gno•sis (ˈnoʊ sɪs) n.
Knowledge of spiritual matters; mystical knowledge.
Let’s face it...
few people know how to “sell” in the liquor industry. When I entered this industry from the technology sales field, I was appalled at the lack of insight, methodology, process and product knowledge that distributor sales forces, and most brands, were displaying and practicing. Relying on “relationship” selling that is rooted in the post-Prohibition “gangster” era and heightened during the days of the Seagram’s empire, liquor sales people have low retention rates and an even worse productivity record on the street. The profession was spoiled by decades of being programmed by multi-national spirits company with a fat marketing budget and thousands of units of “vodka” to lay out at a low price. They forced route salesperson to shoehorn, dump and deal at favored spots in exchange for favors to be named later. But in the era of premium and small, hand-sell items, you actually have to know how to sell. And selling isn’t about steak knives and Cadillacs, ala Glengarry Glen Ross.
Its no longer A-B-C “Always Be Closing”.
Now it’s A-B-V: “Always Bring Value”.
Learning how to sell, one of the most difficult yet rewarding jobs in America, is typically passed down as oral tradition: young, inexperienced people are given a tour of the marketplace by a more experienced manager or veteran and told just to “do what I do, you’ll be fine”. Is it any wonder that the sales profession is considered lowly in the minds of most buyers, retailers and bar professionals? Few retailers and fewer bar managers trust them as a result. The sight of a thousand flailing arms all trying to keep their heads above water is the new normal of the marketplace.
And what perpetuates this condition? At worst, hubris and lack of commitment on the part of sales management. No one wants to admit that they came up the same way, as to do so would expose their own lack of insight into the art of selling and inability to adapt to the new paradigm. Most liquor sales managers, of all of the different marketplaces, place a premium on “do as I say”, style of management-by-fiat and Excel spreadsheet. And no one wants to invest in real training in their salesforce for fear of losing them to someone else.
Its time to bring this to an end.
Combined with a ground level understanding of market forces that produce true sales momentum, the goal of Spirit-Gnosis is to take learning out of the abstract and into the practical, and to convert product pushers into consultants. This class will provide every sales organization the necessary knowledge to demonstrate and maintain a leadership profile with their customers as well as their brands. Knowledge is valued by every part of the supply chain, it is a key component of trust. And trust creates sales.
THE Spirit-GNOSIS KNOWLEDGE TRAINING
Using either the distributor's current spirits portfolio or a brand’s single product offering as the core, I'll create and execute a customized training program for the entire salesforce. It takes place in two parts, in either one day or 2 days in a row:
Part One: Spirits Mastery
Definitions of spirits: vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, brandies, vermouth, grappa, etc.
Process of spirits making and what that means to the brands you carry
History and effects of types of distillation: pot still, column, hybrid, Charentais, etc.
Wood effects, maturation effects, cultural effects on flavor and taste
Balancing competing or complementary brands in a portfolio
Cultural, religious and economic influences on spirits creation and production
Part Two: Getting to Yes
Creating a team and individual sales methodology that has meaning
Customer Relationship Management
Brand introduction and followup
Working with the brand story as a wedge
Pricing as a competitive tool
Working with a supplier/brand rep
Psychology of sales and how to use it without being a douchebag
Objection handling: effective use of the trial close
How to “read”: the shelves, the back bar, the buyer
How to gain, and keep, trust
Time management: How to make sure you feel like you accomplished something at week's end
Additionally, an engagement can offer the following
A train-the-trainer program if the wholesaler or sales organization has in-house education staff
Courseware and reference guides
Follow ups and updates to allow for new products
A Shared Culture of Knowledge
I believe in creating a culture of shared knowledge. As part of the Unified Vision of Knowledge, Whiskey-Gnosis focuses on the selling of the value of the salesperson as consultant as the foundation of brand training.
A Sales Allegory:
Something for distributors to consider, from a small brand's perspective: imagine showing up in someone's garden bringing a beautifully groomed potted plant, carefully nurtured, watered and pruned, ready to grow and multiply there.
But the soil is deficient, lacking the necessary minerals and vitamins, or it may be full of mineral content meant for other types of plantlife. When you return, you find no growth or worse: it's become brown, dry and choked by weeds, or overrun by competing growth.
Something for the small brand to consider: distributors are expecting you to show up prepared for the marketplace, to speak their language and ideally, with resources on your own to help build your brand. It is unreasonable to expect them to build their sales plan around you. You must be prepared to engage the marketplace with resources: money, time and people. They own the casino and the house always has the odds. Your job is not to lose your shirt.
A few points for both to consider…
The refrain of "lack of knowledge" is so prevalent in every market I've worked in the US it's practically symphonic: the complaint comes from retailers, bartenders, general managers and, most importantly, the brands themselves. With the internet in the palm of our hands, knowledge is no longer an option, it is essential.
The consumer public of 2018 is hungry for category knowledge and unique narratives of brands as a means of differentiation in an increasingly saturated spirits market.
The smaller producers must do their part by producing the best possible product and wrapping it in a narrative that is compelling, resilient, true and full of life.
But the sales force as a whole must fully galvanize around them to truly deliver on a brand's potential. They must now be as conversant in spirits knowledge as they were in wine knowledge 30 years ago.
“For our growing sales force at Catoctin Creek, the opportunity to receive an in-depth, informative sales training from a professional with the credentials and experience that Robin Robinson brings to bear is invaluable. Robin challenged us to seriously reconsider our approach to sales.“
Chad Robinson, National Sales Director, Catoctin Creek Spirits
Where has Spirits-Gnosis been successful? See Clients
Pernod-Ricard’s “100 Proof” small brand seminars
Moonshine University’s “I Just Made Some Whiskey…Now What?”
Tales of the Cocktail’s “A Career in Sales: Are you Kidding Me?”