For new sales representatives, cold-calling accounts can be an intimidating endeavor. Along with memorizing an entire book of products, making sales goals each month, and maintaining relationships with existing accounts, the task of opening new accounts can seem herculean. But with the right strategy, calling on new accounts doesn’t have to be as terrifying as it seems.
Here, sales pros share their top tips for successfully opening new accounts in the cutthroat realm of wine and spirits sales.
1. Research the Account
Figuring out the sales space your unknown buyer occupies is a great way to get a feel for what he or she may need before you contact them. This could mean stopping by the store and having a look around, or popping in for a drink at an on-premises account for the sake of examining the offerings. “You want to learn what you can about the store and the area, the kind of things that the account carries,” says Tad Drouet, a pharmaceutical salesman turned sales rep for New York City-based Skurnik Wines & Spirits. “Your approach is going to be different based on their stock.”
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2. Introduce Yourself by Phone
Picking up the phone and simply introducing yourself is generally the safest first step. “I usually call new accounts on the telephone to personally introduce myself and the company, followed by an email to better position my strengths,” says Alain Blanchon, a 20-year veteran at Monsieur Touton Selection, a fine wine and spirits distributor based in New York City. After a brief phone call and email follow-up, an in-person meeting will generally follow. Make your presence known first; sales will come later.
3. Know Your Portfolio
Taking time to familiarize yourself with your new list of products will go a long way when it comes to making future sales. “Know your products, and be prepared for grilling inquiries,” says Blanchon. “If you don’t have the answers, don’t make up or pretend—that will ignite a negative and damaging vibe that will last. Have integrity; be sincere.” While it may be uncomfortable to not have all the answers at first, maintaining an honest rapport with your future buyer will create a much more solid relationship in the long run.
4. Be Patient—a Relationship Takes Time
Having a gentle and sincere attitude with your future buyer, as opposed to being overbearing from the get-go, is more likely to get you a future sale. “Don’t go in being pushy,” says Drouet, whose initial approach leans on the less aggressive side of sales, meaning that he focuses on establishing a relationship before he pushes for that first order. “Good salespeople follow up but are never pushy. It’s going to take time!” he says. “Don’t expect to have huge sales success on your first, second, or even third call.” Patience is a virtue—and one that will most likely pay off in the long run.
5. Service Your Clients, Not Yourself
Though making numbers and hitting goals may pressure you into pushing certain items, listen to your buyer first and foremost. “Ask questions, and find out what the clients need; don’t just sell them what you need to sell. If you’re able to do that, you’ll be an asset to them,” explains Drouet. The tactic will lead to trustworthy, long-lasting relationships, which can translate into bigger sales down the road.
“With every account, individual, or circumstance, the path differs,” Blanchon says. “As a salesperson, you have to be a good mind reader and a good analyst.” Developing your skills as a seller who listens and responds with relevant suggestions is a key to success. “You can have the best products, and be the most knowledgeable individual,” Blanchon says, “but your social skills will determine your statistics. Observe and know your clients, and service their needs.” Do this, and numbers and goals will come with time.
6. Don’t Take It Personally
With every successful account opened, there are at least a few failed attempts along the way. Perhaps the most important advice here is, Don’t get discouraged. “You don’t know what type of day your potential buyer is having, or what’s going on in their life when you first meet them,” Drouet says. “If the first meeting doesn’t go swimmingly, or they’re short with you, you can’t take it personally.” Just be polite, be courteous, and brush off the immediate rejection. Success, whether it’s with that account or the next one, will come.
Vicki Denig is a New York-based wine and spirits journalist and wine educator, discovering the world through the lens of a glass, one sip at a time. When not tasting or traveling, she can most likely be found running through Astoria Park or sipping on Cabernet Franc.