How to win in the on-trade – by Chris Maffeo

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I’ll share my 5-step process to improve your approach to selling to on-premise outlets.

By adopting this hunting process, you’ll spend time better. You’ll likely increase your strike rate in the right outlets.

Unfortunately, most people lack a pragmatic system. They are getting rejected or focused on the wrong outlets.

Without a system in place, you’ll encounter a few challenges.

Challenge 1: You focus on the wrong outlets. People will recommend you to get a hunting list. The problem with those lists is that you’ll focus on the hottest places in town. If you search online you’ll end up with the same list as all the salespeople in your city. You’ll focus on the wrong, hard-to-get outlets

Challenge 2: The wrong bars reject you. You may have heard they don’t have time for you, or that the manager is not there. Showing up at the door of people who don’t want to buy you is a waste of time. Many bar owners now do their research online or through word-of-mouth. They have already made up their mind about what brands to stock. You need to create the demand for your brand before you’re going to capture it with a visit.

Challenge 3: Unbalanced relationships. By focusing on those above, you will affect your mood. The moment you walk in, you’ll feel you’re in a lower position. If successful, you’ll base those relationships on favors and you’ll be always “on-call”.

Challenge 4: The wrong outlets will have slow velocity: In case of success, they may try one bottle. They will make you sweat for any new small sales. Very ineffective.

Here’s the 5-step process I follow to overcome the above challenges:

Step 1: Understand whom your brand is right for

Skip the target consumer. Clarify what your brand is for. What consumption occasion and what type of venue. No, I’m not talking about the 50 best bars or the hottest venues. I’m talking about the venues that will likely sell your brand on a specific occasion. You’ll have to do trial and error at the beginning. Analyse the patterns you see.

Step 2: Get referrals vs Cold-calling

Get recommended by other bartenders who are already using your brand. Ask them to make an intro. Caveat: It’s easy to get the wrong referral. If you don’t brief them well, they’ll send you to the hottest bars, to owners that play cool. You want to get access to outlets that are like those in which your brand already resonates. Places that don’t buy the brand to do you a favour but because they believe in the added value it brings to their venue.

Step 3: Use technology to map the city

Do as much as possible online so you can be effective when walking the streets. Take advantage of technology. Check their Instagram, and their website. Use Google Maps. That’s 1.0. If you want to get 2.0, you must start using a CRM system where you can also gather other relevant information. I’ve worked with several CRM systems and I recommend skipping the complicated one, especially when you are starting as a small brand. My favourite tool is Bowimi. Super intuitive and without complicated features for a simple start.

Step 4: Analyse their back bars and drinks menus

Most outlets list their menu online and you’ll find a photo of their back bar. If not, you can always go there in person and check it out.

  • How many brands from your category do they carry?

  • Do they mention any brands on the cocktail list?

  • What cocktails do they have?

  • How much are they?

It’s important to put that info into Bowimi via surveys to make sure that it becomes your go-to place for all that info.

Step 5: Focus on one area at the time

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Yes, there’re many right areas in your city but you can’t have it all. Win in a couple of areas before venturing elsewhere. Make sure you make your brand is visible in the community of bars, restaurants, and bottle shops in the area. In this step, Bowimi is again your best friend in understanding how your brand is doing in your selected area and to plan your routing.

I hope you find this guide helpful.


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