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Sales Coaching 101 for Beer & Wine Sales Representatives

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Regardless of the size or location of your brewery or winery, all businesses have one very important thing in common: your employees will always be your business’s most valuable asset. 

Your employees, regardless of their roles within the business, are all important to making sure things function as a whole. They’re the face of your brewery or winery, the heart and soul of the incredible beverages you create, and a strong reason why your business will either succeed or fail.

When it comes to the internal distribution operation within your brewery or winery, your number one priority will be to hire and train a strong sales team. Here’s how it works:

Hiring Your Sales Team

Before you even begin the hiring process, you need to have a firm understanding of the role you’re looking to fill. Keep the job description concise but don’t forget to include key role expectations and company values to weed out any unqualified candidates. For sales roles, you’ll want to see candidates who have a willingness to learn and grow, a passion for the industry, and relationship-building skills. 

Set up phone interviews to initially screen candidates, and invite your top three or four to come on-site for a physical interview. Ask two or three key employees — likely your leads, supervisors, or managers — to participate in the interview process to make sure the potential hire will be a good fit for your company’s culture. 

Remember: having qualified employees will continually take more and more stress off of your business and management team, leading to more productivity and higher morale all around!

Training Your Sales Team

Now that the hiring process is done, it’s time to start training your newly hired sales representatives. This is one of the most important things you can do to set your business up for success. The quality of sales training is critical because it will determine how productive your new sales reps will be — and will also determine how quickly they’ll get with the program. It’s crucial to dedicate the time and resources necessary for them to do their jobs and to learn each of your sales reps’ strengths and weaknesses. 

Here are a few strategic ways to coach your sales reps to work independently and create strong relationships with existing and future accounts. 

Take Time to Get Off-Site

In the world of distribution, keeping your brand top of mind is the name of the game. That’s why account visits will be a crucial part of your sales reps’ weekly routines. 

Start by introducing new sales reps to your existing accounts, and give them an opportunity to establish their own relationships. This will allow them to observe and practice sales calls and visits with a variety of people, giving them the confidence they need to move on to new accounts. 

Practice their sales pitches with them before they head out into the field, as there’s always room for improvement. Role play as the potential buyer and ask them difficult questions to prepare them for whatever is ahead.

Once you’ve completed the trial selling portion of training, debrief with the representative to see what they’ve learned from each of these interactions, and help them put a plan in place to grow their confidence in the product, business, and their ability to sell in the face of competition. 

Leverage Your Dashboards

A little internal competition can help your team push each other to be better. Set concrete sales goals, and track how each of your sales reps are working toward their goals and how they compare to one another. You’ll also need to give your reps a roadmap that lays out what key performance indicators (KPIs) they need to hit in order to achieve their sales goals. With the right framework and accountability in place, they can all be expected to meet and exceed the goals your business has set for their distribution responsibilities.

Use Your CRM or Business Management Software

Customer relationship management systems (CRMs) are software tools that are built to help you capture data and monitor customers from initial contact to beyond the final transaction. Allowing your sales team to leverage your CRM is important because it streamlines and organizes all customer information, making it that much easier for them to do their jobs. 

CRMs are great tools to help your sales reps organize and manage their account information, track conversations both in-person and virtually, and set reminders to follow up on said conversations. This will also help your sales department to focus on consistently filling their sales funnel with new prospective accounts. 

Be sure to dedicate a portion of the training process to learning how to use your CRM to optimize their sales processes and keep them updated as new features and techniques come up within the software over time. 

Learn from Success: Tobacco Wood Brewing

After utilizing a wholesale distribution partner who wasn’t a good fit, Tobacco Wood Brewing made the decision to transition back to self-distribution for local and regional sales. But with the transition came some struggles — mainly to motivate and train sales representatives who were quickly falling short of company expectations due to a lack of training. 

By leveraging their data via the system Ekos put in place, management was able to accurately track all sales activities and effectively coach sales reps on ways they can improve their sales numbers. This even introduced a healthy spirit of competition among representatives, offering them new and effective strategies to widen and expand new and existing distribution networks. 

Having access to a system that accurately tracks reporting has also been a game changer for Tobacco Wood Brewing’s management team, cutting down 10+ hours on average per month spent on TTB reporting

Celebrate Successes

There’s something to be said for celebrating a job well done. It boosts morale, it incentivizes other sales reps to keep up with some friendly competition, and it gives your team a sense of ownership within the business. 

But beyond just offering commission incentives, what other ways can you reward your reps for a job well done?

  • Recognition at Work: There’s nothing more gratifying than being recognized in front of the rest of the team. If you have an all staff meeting, be sure to mention who’s really going above and beyond in exceeding their sales goals, and reward them in a group setting. 
  • Merchandise: Who doesn’t want to rock a little company swag from time to time — especially if it’s good quality? This can be a great way to recognize your employees for meeting and exceeding their sales goals each month! Plus, they can be “selling” your brand even in their off hours when they’re wearing branded merch.
  • Beer/Wine: One of the perks of the job is loving what you sell, which is why your sales reps will appreciate being able to take a few cans or bottles home to share with their friends and family.
  • Days Off: Offering extra time off for those on your team who are really excelling at their jobs can be a great way to express your business’s gratitude — and help them to stay refreshed and ready to work when they’re back on the clock!
  • Free Lunch or Dinner: Who doesn’t love a free meal? Enough said.

Offering some sort of informal reward program will incentivize your entire team to start picking up the pace. This, paired with the right hiring and training, will give your brewery or winery sales team all the tools, resources, and knowledge necessary to expand your distribution network in no time!

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