Archive for the ‘Sales Strategy’ Category

October 1, 2014 · by Cort Kinker · Sales Strategy

cort word cloudThe 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. The nimble and tech-savvy companies have a decided advantage over the slow-to-change approach that is still married to old school ways.

Initially, most brands were marketed via a hard-working distributor sales force that got the product in front of the consumers.  Some marketing and advertising was utilized, but most brands were built on sweat equity. As times changed, distributors consolidated, and there was an increase in advertising, with the edge going to companies who could influence local distributors and bankroll high-tech systems that monitor brand progress.

Times have changed again, and new and more detailed tools and technology have helped even the playing field for all types of companies, from the biggest suppliers and distributors down to the smallest craft brewery. Many companies have learned to employ current technology to target customers better, deploy their salespeople more precisely, and collaborate internally to be more productive. They measure their success with metrics that are actionable and focus in on sales drivers in the key accounts.

These same companies are adeptly utilizing social media to directly reach and listen to their current and prospective consumers, and they are authentically connecting with those in the trade that serve as gateways to their consumers. Just as social media and email reduced the cost of direct access to consumers, the expansion of the internet and the reduced cost of cloud storage have made CRM systems affordable, accessible from anywhere, and increasingly sophisticated.

A company that doesn’t stay on top of the newest and most modern ways of running their sales department is risking its bottom line, future and even reputation within the Beverage Sales community. A slow, out-of-date system can be a huge burden, and is all the more reason to reevaluate your current sales processes and the systems used to empower your sales and marketing teams.  The tech-savvy companies that aren’t afraid to embrace the gifts of new and exciting ways to help make them a success have a decided advantage over those that don’t.

September 12, 2014 · by Tim Jones · Sales Strategy


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.

September 4, 2014 · by Tim Jones · Sales Strategy

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?

August 27, 2014 · by Jim Thompson · 3-Tier System, Sales Strategy
“The key to this business is personal relationships” -- Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) quoting famous (but fictional) sports agent Dicky Fox

“The key to this business is personal relationships” — Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) quoting famous (but fictional) sports agent Dicky Fox

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.”

August 20, 2014 · by Eve Allen · Sales Strategy

Simplify Training

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?

Training is a process not an event. Keep trainings short and simple.

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.

Tailor your sales activities, surveys and executional metrics to only your key drivers.

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.

Train online when possible. Dedicate breakout sessions during in-person meetings.

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.

April 8, 2014 · by Tim Jones · Mobile, Sales Strategy

GreatVines Survey FeatureLots 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

  1. Create Surveys by Account Segment (or even Chain specific) with “target” answers and “points” awarded for “correct” answers.
  2. Target accounts to survey – don’t let reps and distributors take you to “pet” accounts that really aren’t that important.
  3. Survey accounts using a simple, slick iPad app! That runs on-line or off!
  4. Immediately review survey results and set actionable objectives to achieve in the account… while you are still in the account! Share objectives with your distributor to collaborate on execution follow up.
  5. Create a “journey plan” by adding the accounts with open objectives to your calendar.
  6. Track and measure your results against each objective (“wins”), then re-survey accounts and track the trend in scores.

If you utilize GreatVines to follow this Survey methodology, you are sure to gain incremental sales from increased execution at point of sale.

February 6, 2014 · by Tim Jones · Sales Strategy

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.

October 17, 2013 · by Jim Thompson · Sales Strategy
Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 5.56.25 PM

GreatVines Mobile Survey

Thanks to new mobile-friendly technologies from Adobe (PhoneGap) and (Mobile SDK) companies like GreatVines are able to provide groundbreaking new applications which leverage the latest tablets and cellular networks to provide seamless business value in the trade. This blog, written by our CTO Jim Thompson and published by, explores the key concepts behind mobile web surveys for retail and the impact it can have on CPG as a whole.

Read the full blog on

January 4, 2013 · by Tim Jones · General, Sales Strategy, Technology

I loved Richard Branson’s recent article, “Why aren’t more business leaders online?” While he is mostly referring to executives aversion to social media (only 16% of executives are using social media), he also indicates the lack of ambition by these executives to utilize technology in general. There is a “surprising lethargy about using the online tools already available”. In his opinion, and mine, this is a big mistake. If your answer to the question “How am I using the latest technology to improve my business?” is, “I check my email on my iPhone”, then you are missing the boat. State of the art cloud computing systems and mobile business applications can make your business much more efficient, collaborative and productive. And, the tools are here NOW. As Branson says, “Anyone who thinks new technology isn’t going to keep changing the world has got their head in the sand”. Don’t be late to the game.


December 5, 2011 · by Jim Thompson · Clients, Sales Strategy

We are thrilled to be highlighted by one of our craft beer suppliers today in the Craft Business Daily email newsletter! Thanks to Marty, Andy and Jenn for the love.

One Winner on 2012 Execution

December 5, 2011

Dear Client:

The end of 2011 is nigh. Planning for 2012 is [or should be, mostly] done. Now comes the hard part: Execution. The execs at CBA are in the thick of that, and have been all year. For it took more than lofty brands and plans to start the turnaround of Widmer, and kickstart Redhook full-year growth after 5 years of relative languish. It took technology. It took speaking Wholesaler. It took turning branding into something tangible. It took, to be emphatic, execution.

Here, the leaders of CBA on how they did it, and how they will continue to do it next year.

TERRY AND MARTY ON EXECUTING WITH THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY: “What it takes is the right people, the right structure,” says CEO Terry Michaelson. “The fact is this business is getting more complex. Craft used to be about taking draft craft to on-premise accounts, and relationships. Honestly now if you’re going to be successful in any scope, you’ve got to have technology too. We’ve got CRM systems that allow us to track what we’re doing with our customers, our planning process; our people all sit down, marketing and sales, to talk about how the brands come alive.”

We can point to their use of as a primary example of what Terry is talking about. The CRM tool helps CBA leadership track sales guys in the field, grab national and custom reports like shipments and STRs at a glance, and share notes among themselves and with linked-up distributors. All in a social-media friendly, non-invasive layout reminiscent of a Facebook wall ticker. The field sales team are all plugged into this matrix with laptops, iPads and smartphones.

VP of sales Marty Wall says the technology is of utmost importance to their small but far-flung company. “I believe that we need to push use of technology to be on the leading edge and to attract the type of people that can be nimble and innovative enough to grow in a competitive marketplace,” he says.

They just recently got all the pieces of the puzzle. “We use GreatVines, a software provider, which has a platform that integrates with to work efficiently in the 3-tier system, accessed through any internet portal,” Marty says. “This is important because I tried to use other CRM software over a 7-8 year period, but we could never quite get it right until we started working with a provider who understood 3-tier. The distributors are our connection to retail and we needed to find a solution with a provider that actually understood [that].”

Their supply chain logistics have become more efficient and service-centric as well. Last year CBA hired supply chain director Kyle Jennings to help nail special programs and seasonal fluctuations for their almost 500-strong seamless distributor network. Potential out of stocks are supposed to be pinged before they come to fruition. And there’s an emphasis on fresh beer, more than ever – distributors’ cash isn’t tied up for long, and neither is their warehouse space. That’s the goal, anyway. Service orientation all around. The big craft guys are realizing they need to think this way if they’re going to lead.

REDHOOK AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPER BRANDING EXECUTION. Says president of commercial operations Andy Thomas: “We’re going to be doing more with Redhook bottles because we believe that what makes Redhook different is the personality [wait for flippant billboards and POS next year. One ad: 'Unlike your ex, it won't get fat and bitter.']. The personality doesn’t come through unless you hold the bottle, see the label, see the funny things the weatherman is doing on it. If we don’t get the bottle into people’s hands, they’re not going to get the joke. Because we’re speaking someone else’s language. We’re trying to get them to understand why this blonde kind of lager is better than this blonde kind of lager that is $2 cheaper. In any category, people drink the brand. They taste the beer – that’s critical to that higher-end consumer – but they drink the brand. We’ve got to get wholesalers and retailers to understand what makes us different too.”

ANDY ON EXECUTING ON THE RIGHT LANGAUGE IN 3 TIERS: “We hammer the whole gross margin point. We’ve got a slide that shows what $48 in gross margin looks like for a wholesaler. These numbers are directional, but it’s something like 34 cases of Natural Light 30-packs, or 20 cases of Bud Light 30-packs, or 9 cases of one of our core beers, or 4 cases of the [Widmer] 924 series. Or 1 case of the Brothers Reserve.”

Andy also tells the story of a Northern California wholesaler with whom CBA had to overcome a sort of dialectal barrier: “We weren’t speaking the right language. He was about gross margin. We were allowing him to talk about gross margin in terms of front-line pricing, when our whole thing was about mix. So we didn’t do a good enough job translating that high-end product mix equals gross margin. Because he lived in the world of higher front line, higher per-case margin equals gross margin. It was a matter of us [all] understanding that.”

EXECUTING ‘BIG’ CRAFT’S BIG TASK. “We have to figure out how, as we grow, we continue to do the things we need to do to be competitive with big boys but not lose our soul,” Andy says. “Kurt and Rob [Widmer] are critical to that. Folks like Mattson [Davis, of Kona] are critical to that. Understanding the origins of Redhook and letting it be quirky is critical to making sure our brands stay as crafty and small and soulful as they can be while our company continues to get bigger and more efficient. It’s about separating CBA from CBA brands. CBA brands should always be small, soulful, crafty, authentic. Our company should turn into a pretty well-oiled machine. We understand the trade, we can go toe-to-toe with big guys in terms of the way we work with people; we should be able to be more flexible because we’re smaller. But the combination of those two things is what should distinguish us: The CBA model.”

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