Sales Execution Made Simple


As we’ve said in previous articles, the biggest barrier to sales succession in the adult beverage industry is the outsized fascination with the product itself—how it’s made, who made it, where it was made, and how it tastes. These are all good things, to be sure, but when it comes to SELLING it, they’re simply not enough.

If you can tear your sales team away from talking about the attributes of the products they sell for a moment, this quick article will help take your sales efforts (and investments) to the next level.

Sales Execution Defined

The simplest way to define “Sales Execution” is this:

The effective implementation of sales strategies, processes, and activities to achieve predetermined goals and objectives.

It’s very much about “coordination” of effort, resources, and tactics that drive revenue growth and enhance customer relationships.

At the highest level, sales execution is also about maximizing the business opportunities that await companies willing to improve their sales execution.

So, let’s examine the five key components of sales execution, especially those related to selling wine 🍷 and spirits 🥃.

1) Sales strategy alignment

Here is the most common “strategy” we run into as we speak to wine and spirits brand owners:

“Sell as much as we possibly can.”

That’s about as “granular” as it gets for them. The truth is that they don’t have a strategy. Sales and selling are far from most brand owners’ minds because they are too focused on making a great product. There is nothing wrong with that, but having a great product just isn’t enough these days.

So, here is a very simple sales strategy formula anyone can use:

  1. Who to sell to
  2. How to sell to them

That’s it. This is so simple that everyone can get in alignment with it. Let’s elaborate on each of the two:

Who to sell to is all about recognizing that not all accounts are equal in the volume they can purchase. This is about acknowledging that the 80/20 rule is real and must not be ignored.

We are talking about the necessary step of creating key account target lists. You will need one list for every person on your sales team.

You will accelerate your sales results by narrowing the focus of your sales team’s time, energy, and investment to only the most attractive and responsive accounts.

It’s a less-is-more approach that yields outsized results.

How to sell to these key accounts (the other critical part of the strategy) comes down to a very simple choice:

Selling versus Serving

Will your sales team focus on your product’s features and benefits, or will they focus on the customers’ needs and what they want from the business relationship?

It is a sad but true reality that most brand owners in our industry are still using a selling approach that went out of fashion in the 1990s.

Since the advent of the internet, wine and spirits buyers no longer need salespeople to “explain” the details of their products to them. They can research anything they want from their laptop.

Salespeople have become “superfluous” (according to Daniel Pink) in this age of information overload.

The “modern” alternative is for salespeople to become valuable sources of business advantage to their customers, not highly paid information peddlers.

The modern selling approach is about helping customers meet their business needs.

What is your sales strategy? Can you define it? Can you articulate it? Need help with this?

2) Sales process optimization

Remember the popular  “steps to the sales call” of the 70s and 80s? Wasn’t that cute?

Are those steps to the sales call (in all its variants) still relevant in 2024? Not if you want to consistently and profitably achieve your sales goals.

There are still specific steps to a sales process, to be sure, but the optimization and execution of it look very different from the Bartles & James days of selling.

Most people find this difficult to grasp because of their sales strategy (see item #1 above). If you see the sale as a one-event “transaction,” you need steps to a sale call.

However, a more “modern” approach sees the sale as a process or “journey” that takes place over time. This process is best expressed in a CRM “pipeline” (ideally in a Kanban board view).

These are the “classic” stages of a sales pipeline (also known as an “opportunity pipeline”):

  1. Prospecting
  2. Qualification
  3. Initial contact
  4. Need analysis
  5. Present solutions
  6. Negotiating terms
  7. Closed won or closed lost

Now, that is a sales process worth optimizing! The beauty is that it can be made visible to everyone in the organization through the use of a modern CRM system.

But wait, there’s more! Each stage of the process involves very specific tasks, communication methods, and interactions with the customer that salespeople can use to guide their prospects through the journey and ultimately convert them into paying customers.

Having a well-defined sales process is crucial to sales success. And combined with a razor-sharp strategy (see #1 above), achieving your sales goals is a snap.

3) Sales team effectiveness

We love checklists here at Andavi, and this section is a great place to have one, so here is your checklist for sales team effectiveness:

  • Hire the right people
  • Provide training in the use of modern sales tools and technology
  • Set clear goals and objectives
  • Provide accountability for sales results
  • Leverage automation to remove the burden of repetitive administrative tasks from your sales team
  • Facilitate asynchronous communication with all stakeholders
  • Provide technology tools to streamline workflow and enhance customer engagement
  • Measure performance and feedback (KPIs) as easily as possible via dynamically generated dashboards and reports
  • Provide continuous learning and development
  • Put a formal “change management” system in place to ensure sales team adoption and guide them through change smoothly with the least amount of “friction.”

How does your company measure up to this checklist? Which components are missing?

What systems, policies, procedures, and protocols must your company improve?

Need assistance with any of this?

4) Sales technology utilization

Now we are getting down to the “nut cutting.”

If you are willing to admit that in 2024 (and beyond), the stakes have never been higher when it comes to achieving high levels of sales success, please know this:

Without leveraging technology in your sales process, you WILL get left behind.

This is worth pursuing, even if it is only to gain a competitive edge. Currently, most wine and spirits companies are NOT leveraging technology in their sales process, which is good news for those willing to do so.

This is probably a good time for another handy checklist in case readers are not 100% familiar with what we are talking about here:

  • CRM software to improve sales team effectiveness and efficiency and improve customer satisfaction.
  • Data analytics and insights to better understand customer needs and opportunities.
  • Sales enablement and collaboration platforms and content management systems to provide sales teams and partners (i.e. distributors) with all the information they need when they need it.
  • Automation, Scalability, and Flexibility to support the sales team and adapt to changing market conditions.
  • Pricing and promotion management to control your spending and optimize return on investment.
  • Retail space and category management to gain your brand’s fair share of the shelf, display, and cold box.

Companies not currently leveraging technology do not stand a chance against those that do. It is really that simple.

5) Customer relationship management

We are unsure why this topic is so confusing in the wine and spirits industry, but it is. Part of the problem is that many people confuse “depletion reporting systems” with real CRM systems.

While many CRM platforms can do both, the concept of “Customer Relationship Management” is much more complex than the choice of platform and what it can (or cannot) do.

Regarding “Sales Execution,” no strategy or process can be executed appropriately without a modern, cloud-based, mobile-friendly CRM system. It’s the backbone of the system. The infrastructure holds everything together, from the strategy to the process to the sales team.

Now, we’ve been pretty frank up to this point in this article, so we won’t stop now:

While you and your team fuss about and argue over CRM’s “big brother nature” and/or the “time-consuming” lack of necessity of using one, your competitors have been spending their time pushing through the learning curve. They are now well-positioned to steal great gobs of market share from YOU.

If you are among those who do not yet see CRM’s value, the next step is to educate yourself as quickly as possible.

If you have a CRM system but are struggling to use it effectively, your next step is to invest in training (and lots of it). There is no way around the learning curve—you must go through it.

Lastly, if you are among the mighty few making your CRM system “hum” for you, the time is right now to press your advantage over your competitors because the “gap” in CRM competence will never be as wide as it is now.

Make Sales Execution Your Favorite Thing

We hope this article has been enlightening. We invite you to make “sales execution” your new favorite thing.

We recognize that this is not easy. But you do not have to do it alone. We have an entire team of knowledgeable, competent, and experienced technology professionals standing by to help. We are just one click away.