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5 Sales Team Mistakes Winery and Distillery Owners Make (Video)

Finding, selecting, hiring, training and then leading a great sales team is a daunting task! It requires very specific knowledge and real-world experience.

In this video, industry expert Ben Salisbury goes through the 5 biggest mistakes that he sees sales team leaders make. From the people you hire to the way you manage them -- it all matters! These five mistakes, if avoided, will allow you to achieve your desires sales goals with ease. Salespeople are the "revenue engine" that drives sales & profits for your winery or distillery. The task of hiring a great salesperson is, therefore, very serious business.

Ben has personally hired, trained and sometimes fired more than forty salespeople in his career. His advice is based on more than three decades of experience!


Mentioned Links:
How to Hire a Killer Salesperson
The Secret to Selling Wine and Spirits On Premise
Ben's Email Address:


00:15 Introduction
02:21 Mistake # 1 - Hiring too quickly/going by resume
03:27 Mistake # 2 - Don't know what to look for or how to screen for it
06:15 Mistake # 3 - Thinking the job is done once you hire them
07:20 Mistake # 4 - Don't know how to manage and supervise them
09:52 Mistake # 5 - Don't know how to hold them accountable for results
17:17 Bonus Tips


Five sales team mistakes that winery and distillery owners make, coming up next.


Finding, selecting, hiring and training and then leading a great sales team is no easy task. It requires a great deal of real world experience. Today, I'm going to talk about the five most common mistakes that winery and distillery owners make when it comes to putting a sales team on the field. Now, please watch to the end because I'm going to share a couple of tips that will be total game changers for you. Now, if you're a winery or distillery owner watching this, don't be too hard on yourself if you're not really good at this yet. I mean, if you threw me into the wine cellar or into the distillery and said, "Hey, go make some great wine ban or go produce a great vodka ban," I would be completely lost. I don't have any experience with that. And yet, winery owners and distillery owners come at the sales team task with no experience.

Most people, and even those that do have experience very often have the wrong idea of what sales success looks like. So don't expect yourself to be an expert on hiring and leading a sales team if you don't already have a ton of experience doing it. Now, I have personally hired and trained more than 40 high performing salespeople over the course of my career. In the early years, I sucked at it, but that's how I got good. I got training, I got mentoring, I got help, and I got better and better at it. So here I am with almost 40 years experience in the industry, having led very large national sales teams. I know how to find and select and train salespeople, but that took 40 years to learn what I know. So this video's going to help you a lot because if you know what mistakes you're making, you could stop making them and then start moving in the right direction.

I promise that I know what I'm talking about. Now. I have another great video called 'How to Hire a Killer Salesperson,' and it goes much more into what to look for and how to go through that selection process. So I'll put a link in the description to that video for sure. You're going to want to check that video out as well.

Mistake #1: Hiring too quickly & going by experience/resume

So mistake number one, and I see this a lot, is owners tend to hire too quickly and they go by people's resume and experience. This is often a trap if you don't know what you're doing, because just because someone has a lot of sales experience on their resume doesn't mean they're any good at it. And so, you have to know what to look for, but you definitely want to slow this process down. You want to check references, you want to talk to the previous places of employment.

You want to get a lot of different opinions, and very often you might need to get some help understanding what to look for, and I uncover that coming up. But I see this happen all the time, "Hey, I need a salesperson." "Oh, there's a salesperson." "Oh, look at all their experience. Let's get them to come work here and we'll watch the sales roll in." This is an oversimplification of what should be a very complex and difficult process. So I don't want you to make this mistake. Don't just assume because somebody has a lot of sales experience that they're going to be a high performing salesperson. You really have to slow down. Take your time because it makes a huge difference getting the right people in this role.

Mistake #2: Don't know what to look for or how to screen for it

The second mistake that winery and distillery owners make when trying to hire salespeople is they don't know what to look for. They don't know what to look for and they don't know how to screen for it. Because even if you did know what to look for, if you don't know how to screen for it, you're going to get a different result. You're going to get a different person than the one you saw in the interview. So this takes some skill. In fact, this idea of hiring skill goes way beyond just hiring a salesperson. It goes for all of the roles on your team. But if you don't know what to look for in a salesperson, you're kind of set up for failure. So let me give you some hints, and again, that video on 'How to Hire a Killer Salesperson,' I'll put a link below. You got to want to watch that because I spend a good bit of time on this topic of what to look for.

But a lot of people think that a salesperson is a good salesperson because of their personality, and they're outgoing and they're glib, and maybe they're handsome or pretty, and maybe they dress well and they're good with people. Those are important qualities, no doubt. But that doesn't mean they're going to be a great salesperson. Some people look for someone who's aggressive and fearless because they think that's what a good salesperson is. They think, oh, I'm going to hire somebody who'll work really hard. They'll make 10, 20 calls a day and they'll make sales call after sales call. I got news for you. That is not what you want, because that's not how sales are made. There's no correlation between the number of sales calls you make and your success rate. That is an old way of thinking about sales that went out in the 1950s.

So again, you don't know what to look for. You're going to end up hiring someone who looks really busy and sounds really good, but isn't very productive. And this idea about hiring someone because of sales experience, I'd be very careful about that. Having sales experience is good, but they need the right kind of sales experience. They need to have been trained properly on how to prospect and research and prepare to sell. They need a modern selling approach. This is really hard to know what to screen for. So don't just go by sales experience alone. What you want is someone who's hardworking and dependable and organized. In fact, you can't be successful in a sales role unless you're super organized and they need to have a modern sales approach, as I mentioned, but most people have no idea how to screen for that. How do you screen to see if someone is a hard worker?

What questions do you ask to see if someone is dependable? This takes a lot of practice. Now, the good news is there's a large body of work about how to conduct a great interview and how to screen for whatever quality is you're looking for. But this is a big mistake not knowing what to look for or how to screen for it. And if you think this fits you, I am very happy to take your questions. You can put questions in the comments below, or you can just reach out to me for a quick chat. But you got to get this one right, it's a big mistake.

Mistake #3: Thinking the job is done once you hire them

Mistake number three is another really big one. I see it all the time. Winery owners, distillery owners, they are really excited about the new salesperson they just hired. So what do you do? You turn them loose to go sell because hey, they're a salesperson.

They know what to do, right? Well, this is a huge mistake. If pro athletes like football players, basketball players, baseball players, if they're so good at what they do, why do they need a coach? In fact, why do they need a whole team of coaches? Why do we need a head coach and an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator and a batting coach and a pitching coach? Why do we need all these coaches if we're hiring the right athletes? Well, it's the very same thing for salespeople. You can't just hire them and turn them loose. But you know why this happens, because we don't know what to do. We don't know how to lead a salesperson. We're going to talk about this, but you can't just make that mistake of hiring a good person and then turning them loose because it's not going to work out well.

These sales pros, like pro-athletes need coaching. They need mentoring, they need direction, they need guidance, and they need a lot of it.

Mistake #4: Don't know how to manage and supervise them

Mistake number four is jumping off of mistake number three, which I just went over. And mistake number four is you don't know how to manage and supervise your sales team. This is so common, and why would you know how if you haven't had that experience? But you can get help in training. That's one of the reasons I'm here for you. But just like pro athletes, keeping that analogy going, high performing salespeople need coaching, mentoring, direction. They need help managing their time. They need help managing their priorities and staying focused on the most important tasks, they're going to yield the best results. Now, I'm not talking about micromanaging here. I'm talking about leading, coaching and mentoring salespeople. If they like it, they need it, but they're only going to respond to someone who knows what they're doing. But to not know how to manage and supervise them, that is a solvable problem, and I can solve that for you.

Have lots of resources on this and some of it you're getting right now in this video. Salespeople don't always act in the best interest of the company, let alone their own best interests. It's just a phenomenon of very busy active people. Their talents are not necessarily, they're not wired like an engineer who thinks of everything in a very systematic way. Salespeople tend to be a little off the cuff, moving and shaking doing a lot of different things. They need guidance and direction. They need to be managed and coached. Now, this isn't about micromanaging. This isn't a license to go micromanage your people because that is not a good thing either. But I have a lot of great information about how to manage and supervise a salespeople from the standpoint of what do salespeople want and what do salespeople need from their coach and mentor? I have a lot of great information about that.

So if it's a subject you're interested in, let's talk because I can really help in this area. Another important role of the leader managing a sales team is to remove obstacles and support them. You need to be constantly asking them, what do you need? Is there anything you're struggling with? What can we do to help you be more successful? You want to be empathetic to the needs of your sales team. You want to listen to the salespeople. Now, very often, they think they need something like a lower price or better packaging or something that is just not going to happen. You have to understand how to deal with that. But there are a lot of times I have legitimate obstacles that need to be removed. Maybe it takes too long to get a sample. Maybe they don't have access to the right information they need to prepare for a meeting. There's all kinds of things. That's the real job of managing and supervising salespeople.

So mistake number four is very fixable.

Mistake #5: Don't know how to hold them accountable for results

Mistake number five is this, you don't know how to hold your sales team accountable for results. You could be doing everything else right, that I've talked about so far. But if you don't know how to hold your salespeople accountable for results in a collaborative, kind way, you are not going to get as much out of your sales team as you could be getting. And so, here's a few things to look at on this topic of holding people accountable for results. First of all, you want to build a culture of when we have salespeople working here, they make their goals. They make their goals consistently every year. They always find a way to make their goal legally, morally, ethically, and they do it without excuses.

Part of holding salespeople accountable for results. So setting the expectation that if you work here, you're going to find a way to make your goal, and we're holding you accountable to that. Now, here's where bonuses come in, and you can reward people for achieving their goal, reward them handsomely. Most great salespeople expect to be well paid. Money is not necessarily the right carrot in the carrot and stick analogy. In fact, if you want to really go into this topic on YouTube, seek out Daniel Pink's video called 'The Puzzle of Motivation,' it will really help you understand what really drives people. But anyway, holding salespeople accountable for results isn't just about clamping down or offering big incentives. It's about how you are paying attention to what they're doing. For example, activity doesn't necessarily mean achievement. The more sales calls you make does not mean you're going to sell more.

It's about the quality of distribution, not the quantity of distribution. So this is where the 80/20 rule comes in. To hold salespeople accountable for results, you need to keep them focused narrowly. The key to accelerating sales performance is to narrow the focus of your activity to only the most attractive and responsive accounts. This takes research, it takes pre-planning. So part of the role that you have as an owner or a sales leader managing your salespeople is you need to know what are the priority accounts? What are the accounts that are going to drive the most volume, and are your salespeople staying focused on that?

Utilize CRM!

Here's where CRM comes in. You know, CRM isn't just for Big Brother to keep an eye on the salespeople. It's not a tool for micromanaging or a bludgeon to whack people with. It's a way for the leadership and ownership to have a clear line of sight into exactly what's going on with the sales team.

As the owner of the company, I should be able to pull open my CRM, be it or HubSpot or something similar. I ought to be able to see the sales calls that my team made yesterday. And there's four things I want to know. What account did they call on? Who did they talk to? What did they talk about? And what is the follow-up? That's your simple CRM formula. And your CRM system needs to be able to capture the answer to those four questions. Don't put up with the excuse. Well, I don't have time to fill out my call reports. That's a bunch of BS because any decent salesperson knows that follow up is the key to sales success, and you can't have flawless follow-up without a good CRM system. So beware of that excuse popping up, but you need that clear line of sight.

You need to hold them accountable for results. You need to understand that part of that is not confusing activity with achievement. The last thing is you've got to have the goals set appropriately. The goal should be a stretch, but achievable and doable and realistic. And so, the goal setting process, which is a whole other topic unto itself, if you want me to make a video about the goal setting process, leave me a comment in the comment section below because I think that's a worthwhile topic to explore how to set sales goals for a sales team. But assuming you've got your sale goals realistic, you don't want to allow any excuses. Some of the most common excuses for of salespeople in the wine and spirits business point to things that the distributor didn't do. "Well, I told them this was what we needed. I told them these were the accounts we needed to be in. I don't know why they're not selling."

If you have salespeople under your payroll, they are responsible for the goal. They can achieve the goal by whatever ethical and moral means is available, but they cannot make excuses. They cannot pass the buck to somebody else. So you really need to understand how important it is to hold salespeople accountable for results.

If you can't change your people, change your people.

And now, I'm going to get to something very sensitive. Sometimes you need to get rid of your salespeople. I have a saying that if you can't change your people, change your people. You've got to, as an owner, you have to have the courage to cut loose salespeople who don't consistently achieve their goals. Now, this isn't a threat technique. I'm not suggesting you use this as a threat. "Hey, if you don't make your goal, you're out of here." That's not appropriate.

But you have to. In fact, if your salespeople aren't hitting their goals, I hold you responsible as the leader or the owner. It's your fault, if you will, because you didn't hire the right people, people, and you didn't manage them properly, and you didn't train them properly. You didn't equip them properly. That's on you, that's on the owner of the business. So you have to be able to have the courage to admit you've made a mistake and to cut those people loose. Now, it should never be a surprise to a salesperson that they're being cut loose because you should have a weekly check-in. It need not be long. It needs only be 10 or 15 minutes, but you have to have it every single week. Someone has to have a weekly check-in with the salespeople. You have conversation about how it's going towards meeting your goal.

What obstacles are you running into? What can we do to make this work better for you? And those weekly meetings are where you are telling this salesperson, "Hey, this isn't working. I don't see the results. I see you bouncing all over the place. You're not sticking with the priorities." So after many conversations like this, it shouldn't be a surprise to the salesperson that they're being cut loose, but it is a part of it. And in all the years I've been doing it, it's never fun or pleasant to cut loose a salesperson, it's not. I'd rather cut off my own right arm than do that. But it's a necessary responsible thing for a business owner to do. Well, I'll bet when you got the idea to build a winery or distillery, you never thought much about how hard this was going to be. Finding salespeople, supervising salespeople, holding them accountable for results, and if necessary, swapping them out for new salespeople.

But revenue is what drives everything. No matter how passionate you are about your vineyard and your wines, if you can't sell them, you're going to be sitting on them when the next vintage comes along. So this is an important part of the business, and very often for a lot of other aspects of your business, you need help. You need a reliable, experienced, successful sales coach, and you're looking at him. If you think you need help and you want to talk to me, I would be happy to have a chat with you. I'm not going to try to sell you anything. I just want to help. And if during the course of that conversation you find that there's things you need from me, maybe you need some recruiting help, maybe you need some sales training help, I have all of that. So the first step to admitting you have a problem is admitting you have a problem and that you need help.

Well, I would like to be your go-to guy for sales team performance and all that, that includes. So hit me up. Either leave a comment down below or I'll put my email or write here on the screen. You just send me an email saying, "Ben, watched your video. It really made me stop and think, I would love to have a chat with you." Happy to do that.

Bonus Pro-Tips

Okay, so at the beginning of this video, I promised a couple of pro-tips at the end as a bonus, and here they are. You have to have the right sales approach because even if you go get the right salesperson who's perfectly capable of delivering on the sales goal, you still as a brand owner, you want to make sure your people have the right approach with customers. And so, let me give you a few hints about this, a few pro-tips, if you will.

There's a lot of misconception about what makes selling successful or what makes a successful salesperson. And you might be shocked to know that it isn't about persuasion at all. It is not about product knowledge. It's not about overcoming objections. It's not about presentation skills. It's not about closing skills. Those were things that were taught in the 1950s, but this is 2023. Most buyers be the on-premise or off-premise, can go and pretty much Google anything, any kind of information they need on the wines, on the vineyards, on the regions, on the countries. They don't need a salesperson to bring them information about the products. They have access to that already. A modern salesperson needs to approach the business like a partnership. Unless you're bringing real business value to the relationship, you're not really valuable to that person because selling could be reduced to a transaction. I need a chardonnay that I can buy for $7 and sell for eight, nine bucks by the glass.

It really often comes down to who has the lowest price given if they're all the same quality. So to win in a sales role, you better have something other than product knowledge and product quality. You have to understand how to roll up your sleeves and partner with that business. Here's a couple of examples. So by the way, I have a great video called 'The Secret to Success Selling on Premise.' It's the most popular video I've ever made. I'll put a link in the description below. But that video will go deep into this topic about how to take off your salesperson hat, put on your business partner hat, and deliver for your customer. Because if you can help them get what they want, you're going to sell all the product you want. So this very important and powerful shift that has to do with this way you approach selling, the way that you sell.

This is a game changer, I promise you. So, the modern seller today, they need to have a strong work ethic, and they need to be really organized and disciplined in the use of their time. They need a really good coach, but they also have to have the right approach to selling. And anytime you're focused on the product, where you're talking about the features and benefits of the product, you are not using the right sales approach because the sale should be a byproduct of a much larger relationship. And you build that relationship on things like dependability and trust and service. This is a big shift, and I have a lot of resources about how to do this, how to engage in this modern selling approach. I'll put links in the description below. You can go check those out.

But I promise you that even if you have the right salespeople, if you're not using the right sales approach, you're not going to sell nearly as much as you could have otherwise. So I hope this video was useful for you. If you liked it, give it a thumbs up. I would love it if you would subscribe to my channel and feel free to share this video with someone else that needs to see it. Thanks so much for watching.