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Talkin Tech: Evolving Relationships

Posted on  | December 1, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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How the wired sales rep influences a sale.

To the sales rep who sells wine to restaurants and stores, the personal relationships cultivated with accounts is an investment that pays off with future sales. Many buyers still rely on their reps for industry news, merchandising tactics and delivering a critical order. There are, however, an increasing number of accounts that transact with reps differently than the way they used to. As buyers are becoming more sophisticated, the relationships between buyers and sellers are changing.

In recent years, access to product reviews, the visibility of smaller vendors, even POS reporting tools have given retail buyers more insight into their purchasing decisions than ever before. With greater visibility of products in the marketplace, the buyer’s reliance on his/her rep has changed. Seasoned reps now tell stories of wines that used to sell based on reputation being forced to prove themselves afresh, often in blind tastings alongside wines from distributors the rep has never heard of.

Of course, retail accounts are at different levels of sophistication and many reps are still able to control the ordering process, sometimes by leveraging the same online tools. We hear from reps that their most common use of the Beverage Media website is to help accounts find wines from other distributors. By staying in the conversation even after it has moved beyond their portfolio, these reps explain that when the buyer learns who carries an item, they may not work with the other distributor and ask what the rep has in the same category.

Other reps are researching their proposals for an account with greater awareness of competing products. Proposals are being made using online tools that let the rep build custom selling sheets. Sometimes these sheets will include competitors’ wines to highlight the contrast. Being able to speak with authority about products beyond your portfolio is critical to maintain credibility.

A growing number of accounts, especially larger stores, are placing their orders online, which they find more efficient. As Ken Mudford, the inventory director at Sherry-Lehmann, says, “We want to hear from our sales reps when there is a problem or they have a product that may be of interest.” Some of the busiest accounts prefer to be contacted by email; others won’t see a rep in the store without an appointment, which makes it clear they are focused on business.

Sales reps are a resilient and creative breed; even with less access to a buyer they will find ways to influence the ordering process. Online order confirmations from Beverage Media present an opportunity for reps to add value after the order is placed and in some cases this leads to an upsell. Without a doubt an investment in buyer relationships is still a critical piece of this trade, but not something a rep can take for granted; the wired reps are working hard to find new ways to influence a sale.

To comment or learn more about how Beverage Media can help with a website for your store visit BevSites.com, or contact James Laurenti at 617-864-1677. Follow @bevsites on twitter.



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