It is a right of passage in the adult beverage business. A producer comes to a market and rides around with the sales team or market manager and visits accounts. As old as the three-tier system is this practice.
There are really two points of view on this practice; besides the overarching thought that it is a supreme waste of time for both sides.
The cynicism comes not from a bad place, but rather from my 30 years of big box retailer CEO experience, and I just spent a few days this week with a long time producer who echoes the pain from her side.
Let’s talk cause and effect: the goal when a producer comes to town is to work the market, sell cases into the channel, and work the relationship with the distributor. That is the goal, but the effect is different. The producer wants to sell more cases, that is fact, but the method and anarchy of the ride along, the old school way of doing that type of transaction is dead. Unless you are Cambria or Estancia you are put with a junior sales person or worse, a merchandiser, and driven around the market in-between a fast casual lunch.
From the retail perspective it takes time and effort to glad hand this process. Surely it is exciting to meet the winemaker or producer, it is thrilling to hear the tales of the product and create a relationship, but do these visits garner case sales? And the better question; do they garner repeat orders?
Repeat orders are the bread of the business, and while ride alongs can achieve initial orders, it is unmeasured if they can get repeat orders.
I wonder often with all the technology that has infiltrated our lives, saving time and effort. Yet in our business, the generations laden wine business, we still must travel, press the flesh, and work a market for sales success.
The ride with, the ride along, is not a process that works any longer. Producers don’t like it, retailers don’t like, restaurants hate it, and frankly there is no data that affirms that it has a lasting effect.
Is there another way? Is there another way to activate a market with case sales, a method that is current with the other sales tools that we all use on a daily basis?
I don’t know the answer, but I know the market is ripe for the group that does.