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5 Sales Mistakes to Avoid for Wineries and Distilleries (Video)

In this video, industry expert Ben Salisbury talks about the five biggest mistakes he has seen wineries and distilleries make when it comes to having sales success in the US market.

The first mistake Ben mentions really sets the stage for the rest of the video. The conditions for selling wine & spirits have changed a great deal just in the last 5-6 years. Failing to see and accept (and more importantly adapt) to these changes will keep wineries and distilleries from consistently and profitably achieving their sales goals. The best way to win is to "not lose." Avoid these 5 common mistakes and you will be well on your way to enjoying massive sales success!


Video Transcript: 

Mistake #1: Not realizing things have changed in the wine and spirits industry in the last 5-10 years. 

So here's mistake number one that wineries and distilleries make everywhere. I've been doing this a long time. I talked to a lot of winery owners and distillery owners, and this is a big mistake. And here it is: acting as if nothing has changed in the industry in the last 5, 6, 10 years. 

A lot has changed, but yet you would never know it by looking around. People are behaving and performing and doing the things that they used to do. And this is a mistake because there are way too many brands today and way too few distributors. The competition, even if you're just doing direct to consumer (DTC), the competition is fierce.

Do you know that there's 30% more wineries in the US than there were just three years ago? Texas now has more wineries than Oregon. They're fast approaching a thousand wineries. If you're selling wine and spirits, and it's the same way you did five or six years ago, you're getting left behind. What used to work no longer works or works as well. And you're going to have to submit to the learning curve to figure out what changes you need to make. 

And here's a hint, almost all the innovations that are happening right now to help accelerate sales has to do with technology; CRM, data, business intelligence, even AI. So if you're not paying close attention to these things, you need to start.

Mistake #2: Depending Too Heavily on Wine or Spirits Distributors to Sell For You

Mistake number two that I see lots of wineries and distilleries make, is relying too much on their distributors. Now, I speak and write a lot on this topic, so don't tune me out just because you've heard this message before.

There's really only three things that you can expect from your distributor. 

  1. Number one is to carry product in their warehouse; carry inventory. 
  2. Number two is to deliver the accounts that you and your team have sold to. 
  3. And number three is to potentially match your efforts. 

So if you have no efforts in that market, you have no business expecting the distributor to go out and do stuff for you. This is a huge mistake. It's time to get with the times and just recognize that in most cases you're one of thousands of products that they're trying to sell. It's not a matter of motivation or intent, it's a matter of capabilities. They just can't meet the needs of all of these suppliers and you are going to have to adjust to it. It's a fact.

Mistake #3: Selling with Persuasion and Not Fostering Relationships

Here's mistake number three that I see happening all over the place, and it's a misunderstanding of how to sell. You see, selling is not about persuasion. It's not about making presentations, overcoming objections, or closing techniques. That way of selling went out in the 1950s.

I don't know what it is about our industry, but we have a lot of really bad sales approaches. Probably because we're so focused on the product and we think if we could just explain how wonderful this product is, everybody would buy it. Well, that is not salesmanship at all. In fact, if you take nothing away from this video besides this, this is a truth for you. 

The more you act like a salesperson, the less you're going to sell. Nobody likes salespeople. Nobody likes to be sold. The sales should be a byproduct of a much larger relationship. Pursue that larger relationship and the sales will happen automatically.

Look, it's all about adding real business value to the business relationship. The products are interchangeable. Your wine and spirits are not so distinct that these people have to have it. There's just too many options, too many competitors. 

If you've never read Daniel Pink's book, To Sell Is Human, I highly suggest you start there. It's one of the most modern viewpoints about what professional modern selling looks like. Don't act like a salesman. It's going to get you nowhere fast.

Mistake #4: Selling Your Wine or Spirits Without Business Acumen and Focusing Too Much on The Product

The fourth mistake I see wineries and distilleries make, and this is kind of related to point number three, it's failing to see that it's not about the product. Too much focus on the product itself. You're just adding to the noise because as soon as you leave, somebody else is going to be there to pitch their product. 

Now this happens on social media, it happens in email marketing, it happens in face-to-face interactions, it happens in presentations, trade shows, sales meetings. Just way too much focus on the product. So what do you do instead? Well, you have to balance that product knowledge, that wine knowledge, spirits knowledge, mixology knowledge. 

You have to balance it with solid business acumen. Most customers want three things. How do I grow revenue? How do I control cost? How do I improve guest satisfaction? That goes for on-premise and off-premise.

You must be able to address how your product, your brand, can do those things. Is there a demand for your product? Do you know who your customers are? Do you know where they are, where they live? This data is available. You've got to take advantage of the situation and move away from too much focus on the product.

Approach things from a business acumen standpoint, because it's all about bringing value to the business relationship. I know this is a tough one, but please spend some time thinking deeply about this. It could be a game changer.

Mistake #5: Confusing Activity for Achievement

The fifth mistake that I see wineries and craft distilleries making, is their confusing activity with achievement. Now, I don't mean to knock on distributors too much, but they actually encourage this. Distributors like to manufacture activities so that they can put the burden back on the supplier for whether or not there's any kind of sales success. But put that aside for just a minute. 

There's a few fundamentals that everyone needs to understand when it comes to this mistake, confusing activity with achievement. First of all, the 80/20 rule is real. It's not just a clever marketing theory. It's absolutely true in every category segment, every price tier, every market, all around the world. 80% of the business is driven by 20% of the customers. And there's other iterations of the 80/20 rule, but this is serious stuff and you must take it seriously.

You see, the key to accelerating sales performance is to focus on fewer, better researched accounts. You have to put in the time to research where the business is being done, and keep your focus narrow to the most attractive targets. Not all accounts are equal, not even close. You have to learn to fish where the fish are. So more activity is not the key to making more sales. Being more selective on who you call on and where you spend your time, that is the key.

In fact, speaking about spending time, anything that requires your physical presence cannot be scaled. And this is going to hold you back in terms of what's achievable for your sales goals. Now, I'm speaking really directly to the small producers out there With small teams; you cannot do it all yourself. Even if you have a team working with you, you must focus on things that can be scaled. 

Email marketing, social media, advertising, all these things that revolve around digital capabilities. These things are scalable. So don't get caught in the trap of thinking, Well, I'm going here and I'm going there and I did this store tasting and I did this wine dinner and I'm working with the sales rep. These things aren't scalable. While they do have some value, it's really easy to fall into the trap of thinking all this activity is going to somehow relate to sales.

So just remember, the key to selling more and really selling more than you ever thought possible, and the same goes for getting a lot done, is to be more selective. Take a few extra minutes to plan where you're going to sell, to research the best target accounts. Use your data and business intelligence and insights to work smarter, not harder. Don't confuse activity with achievement or you're going to fall way short of your sales goals.

The Best Way to Win is to Not Lose

So let me just wrap up here with a few final thoughts. The best way to win is to not lose. Meaning, figure out what's causing you to lose and stop doing it. That's what the spirit of this video is all about. And I hope these five tips have helped you.

The bottom line is things have changed a lot when it comes to selling wine and spirits in just the past 5, 6, 7 years. I mean a lot. So take a hard look at what you're doing, because if you're doing things the same way today that you did five or six years ago, you're going to get left behind. It's way too competitive. There's just so much intense competition. You are going to have to step up your game. And that starts with avoiding the things that keep you from selling more.

I hope this has been helpful. I would love it if you subscribe to my YouTube channel, share this video with someone who you think needs it, and smack that like button. Thank you.

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