The hardest part of the adult beverage business is not making the product. There are trained distillers, brewers, and winemakers that can handle that.  It is not accounting for your sales and revenue, because you hire the trained CPA, or accountant for that. It is not the canning, bottling, or closure requirements because (and you are likely seeing a pattern here), there are numerous professionals that can handle that. The hardest part of of our business, the most difficult part of being a “player” in this game is the the selling teams and selling of your brands. It does not matter if this is an inside sales force for your brand or an outside force like BevStrat, the whole sales thing is ripe with pitfalls and challenges.

We get calls all day, especially during this upcoming critical period about selling brands for suppliers because either:

  1. Their inside force is ineffective
  2. The ‘brand ambassador’ is only the ambassador of his/ her expense account
  3. The distributor is slammed because a much larger supplier needs to hit EOY sales goals, and said distributor will need to put your best assigned person on another brand.

Yes, all are real scenarios, and yes, all really happen, and yes, it will likely happen to you if you are under 75,000 cases sold in market. #truthhurts

When creating and investing in your sales teams we recommend the following:

  1. Be very clear as to what success looks like.
    • Is it cases sold?
    • Is it account opens?
    • Is it number or repeat orders?
  2. People are not always driven by spiffs or money rewards
    • We use all sorts of perks including meals and entertainment, gift cards, and days off to indent our teams for success. Also, sales teams LOVE contests!
  3. Manage people like the Chicago Cubs did in last years World Series
    • Use team first mentality and not one lead player mentality. We have more success with team selling than by prioritizing sales people individually.
  4. Track the hell out of what is happening out there
    • Sales teams want to be tracked and want sales success to be documented
    • Celebrate it, communicate it, and make sure everyone knows what is happening

Our strategy is to own a market and focus on the on and off premise sellers to gain wide approach, along with a deep approach. With a current 500,000 cases in market from our makers we are seeing that traction can be defined in many ways.  

Opening accounts leads to selling accounts, leads to repeat orders, leads to brand building. This all takes time and patience.

We don’t generally prefer to work with suppliers that need cases for short term survival, but rather like to build sustainable brands for long term success. Building a brand long term is a skill that defines Zima from Tito’s. One is gone, one is thriving.

If you are a maker that operates your own sales teams, try to look at them as a relationship team instead of a sales team, they are very different goals with different results.

If you are a distributor and you only sell for EOM, EOQ, EOY, than the next price driven brand will be your new favorite, and you will not be successful in building a sustainable brand.

Brokers and Brand Ambassadors are a tired of the old school method of the staid three tier system. If you cannot measure success numerically, than did it really happen? We have many associates that are former ‘brokers,’ and their line when interviewed is always, “we didn’t do much, and no one held us accountable”!  That whole sentence makes me sad and frankly angry.

Makers count on sales for survival, and here is this nationwide broker network that prey on the brand as an inexperienced, nubile operation that is ripe for the rip off.

The tortoise will alwaysl win a brand building race and likely a sales race as well. When our clients want a bump for Q4, we can provide that, sure, but it is much more enjoyable to build a long term relationship brand with a long sales cycle. Casa Amigos was not bought for current sales, it was bought for future sales.

If you are a maker, do what you do best! If being a visionary and building your brand is what your passion is, than have at it and kill it. Selling is more of a tactical skill than a passionate desire, and thus leave it to the people that have chosen that as their measure of success.

No one, and I mean no one, wants a CPA to fix a leaky roof. Sales is no different. Do what you know!

Brian RosenThree Tier Talk
by Brian Rosen,

Brian Rosen is Former CEO of America’s #1 Retailer, Sam’s Wines in Chicago, Former Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Retail and sought after retailer consultant.

He can be reached at @rosenretail or [email protected]

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