So you’ve broken the ice, made a few recurring sales, and can officially call that particular restaurant or retail shop one of your regulars. Congratulations! But now what? As your rep-buyer relationship matures, and sales become steady, maintaining a strong connection with your on- or off-premise buyer is key to developing that relationship. After you’ve filled obvious shelf or list holes with your products, and you’ve tasted the client through everything you think will fit his or her needs, how do you keep the momentum going? SevenFifty Daily asked seasoned sales reps to weigh in on what it takes to maintain strong relationships with buyers once the business is moving.
Making authentic connections is important for long-term sales success, says Scott Large, owner of Provisions Fine Beverage Purveyors in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Our business is all about relationships,” he says. “Brands and trends come and go. Being your authentic self and showing a genuine desire to help your accounts’ businesses [is imperative], because we are all just running small businesses inside of other small businesses.” Find shared interests to discuss with your buyer, and help the buyer stay on top of the industry by discussing trends, relevant news, and marketing strategies.
Help Solve Problems
“The key to maintaining strong relationships with existing accounts is to make yourself more of a problem solver instead of a salesperson,” says Bryan Garcia, a New York City–based sales representative with Grand Cru Selections. By identifying needs and assisting accounts with relevant recommendations, you change the dynamic of the buyer-rep relationship so it’s more collaborative than transactional. “Instead of being someone who is always looking to close a sale,” Garcia says, “you’re someone who is constantly presenting wines or ideas that work for a particular account and fit into what they’re doing.”
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Imagine that you are your buyer’s business partner, says Matthew Roesch, of Anvil Wine Company in Denver. “We have the most success when we can identify an account’s goal for their wine program, or what a store is aiming to achieve, and then tailoring what we show them,” he explains. Pay attention to specific needs, and avoid pushing products on an account that don’t necessarily fit.
Invest time and resources, even when the numbers are good. “It’s important to not take [the relationship] for granted, and to keep building on it by paying attention to the little details,” says Large of Provisions Fine Beverage Purveyors. He recommends offering staff trainings, creating shelf talkers, and securing allocated items as surefire ways to solidify the strength of your connection with a buyer. “We genuinely want the best for the account,” Large says, “because if their business is strong, so is ours.”
Support Your Client
Patronize the venues of the businesses that buy from you. “This is one of the few industries where you can be a customer of your customers,” says Jared Heber, a partner at Grandes Places Sélections in Marin, California. “Although I can’t visit every account every month and do dinner, I try to stop in for a glass of wine.” Heber explains that by doing this, you’re not only supporting a business that supports you, you’re also seeing what the competition is up to at your account—and learning which wines currently spark your buyer’s interests. Once you get a feel for what they’re excited about, curating wines to show them from your own portfolio becomes a lot easier. Says Heber, “Maintaining a curiosity about the world of wine beyond your own portfolio is key.”
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.