The Tech Revolution in Wine & Spirits Sales: 9 Ways to Adapt and Thrive in Tomorrow’s Market

The changing landscape of sales

Nearly every advancement in professional selling is due to the use of technology. When you fold in the rapid evolution of consumer behavior – such as independent online research and social media – you have a perfect storm that will leave most salespeople bobbing precariously in the wake of forward progress.

This article is intended as a wake-up call to all sales professionals in our industry. Salespeople who are comfortable with and proficient in using digital tools will reap significant advantages compared to “traditional” salespeople.

The reward for the tech-savvy includes higher productivity and better customer insights. Adaptability is an attribute that will become increasingly prized as time goes on.

Salespeople who are proficient in and comfortable with using digital tools will reap significant advantages compared to traditional salespeople.

Traditional versus modern sales methods

Historically, most salespeople rely on ‘traditional’ means of selling. We are all familiar with these common methods, such as:

  • Face-to-face appointments with samples in tow
  • Phone calls and text messages
  • Selecting target accounts by “intuition” and gut feel (instead of hard data)
  • Sales by volume approach (instead of leveraging 80/20)

But this “analog” method of operating simply won’t cut it as we move into 2024. It’s become too competitive!

While not entirely bad, these methods are extremely limiting. What sales leader or business owner would intentionally put an inefficient, ineffective sales team on the field?

The fatal weakness of wine & spirits selling

While it might appear we are being melodramatic here, there is indeed a fatal weakness, and it is this:

Being overly obsessed with the product itself

There it is. We said it out loud.

Everyone reading this article knows exactly what we are talking about here. The focus on the product (how it was made, who made it, what it tastes like, etc) is intrinsically inseparable from the sales process.

We’d go so far as to say some people cannot sell wine or spirits any other way.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, it does have two fatal flaws:

  1. It is not very efficient
  2. It is not scaleable,

Sales success in the future will depend on leveraging the use of technology.

The gap is growing!

Before diving into the specifics of how to leap into the future, let’s briefly touch on this important observation: the gap between ‘analog’ selling and ‘tech-enabled’ selling is growing fast.

Worth noting here is we are not advocating to stop face-to-face selling completely but rather augmenting it.

When it comes down to it, there are only two ‘assets’ every salesperson possesses: their time and the goodwill of their customers.

Sales success is highly dependent upon the efficient use of time. Time is precious, but it is also leverageable.

This concept of ‘leverage’ is mission-critical. Doing more with less. Being ruthless in using one’s time is the key to accelerating sales success. We love this quote from The 4-Hour Workweek: “Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing and is far more unpleasant.”

Heading into 2024 and beyond, there are nine things every wine and spirits salesperson will need to know:

1. Expert use of CRM

CRM is the perfect tool for salespeople who want to achieve outstanding sales results. Effective use of CRM empowers salespeople to sell more.

The core functionality of CRM has four key benefits for salespeople:

  1. It saves precious time
  2. It allows documentation and visibility of communication and simplifies prospecting
  3. It helps to streamline the sales into a repeatable process
  4. It dramatically improves customer retention

In the right hands and with the right training, CRM does not replace sales efforts; it enhances them.

One of the most practical things you can do is learn more about how CRM helps salespeople sell more effectively.

2. Social Selling

Today, too many salespeople see social media as the realm of influencer marketing and obsessive self-aggrandizement. Most never consider what a powerful prospecting tool social media can be. It can also be a mighty force for building relationships at scale.

Social selling (also known as ‘virtual selling’ or ‘digital selling’) has evolved from using social media as we have typically come to view it.

Social selling is about unlocking an entire digital ecosystem, one that can amplify and augment a person’s sales efforts.

Take LinkedIn, for example. LinkedIn is not just a platform for the unemployed. It has become one of the most powerful networking and prospecting tools on the planet.

A complete, well-curated presence on LinkedIn becomes a strategic method for sellers to connect and build relationships with prospects.

Actively engaging with prospects on LinkedIn is an effective way to develop connections, build trust, and develop impactful relationships.

3. Basic category management

Category management is not solely reserved for selling in the off-premise trade channel.

The efficient use of resources is at the core of sound category management principles, and this concept naturally applies to on-premise.

Modern, tech-savvy salespeople understand the importance of going well beyond product knowledge by leveraging data and trends to serve customers better.

Now more than ever, restaurants and retailers must figure out how to do more with less. When salespeople primarily focus on how a product tastes, how it was made, and the story behind it who made it they fall far short of what the restaurant or retailer truly needs: how to grow revenue, control costs, and improve guest satisfaction.

Objective, data-driven business decisions should be prized just as highly as product knowledge certifications if sellers seek to add value to the accounts they serve.

While full-blown category management skills can be complex and intimidating, the basics need not be. Every salesperson worth their salt should understand SKU rationalization, assortment, inventory turns, sales mix, and market share.

Modern, tech-savvy salespeople understand the importance of going well beyond product knowledge by leveraging data and trends to serve customers better.

4. Key account targeting

For a typical salesperson, the thrill of the hunt is what drives them. If a customer is not using their product, they feel it’s their job to get in there and close that account.

Most hiring managers look for this quality when selecting candidates for a sales position. The problem is that sales results will always fall short of the potential unless those client acquisition skills are augmented by a data-driven approach to targeting the right accounts.

In reality, most salespeople do not always act in the company’s best interest (let alone their own best interests). Restricting sales activity and investment to only the most attractive and responsive accounts takes a great deal of discipline.

Not all accounts are of equal value. The key to accelerating sales performance is to stay focused on the 20% of the accounts that can drive 80% of the volume.

Modern sales pros must possess the skills to identify the most important accounts to target. They must learn which attributes of an account contribute to high levels of depletion, put in the research, and then target those precise accounts.

This less-is-more approach is essential to gaining the most sales with the least amount of effort and time expenditure.

Wine & spirits brands must use a strategic, empirical approach to account selection if they hope to achieve their sales goals.

5. Data-driven sales approach

Data objectively points to the opportunities. Data will show sales teams where to aim their resources and efforts. Data will also help sellers to better understand and serve their buyers.

Today’s buyers have much higher expectations of sellers than ever, and sellers must be well-equipped and trained to meet these expectations.

A data-driven sales approach is the only way to truly help customers achieve their goals. Responding to these elevated expectations requires analytics.

The pandemic surely accelerated the shift towards a more data-driven sales approach but there is no doubt that the need for these skills will only continue to be critical for sales success in the wine & spirits industry.

According to, 80% of business buyers expect to do more business online than ever before. We invite you to learn more about how other adult beverage companies use their data to unlock business intelligence.

6. How to leverage AI

To say that AI has the potential to revolutionize the wine & spirits industry is a huge understatement. AI can help improve many facets of sales and marketing.

If our industry has been slow to adopt and leverage AI capabilities, it’s even more true among sales professionals. Tech-savvy beverage producers use AI to:

Human sales skills like relationship building and storytelling will always remain crucial to sales success. However, all sales teams must seek to leverage AI for no other reason than to increase productivity.

Central to leveraging AI in sales is providing your sales team with just the right information and tools to close more deals.

A great way to start the process of incorporating AI into your sales process is to figure out which aspects of your sales processes can be simplified or optimized. From this point, you can explore and identify just the right tools for your sales team.

A great example of this is the automated management of pricing. Tools like Pricing Gateway exist now that simplify the three-tier pricing process by providing collection, aggregation, and reporting of distributor pricing for the beverage industry.

7. Use Email marketing platforms to enhance trade sales

Sales teams of tomorrow must move beyond one-to-one email tools like Outlook and Gmail. Automated platforms like Pardot, MailChimp, and Klavio offer targeted trade email campaigns and lead management.

A trade-only email list of buyers is essential to managing buyer relationships at scale. Modern sellers need to know how to grow and maintain their trade-only email lists.

For example, consider adding a popup that appears when people visit the Trade section of your website inviting them to join your trade-only email list. You can then set up an automated welcome email and a series of “nurture” emails that add value to your subscribers. This is less about selling and more about serving.

Email automation platforms can greatly enhance your communications with your distributor partners as well.

And if you have not yet grabbed your copy of The 3-Tier Survival Guide for Wine & Spirits, now is the time!

You can also find inspiration from articles like this that show how to use email marketing to attract trade buyers.

“Modern” email automation is not about newsletters and “blasts” to everyone on your list. It’s about building one-to-one relationships AT SCALE!

8. Inbound lead generation

One of the most powerful and effective ways to grow your trade-only email list and gain new buyer contacts is to practice inbound marketing.

Central to inbound marketing principles is the use of lead magnets. Lead magnets are valuable, digital content that you give away in exchange for a buyer’s contact information. These might include:

  • E-books
  • White papers
  • Videos
  • How-to guides
  • Research
  • Webinars

Outbound digital sales strategies are time-consuming and often ineffective. Inbound strategies can be fully automated and allow even the smallest sales team to box above their weight class.

Wineries, distilleries, breweries, and even distributors can leverage inbound sales strategies to not only dramatically increase their trade-only email list but also ‘serve’ their trade audiences.

A great example of this is hosting “gated content” on your website such as case studies,  white papers, and how-to guides.

Highly informative webinars are a fantastic way to attract and grow your trade-only audience. When thinking about what topics to use for webinars, it is vital sales teams take off their sales hats and instead don their industry-expert hat. Think about what problems your buyers have and how you can help solve those problems. People do not like to be sold but they love to learn.

Lead generation is and has always been used to supercharge a sales team’s efforts but much less so in the wine & spirits industry. Now is the time to get on board and get the training you need to leverage this powerful sales strategy!

9. Trade spend management

Imagine being able to track all of your promotions such as by-the-glass spending, depletion allowances, free goods, incentives, and samples in one powerful tool.

Sales teams of the future will dispense with time-consuming manual processes and spreadsheets to manage trade spending in favor of powerful software tools that tie together sales, finance, and IT teams into one central process.

The ability to quickly and accurately analyze the ROI of your trade spending is something all “modern” sellers can enjoy.

How much did your last BTG program cost? Was the spend worth it? Did I have the optimal price for both the restaurant and the distributor? These are critical questions that cannot be left to Excel spreadsheets!

Thanks to modern technology, visibility, and control of all aspects of your trade spending can be at your fingertips. This should include the management of your pricing, powerful, intuitive reports, and insightful, predictive analytics.

Only tech-savvy salespeople need apply

More and more job descriptions for sales roles include requirements for proficiency in using digital sales tools and strategies.

The adaptation of technology is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have feature of a modern sales team. And why shouldn’t they be? Higher productivity and better engagement are the rewards of adopting digital selling strategies!

Digital selling strategies of the future are not just for the DTC channel. They are desperately needed in the 3-tier realm as well!

Sales roles are evolving quickly and we at Andavi do not want anyone to get left behind.

Is YOUR sales team up to snuff? Do you need guidance, support, and training? We’re here to help!

About Andavi Solutions

Andavi Solutions was built to offer beverage alcohol businesses an integrated suite of technology solutions that provide insights, drive superior decision-making, and deliver ROI across the value chain. With decades of experience as suppliers, distributors, and analysts, Andavi Solutions has successfully leveraged technology to support the deliverables of on-premise chain accounts.

Want to learn even more about how we can help you succeed in on-premise chains? Contact us here for more information.