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Sales Expectations


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We provide our spirits to a warehouse run by the State of Ohio which then provides the spirits to restaurants and bars.  We have a salesman that calls on bar/restaurant owners/managers and offers tastings to see if they would like to carry our spirits.  This method works very well for another distillery in Ohio but it has not worked for us very well.  How many in-person contacts should we expect our salesman to make each week?

We do tours/tastings and our spirits are well received by the buying public and the call reports from our salesman give nothing be glowing reports on the tastings he has had with the bar/restaurant owners/managers.  

Any and all input is greatly appreciated.

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Couple things:

What price are you charging? Wholesale accounts are very price sensitive.

What type of products are you selling?

-- Are you selling whiskey (a very crowded market)? If so it's going to be tough to get significant traction.

-- Are you selling something they can add value to? Something like a mix or gin or something they can throw in a cocktail? If you have something interesting here I've found bars to more receptive.

-- Are you selling something that's more retail oriented like a cordial or something else with a lot of sugar in it? That decreases the likelihood that a bar will pick it up as it reduces their ability to add value to it in a cocktail.

Also from my limited experience in the wholesale arena, if you're not in the well you'll be lucky to sell a bottle a month to an account. We've been lucky so far that everything we've done so far has been pull based (they come to us). We have done very limited out selling and we don't have that much to show for it.

For me, in the craft world, retail is key. Way more profit, way less cost to sell. Instead of paying an out salesman focus on getting people in your retail shop (if you have one).

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11 minutes ago, Foreshot said:

Couple things:

What price are you charging? Wholesale accounts are very price sensitive.  Around $26.00 per 750ml the the suggested retail for our coffee and chocolate vodka.  $27.50 for Single Malt 90 proof.

What type of products are you selling?

-- Are you selling whiskey (a very crowded market)? If so it's going to be tough to get significant traction.  Whiskey is crowded but not with Single Malt.  Our flavored products are well received in the tasting room as well as when tasting is done at the bar or restaurant.  Single malt is just another whiskey to them.  

-- Are you selling something they can add value to? Something like a mix or gin or something they can throw in a cocktail? If you have something interesting here I've found bars to more receptive.  Not allowed in Ohio

-- Are you selling something that's more retail oriented like a cordial or something else with a lot of sugar in it? That decreases the likelihood that a bar will pick it up as it reduces their ability to add value to it in a cocktail.  Whiskey and Vodka.  The Vodka is also malt based since we are a malt house

Also from my limited experience in the wholesale arena, if you're not in the well you'll be lucky to sell a bottle a month to an account. We've been lucky so far that everything we've done so far has been pull based (they come to us). We have done very limited out selling and we don't have that much to show for it.  The bars and restaurants that are repeat customer are the martini crowd.  Our coffee and chocolate Vodka are sold as part of $12 martini's in upscale establishments.  The barley is grown for us by Ohio farmers and malted in our malt house so we have a good story to tell.

For me, in the craft world, retail is key. Way more profit, way less cost to sell. Instead of paying an out salesman focus on getting people in your retail shop (if you have one).  We do Groupon tours, have a sign on the Interstate but for REAL repeat business we are focusing on bars and restaurants.  When we get our products into a bar or restaurant we are an instant success.  We just don't get into enough places.  This is why my question was about how many contacts per day our salesman should be making.

 

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Finding good sales outlets is a competitive business indeed. We've largely given up on bars and restaurants as we can't compete with the big brands, their rock bottom wholesale prices and the payola they use to keep their spirits in the 'well', as it were. We've also found bars and restaurants simply don't move enough craft product overall, and our idea of volume and theirs are two different realities. We currently have one restaurant that is doing reasonably well for us - but, that's only six bottles a week. Hardly worth getting out of bed for. So, we focus on being as creative as possible. We work harder at private retail stores because they order a couple thousand dollars of product at a time every few weeks, so it's worth the effort. But, we've found we only make the sales because we are actually visit the stores - which, translates into relationship selling. You have to have great relationships with store managers who believe in your product and will actually lift a finger to sell it. 'Cuz if they ain't selling it, they ain't reordering! To build these relationships, we've had to get rid of reps (the stores hate them) and show up ourselves. But, that creates a problem for us because we have a lot to do and running around to stores is not high on the priority list. We are a very small operation but we are really good at selling a lot of product and we've created growing popular demand which is also critical in getting retail store interested in and actually moving your products.

 

 

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Selling alcohol is a world awash in every kind of booze is an art unto itself. You never know. Just this last week we attended a distillers festival and we were up against 29 other distilleries, several with excellent reputations with newly minted awards and buzz. Yet, we were the top selling distillery by a comfortable margin. :)

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On 4/12/2022 at 10:28 PM, Glenlyon said:

We've largely given up on bars and restaurants as we can't compete with the big brands, their rock bottom wholesale prices and the payola they use to keep their spirits in the 'well', as it were.

That's the key. Chasing bars is a race to the bottom. If you feel your product is good enough only target the higher end bars. And again, if you're not in the well you won't be selling many bottles. Being on the bar back is cool but doesn't equal many sales. You should focus on retail until your name gets out there more. When bars start coming to you then pick up the sales person again.

Win your street, win your neighborhood, win your city, win your region, win your state. The only way to skip that is tons of marketing $$$. Having a great product helps but it's not a magic bullet.

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  • 2 months later...

Foreshot,

Have to agree.  Unless you have boku marketing dollars, play small ball.  AND it's not uncommon for a great product to not sell well.  That's where proper differentiated marketing plays an important role.  You have to know, what distinguishes you from all the rest?

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I think it’s important to be realistic about product success pre market. Malt whiskey just isn’t that popular, especially in Ohio. You may be before your time here on this one. People that currently have financial success with malt have much larger distro foot prints and are able to move less volume in more markets in an efficient manner. Do not look at scotch as a category and try to tell me I’m wrong. You’re not making scotch. And all of that still applies. 
 

how is your sales person paid? How much experience do they have? Have you considered brokers?

 

edited less and more 

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Thanks to everyone that has responded.  I should have titled the topic "Sales Calls Expectations".  

Here's the real question.  How many in-person contacts should we expect our salesman to make each week?

He would be calling on high end bars and restaurants and talking to the bar manager, GM or owner.

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That's a great question. After sending out an experimental salesperson, she could hit 4 - 6 places a day. But, I also suspect she spent a percentage of time - not being in a rush, let's just say. She closed sales but she failed to generate consistency of relationships that would lead to re-orders and a comfortable experience. So, over time we let most of those contacts slip away. Instead, focusing on fewer stores - but, each of those stores have established a local audience for our stuff and the salespeople know and even drink our stuff. Also, most stores will only focus on one or two of your beverages - even though you may have a lot more to offer.

A note here - over that last few years we've done quite a bit of advertising and marketing. This year, we've done only about a third as much - it's starting to reflect n our sales - so, marketing and advertising is key and you have to be relentless about it. Even if the costs and time expenses are making you grouchy and you wonder if you are actually getting results. You probably are.

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