Discussing ecommerce always brings up the important question: "How will sales reps be affected?" This is what keeps industry people like me up at night! Ecommerce in the beverage industry is moving fast and as we evolve we need to focus on the future. We are at a powerful crossroads of our industry where we need to move from order takers to sales consultants in order to stay ahead of the competition.
When done right, ecommerce highlights the most important aspect of a sales rep’s job: their relationship with customers. And that is the most important relationship in this industry. All the work that goes into a brand comes down to a sales rep’s ability to sell it into the store. Every. Single. Brand. Sales reps are ultimately the liaisons that carry out the strategies that are set behind the scenes.
While brand teams look at high-level data, sales reps look in the eye of the buyer. Taking smart advantage of ecommerce allows reps to free up time in the ordering process, learn from sales data and work with retailers to make faster, more informed decisions to help their business grow.
The Types of Sales Reps
Within 6-9 months of launching an ecommerce solution, effective sales reps embrace one or a combination of the following models:
The Strategic Consultant
This rep uses ecommerce to keep a careful eye on their accounts’ buying trends and the splashiest products. They are able to interpret and apply data to maximize their accounts’ spending, making just the right pitches at just the right times. It’s always easy to buy from this rep: they prioritize impactful visits and follow up with digital resources to complete the sale.
This rep quickly onboards their entire portfolio to ecommerce, saving them hours a week on order entry and allowing them to expand to new points of distribution. As their accounts become accustomed to digital ordering, the Opportunist sees new sales come in at all hours of the day and times of the week that they otherwise might not have been able to service.
The Relationship Builder
This rep uses the time saved from digital order automation to focus on building meaningful relationships with their customers. The hours previously spent keying in orders are now spent in front of a priority account, conducting tastings of new products and making recommendations on their seasonal menu change—and meeting their sales incentive goals as a result. This rep may initially only transition a portion of their portfolio to ecommerce, freeing up valuable time to invest in their relationships with existing priority accounts and new accounts in need of more attention. By investing more in relationships, accounts will begin to see you as a trusted partner, and most importantly, their go-to rep.
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Embracing Ecommerce Grows Revenue
If you’re a rep at a distributor that has just launched an ecommerce solution, which model do you aspire towards? Reps who embrace one or multiple of these models and move at least 30% of their business to ecommerce ordering grow their revenue dollars by 45% in just one year.
Talk to your manager about your goals. Change can be intimidating, but less so when you have the opportunity to choose your path forward. At Provi, your distributor account manager will partner with you on training to support you as you boost your sales and gather insight on your territory. The time, presence of direct marketing and 24/7 nature of ecommerce will lift your sales from the start, but the real change comes when your team has the data to recognize and communicate how your SKUs contribute to a retailer’s bottom line.
John “Thundercat” Thunander is an empathetic sales leader who believes in solving his customer’s problems. He has spent 10 years in the beer business and is a proud graduate of The University of Dayton.