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How to do market work with distributors


This article focuses on the wine and spirits industry and how brands, wineries, distilleries, and breweries can effectively do their market visit.

The timing

First things first, you need to ask your distributor in advance if they even want you and when. Ideally, it would be best to do this when your first order is about to reach. Notice I said about to reach, not after a few months. You need to create excitement for your launch; you need to pre-sell. You need to be out there telling the retailers you are here, and your brand is here. 

The second visit should be aimed at after 2 months, or once depletion levels at your retail accounts are closed to 10% so you can go back and ask for bigger and deeper placements.

[In pictures, my brand Nelson Bay from New Zealand is shown: Its a good idea to do any press in trade magazines so retailers see your products in "what's new" and it will help you in your market work when you show them by saying - hey that's mine. It does 2 things a) shows the retailer recommended retail price so all are aligned on what to sell at and the conversation then simply becomes on cost and second they see that you are here for this launch]

The process

Step 1: 

Ask your distributor for a PO and plan your trip.

Step 2: 

Meeting at the distributor's office with the reps. The first thing you want to do is take plenty of samples or ship to your distributors 4-5 cases of samples in advance. Then host a meeting with distributors' sales reps. Ideally, such things happen on Friday, which is their slow day in terms of visiting accounts. So book a Friday 10 am meeting with their reps where you will talk about your brand and why a retailer will make money on your brand. You should present sell sheets, case cards, and any point of sale materials that can be used as merchandising.

The idea of this meeting is to give product knowledge to the reps, but also to get them excited about your product. To create rapport with them as you will be riding with them from Monday.

Have a good Q and A. The main thing you need to give in that meeting is to give your 2-minute elevator pitch to the retailer. They will use that. Keep it short. I also used to have an FAQ sheet; for example, if a retailer says, "I already have this wine in this category so don't need one more." You need to have your own unique selling point to combat such questions. This is important so the retailer can also find a way to sell to their customers.


Your 2-minute pitch should be consistent, precise, and sharp. My pitch for my Friday Monkey wine was, "my wine is $1 less cost to you, retails the same price as yellowtail and jacobs creek, and I am confident that it's better quality, so give me a try".

The goal of your meeting is that they should have sales knowledge (how to sell your product), and product knowledge, and they should feel motivated about moving your product. Remember, reps can take any product they want to their accounts. A rep's no. 1 priority is their accounts and relationships, so they will NOT risk that by showing their account a product they are not confident is a good fit for their account.

Step 3:

The ride with. Try to ride with 4 different people — one per day. And ask them to take you to their best accounts. A good combination is 2-3 great restaurants where you can get house pour, 2-3 big retailers where you can talk about case display deals, 3-4 important merchants, and 3-4 accounts where you're confident you will get a placement. Aim to hit 10 accounts.

You should be the one who should do the selling. Ideally, the rep will just introduce you, saying, hi, meet XYZ from ABC winery and we have taken his / her product. Then it's your showtime. The more you sell for the rep, the more you will win in the rapport and respect game. Once reps see how hard you are working for your brand, they will pass that message to your distributor, which is very important feedback for you.


[In the picture, of one of my wines Lucky 7 - about 10,000 cases sold in the first two months of launching. Why? because my first wine 'Friday Monkey' proved that I am a supplier whose wines "sell". And that's the punchline and goal]

Bonus tip: Make a presentation folder with 4-5 pages showing your "trade wins" and "data that your product is selling in other markets". Show that to the rep's accounts. It's important they know your brand is the next HOT brand and that they should get on board. Retailers like to stock what's new and hot.

You would also have to win on the likability score with the rep's accounts. Once you leave that door, the accounts should feel good about you as they will be then talking about you.

Try to close the deal right there. Be the salesperson. It's ok to do the hard sell once in a while. Your goal is to sell the PO in your market visit and walk out with another PO from your distributor's office on the plane back.

[In the picture, of one private label brand - Twigs from Argentina. This is a real picture of how I would put the bottles with shelf talkers when I was pitching to the retailer. It's important to put your POS out with the product. Merchandising your product is what retailer naturally thinks while making a decision on your product].

Step 4:

On Fridays and Saturdays, go and visit the accounts you sold, offer them store tastings and do the store tastings yourself. That is a great way to again create rapport with the retailers directly and deplete your product. You need to aim to sell your product from all those store tastings and walk out with a new order from the retailer for your distributor to punch in.

Step 5:

Have a lunch or dinner meeting with your distributor and recap things. Ask for feedback. Ask for a new PO and plan your next visit. And repeat the above but with larger placements now.

Step 6:

Once you reach home, send thank you to your distributor, their reps, and the retailers, and share your contact so they can reach out to you for any questions, or point of sale material. Try not to bypass your distributor here. Always keep them in cc.

Ultimately, good market work means you created a great rapport with your distributor management team, their reps, and their retail accounts. You sold your product. You closed the deals and got orders.