- Sales Execution
- Trade Marketing
- Advanced Analytics
I’m excited to be participating in the upcoming Craft Beverage Expo in Santa Clara, CA on May 6th – 8th. This is their second annual event and is really big already! Over 100 exhibitors and lots of great sessions led by industry experts will take place throughout the 2 days around topics including Business Development and Distribution, Marketing, Regulatory & Compliance and Finance.
I’m personally presenting “Executing Your Brand Strategy at Retail” on the expo floor, leading a session called “Competing for the Retail Shelf”, and participating in a panel session titled “Take Action: Grow Your Sales with the Right Data”. I’m honored to be involved in this great event and looking forward to being with so many people that share my passion… selling great beverages! Hope to see you there!
I recently saw some great insights from my old colleague, Charles Gill from Winemetrics, regarding a downward trend in wine in the on-premise. Craft beer and cocktails are clearly hot categories for consumers, but sales execution has something to do with it, too. Charles’ analysis is focused on on-premise chain business and their beverage menus/promotions, but is indicative of what’s happening all over the on-premise universe. So, why are wine offerings and visibility slipping in the on-premise?
This presentation was the outcome of our last GreatVines staff retreat, where we developed and refined our product messaging. John talked about it in our inaugural newsletter titled “THE JUICE” (subscribe below). It helps explain what we do and more importantly why we do it, from basic CRM concepts like “know your customer” to more advanced concepts involving analytics and incentives relating to field execution.
The technology available in the Beverage Sales market today has created two camps that are both competing for the same sales and customers. Some companies stick to old formulas, often implemented several decades ago, and rely on the written word and Excel spreadsheets to document their sales, activities and goals. Other companies take a more modern approach by taking advantage of new technology and converting to the updated options now available.
Pharrell Williams is not the only one making people happy in 2014. One of our core goals and founding tenets at GreatVines is 100% Customer Satisfaction. After implementing ZenDesk (customer support software solution) two years ago to help manage all support related issues, we have handled over 5,500 tickets submitted by our customers. They contact our Customer Success team via email, phone or through our ZenDesk Customer Support Portal, where they can search and read help articles, documentation and best practices, as well as create a ticket for support.
In total, over 600 tickets have been rated by customers after their tickets have been resolved. We are proud to report that we have earned a 100% Satisfaction Rating (actually 99.5%) from our customers. In addition, our response time is also getting faster. Currently, 45% of tickets are responded to within 1 hour, and over 75% are responded to within the same day.
While 100% ratings of “I’m Happy” is great, we strive for perfection. We have had 3 tickets rated “Not Happy” over the last 2 years, which means we have room for improvement. We are working on some additional Customer Success tools for our customers to access on their own through our ZenDesk Help Center, and also aim to improve our response time and deliver support even faster in the future. At GreatVines, our Customer’s Success is our success. It’s what makes us happy.
According to the National Restaurant Association and the U.S. Census Bureau, this summer saw Eating and Drinking Place Sales in the U.S. , an indicator of how much consumers are spending in the on-premise, grow to its highest point on record. That equalled $47.3 billion in on-premise sales in the month of July alone. This is great news for our industry in general, but even better news for brands that are maximizing the on-premise selling opportunity by “going deep” in this channel with micro-managed sales activities and promotions.
The reality is that some products are not seeing this growth because they are not going to market with the right strategy for today’s landscape. The old route to market for suppliers is no longer valid. Market share is shifting to products that engage the on-premise trade in ways that set them apart from their competition. The “go wide” with distribution approach simply isn’t working, and will not garner the highly desired attention of the on-premise trade.
To maximize the potential of the on-premise channel, companies must “go deep” into each account with their level of activities, and execute better than the competition. Targeting and focusing only on high image or volume key accounts that drive the on-premise business is a good start. Once the right accounts are identified and sales reps are goaled on achieving success in these accounts, you can begin executing. By astutely planning your visits and communications, and managing the key sales driving activities to be executed in each account, real results can be measured and tracked. From enhancing relationship with buyers and influencers to presenting relevant content to them, all activities should be tracked.
Implementing brand activation programs like staff trainings and consumer promotions must be taken very seriously and executed well. The details are important! Establishing brand visibility with custom point of sale material, drink lists and menus will ensure your products achieve more than their fair share of the business in the account. Working with key accounts isn’t easy, which is why all of these sales activities should be planned, executed and measured in accordance with your company’s sales methodology, which clearly defines what you should be doing to achieve success.
Established brands that rely on their historical market share and advertising visibility are losing to smaller craft products that take the time to “go deep” with their key customers. Everywhere you look, you see new brands and craft products on drink lists and menus. These products are not the category leaders, nor do they have large advertising campaigns. So, how did they get this valuable menu presence in these key accounts? They focused their efforts, and went “deep” with the accounts that matter. They executed better than the other guys. This focused effort will pay off exponentially as consumers take the signals from these top on-premise accounts home with them, one consumer at a time.
Do you have the right systems in place to “go deep” and execute better than the competition?
We live and work in a relationship-driven business. The key drivers are not merely transactional. What we know about our customers and partners is vital to build strong relationships and repeatable success. More importantly, when your team members move on to new territories, or worse – new jobs, those relationships often go out the window. Continuing with the sports theme for a second, I often give the example of knowing your customers’ favorite teams. It is horribly awkward to walk into an outlet and attempt to build rapport by bragging about a team your customer despises.
GreatVines certainly did not invent the concept of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). We have, however, taken over 50 years of combined expertise in the “adult beverages” industry, and partnerships with leading technology providers, to develop a solution which captures all the critical steps of the selling process. While basic individual attributes like spouse, children and sports teams ARE important, GreatVines takes this further by capturing tastes and preferences, results of promotional events and trainings, verbal commitments to order, plus much more, all summarized at the Account level. We see this information as actionable data that should be used to drive the relationship forward and accomplish strategic goals and objectives. As we like to say: “Using Technology to Sell More Cases”.
Tom Cruise, in the film “Jerry Maguire”, titles his sports agency mission statement “The Things We Think And Do Not Say”. Putting this in the context of a sales professional, I think of it more like “The Things We Do And Do Not Write Down”. Sales representatives as well as managers, should record every interaction. What was discussed? Was there interest expressed in new products? Is the target demographic of this Account changing? Today these insights might be “phoned in” or sent by email. When was the last time you ran a summary report based on emails you received?
Most sales professionals in our industry manage over one hundred Accounts, each with multiple decision makers and influencers. As a sales manager, you might call randomly on hundreds of Accounts with over a thousand individuals associated. If you are incentivizing your sales team based on their sales execution and not only case volumes, the metrics which drive those incentive payouts should be based solely on what was recorded in the system. Your business deserves more than paying for anecdotal information about your customers.
Jim Thompson is Co-Founder and CTO of GreatVines, as well as an avid home brewer, private pilot, musician, and evangelist for disruptive technologies. Although generally not a sports fan, he has watched “Jerry Maguire” a thousand times, and is often reminded that “dogs and bees can smell fear.”
The best sales reps in the industry all have their own way of working that they become very comfortable with. But even the best aren’t maximizing their selling opportunities. An important part of our training is showing how GreatVines will help them sell more cases easily. Once they see how it works and what you can do for them, they are hooked!
Sales reps and managers are typically busy people juggling many accounts and many new projects and tasks. Finding out they have to implement a new software system to keep track of EVERYTHING can illicit a mix of fear and wonder. Where will they find the time to devote to learning something that complicated?
Something that our customers often share is how easy it is to get started using the system. This is even more true now with our simplified mobile application. Customers learn that not only does GreatVines provide a very detailed number of options for storing information, but it does not make someone new to the system feel as if it will be a chore to learn it. In fact, two hours of training or less is all that is needed to get going.
Acknowledge with your team that the process is iterative and you will be making changes and improvements over time. Getting up and running quickly ensures that the business can best tailor the configuration for optimal usage and adoption, thus avoiding the dreaded “90 day throw away” where lots of collected data becomes useless and users feel like their time has been wasted. Encourage users to embrace the iterative nature of these cloud-based systems.
GreatVines is designed to be intuitive, making it easy for every user to move naturally through familiar industry choices. What you need to know (and even some things you didn’t know you can keep track of easily) are all accounted for as you make your way through the program. A quick way to decrease user adoption is to ask them to track details about an Account that are never reported on. Knowing whether a particular outlet has a cold box, or the width of the back bar, is only useful if you target activities and promotions to those Accounts via reporting. While one extra field is generally harmless, resist the temptation to track EVERYTHING just because you can. Focus on simplifying the data collection process to support only your key sales drivers, adding more data dimensions over time.
A typical training session takes place online through GoToMeeting, saving everyone from having to travel or sit through day-long seminars. The sessions are archived for easy referral, and once the initial training takes place, clients are able to go right to work on it. They can train in the morning and start surveying accounts in the afternoon! This is followed up with an additional short training and Q&A session that really rounds out the knowledge they need to begin being more effective.
It is truly a “learn as you go” system, recognizing that people learn most effectively and comfortably when they take intuitive steps. You crawl before you walk, and walk before you run. Don’t let fear of a complicated program or a time-consuming back-to-school marathon keep you tied down to a system that doesn’t meet your needs. GreatVines provides quick, easy and intuitive training that will have people up and running on day one. After all, it’s designed by sales people for sales people.
Lots of companies do surveys. Surveying is important, especially at the beginning of key selling periods to drive execution, but most companies do it all wrong and waste the effort they put into the survey.
You have a push to get displays, so you do a survey to check display activity in accounts. You want presence in a well, on a backbar, or a cocktail menu so you survey for that as well. However, most companies don’t maximize their survey efforts. They survey, and forget about it until all the surveys results have been rolled up into a massive spreadsheet (some weeks later) and the volume results for the month are reported to answer the question “how well did we execute this season?” Which is great for analysis… after the fact.
The better reason to survey is to drive the actual execution during the season to get the most out of the selling opportunity. At GreatVines, we believe the survey is an execution tool, not just a measurement tool. Our application enables your company to use Surveys to improve your execution at point of sale.
Key steps to using a survey to drive execution
If you utilize GreatVines to follow this Survey methodology, you are sure to gain incremental sales from increased execution at point of sale.
Many companies in our industry are doing things the old fashioned way. Their common practice is to review monthly reports of sales summarized by geography and or product, then react by applying pressure to “do better” down the chain of command. At best, they get the same old results. At worst, they get run over by the more progressive and nimble competitors. We see the same thing happening with both small and large companies who use this old fashioned approach.