. And, best of all, you will have plenty of options for overcoming any slow periods in sales you might encounter, such as during the post-holiday period.

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