3 Keys to Boosting Revenue in 2024 and Beyond


Despite the prevailing gloom and doom in the trade press, there’s a silver lining for many adult beverage brands. They’re not just surviving; they’re thriving with double-digit growth and more!

This article examines adult beverage brands’ strategies to thrive in the current market.

This excerpt is from Ben Salisbury’s speech at this month’s webinar

Times have changed. Have YOU?

Before we dive into the 3 keys to boosting your revenue, let’s briefly set the stage.

The 3-tier landscape has dramatically shifted within the past six or seven years, with the extreme proliferation of new brands and a historic consolidation within the wholesale tier.

The result has been an immense reduction in the capabilities of wine and spirits distributors of all sizes. The ratio of brands to sales reps has become ridiculously unworkable.

This shift is not a small one—it’s enormous! Yet many companies within the supplier/producer ranks act as if there’s been no change.

They continue to run plays out of the same playbook they always have. No adjustments whatsoever.

The consequences of this “denial” are potentially calamitous.

The telltale signs of denial

One of the most palpable signs of denial of the dramatic shift in distributors’ capabilities is clinging to the notion that your distributors need to be “managed.”

Look no further than the “essential duties” in the typical job description in winejobs.com or BevForce.com. You will see bullet points such as:

  • Hold distributors accountable to meet goals.
  • Educate and motivate the distributor sales teams on our portfolio.
  • Clearly communicate our goals and priorities to the distributor sales team and leadership.

If you read the above list of essential duties and see nothing wrong with it, you are most certainly in denial!

Another dead giveaway is the structure of your sales team’s organizational chart. Do you have too many people tasked with “managing” distributors but not nearly enough people responsible for personally building new distribution in chains and key independent accounts?

A third sign of denial is more subtle and nuanced but pernicious: failure to leverage data and technology in your sales strategy. The adult beverage category is notoriously stuck in the past regarding “how” to sell. The just-do-it, intuitive approach reigns supreme. Hire experienced people and let them “do what they do best,” right?

You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails

“Adjusting your sails” is what this post is all about.

Even amid multiple headwinds, incremental revenue is achievable this year. But it requires new ways of thinking and operating.

If you are ready to accept that things have changed (quite dramatically) and are willing to open your mind to new ideas and ways of thinking and doing things, please read on!

1) Alignment with your distributors

The word “alignment” gets tossed around a lot in our industry, and yet true practitioners of it are scarce.

Typically, the supplier partner dictates their goals and priorities to the distributor and then expects the distributor to simply comply (“align?”) with their wishes. This might have once passed as “alignment,” but no more.

More appropriately, suppliers are the ones who need to align with their distributors, not the other way around. That is the very first key to revenue growth.

Suppliers who make this adjustment will fare far better than those who remain hopelessly stuck in the past.

So, what does this look like in practice? Here are a few concrete ideas to consider:

  • Take the time to leave your own world and enter the distributors’ world. Learn to appreciate what they are up against. Following this Instagram profile will help. You will find that everyone is completely overwhelmed at every level of the organization. A simple function of way too many brands to “manage.”
  • Since distributors are incapable of doing what they used to be able to do for their suppliers, suppliers are now responsible for achieving their own goals—or at least the ones that are most important to them.
  • Suppliers must accept that no amount of education, training, or “motivation” will change the fact that distributors are overwhelmed. Even monetary incentives aren’t enough.
  • Once you’ve accepted reality, you can make the necessary changes to achieve your sales and revenue goals despite your distributors’ diminishing capabilities.

“Aligning” with your distributors is all about having a clear grasp of the situation’s reality, a large dose of empathy for their plight, and the presence of mind to make the necessary adjustments in allocating your resources (time, people, and money).

2) Allocation of sales & marketing resources

Armed with a firm understanding (and acceptance) of reality, you can now take steps to ensure the deployment of your resources is completely in sync with your goals and objectives. Here are some very practical ways to do just that:

  1. You need fewer people “managing distributors” and more people selling to key accounts (including chains).
  2. You should strive to reduce the number of things that cannot be scaled and increase the number of things that can be scaled.
  3. Study the new rules for “partnering” with your distributors and make sure everyone on your team is on the same page.
  4. Seek to eliminate manual, repetitive tasks among your sales team members by leveraging cloud-based, mobile-friendly sales execution platforms.
  5. You must have robust systems for managing your trade spending and pricing. Static Excel spreadsheets don’t cut it anymore. And whatever system you use must be synced to your distributors’ system.
  6. Most suppliers’ budgeting process needs a complete overhaul! For example, less funds should be allocated to travel and entertainment (since “managing distributors” is no longer an option), and most new distribution incentives should be scrutinized carefully to ensure maximum ROI.
  7. Invest heavily in “first-party data,” which is the acquisition and “modern” use of email for trade sales. Arming yourself with a large and highly engaged email list of trade buyers is essential in the modern era! This requires knowledge of digital lead generation.
  8. You need a “modern” selling approach that is less about your product’s features and benefits and more about solving real business problems for your customers. This will require training!
  9. Investing heavily in data, technology, and the people with the skills to leverage these assets.

If you compare this short list of nine things to your current allocation strategy, you will quickly see the adjustments that need to be made.

3) Adroit use of technology and data

No other consumer product category struggles with technology as much as the wine and spirits industry, and as experts in this field, we know why.

We tend to fall in love with the products. And this is completely understandable.

Wine is sexy. Whiskey is seductive. Vodka is silky. Mezcal is smokey. Prosecco is sweet and sparkly. Gin is sophisticated. It’s nearly impossible not to talk about the products we produce!

But therein lies the problem. At the end of the day, we are businesses selling to other businesses, and sooner or later, it all comes down to the hard data.

The “sexiness” of data is in the eye of the beholder. Most salespeople and some marketing pros fail to get excited about data. But do you know what is universally sexy? Revenue and profit!

Becoming aficionados of data and technology does not mean we have to cease being excited about the products we produce. It does mean we’ll be able to continue doing so well into the future.

Here are some very compelling reasons to get excited about data and technology:

  • Achieve better sales results (both top and bottom line).
  • Get more done with less resources.
  • Achieve your goals faster and with fewer resources expended.
  • Reduce SG&A expenses due to much greater efficiencies.
  • Improved retention of your best placements.
  • Deeper, stronger bonds with your distributors.
  • Dramatically improved pricing and promotional effectiveness.
  • Eliminate most manual tasks.
  • Improved cash flow due to better forecasting and inventory management.
  • Gains in market share versus less tech-savvy competitors.

There will soon be a great separation in our industry between those who leverage data and technology and those who do not. In fact, it is already happening. You can feel it in the air and see it in the trade press.

Given the hyper-competitive nature of our category and the headwinds we are all facing, revenue gains will go to those who prioritize, embrace, and master it.

Put yourself in a position to win – starting TODAY

We implore you not to be among the inevitable casualties of the new reality.

Take time this summer to assess your progress toward the three keys outlined above, and let one of our experts help you chart a new course of action.