As a sector, the on-trade is in decline.
The vast choice that consumers have on where to spend their “leisure pounds”, mixed with the competitive nature of the off trade, has given this sector a lot to think about.
Here’s a thought, last Christmas 55% of beer, wines and spirits sold in the off trade were either on promotion or price reduction, while the choice to “dine in for a tenner” or party at home with friends has become more and more appealing.
There are of course also cinemas, health clubs, theatres, betting shops. They can spend their money on holidays, computer games, clothes, DIY, home electronics, books, magazines, tobacco and of course, their family.
So how do we entice these consumers back into the on-trade arena?
How do we get the message across to the public that we offer such high levels of value and service?
Recently I was training a group of bar managers, which gave me a fantastic insight into how they see their suppliers and the on-trade market place in general. Once again I was reminded that the best view point for a sales person is that of the customer.
While we covered the necessity of good customer service, a little product knowledge, the perfect serve and some poignant industry facts focused on keeping their premises full and profitable, I realised how important it was for us all to take some responsibility in halting this decline.
As sales people we really need to understand that a great part of our role is to identify customers’ problems and uncover the solutions.
A bit off topic, but a fine example is the man who goes into a DIY store to buy a drill, but he doesn’t want a drill – he actually wants a hole.
A bad sales man would ask him about the drill he had in mind, the good sales man would ask about the hole he wants to create.
In my experience when brand owners offer their services to train staff, it has little to do with solving any of the problems the outlet may be suffering with, and more of an egotistical rant about their product and why the customer should be selling it.
They gather these people together for precious hours and then tell them about the drill they’ve come to sell rather than discuss the hole.
They then drive away; pleased with themselves for “achieving” something that had no measurable criteria for success.
It is important also of course for the owners and managers of the outlets to recognise the problems they are facing and gain an advantage over the competition with solid advice and intelligently directed training.
The drinks brands and outlets which inhabit the on-trade have a symbiotic relationship; it is a relationship of mutual benefit and interdependence.
If the bars, restaurants, hotels and pubs are successful so are the brands within them.
If the on-trade serve brands perfectly and politely people stay longer and return more often, while the brands are seen in their best light and retain their original kudos.
The reason that people choose to go out and socialise is to enjoy a service and experience that they can’t necessarily recreate at home.
We are all aware that there are burger restaurants and coffee shops who manage a uniformed, perfect serve every time, with a similar spend per head to some high street bars.
Can the same be said for our brands and the outlets that stock them?
Yet with all the knowledge that we have on the subject, with discussions around large meeting tables every week detailing the impending dip in this year’s sales figures, businesses and sales heads will set next year’s sales targets at an unreasonable level, hoping that by putting a few people on the road with the same sales story and a rewritten version of last year’s presenters, the tide will mystically turn.
Hope alone will not work.
New problems require new thinking; twenty years ago the on-trade didn’t look anything like this, and our sales methods should evolve too.
Do this now
Honestly answer these questions;
-Are your sales people presenting features or benefits?
-What thought processes do they need to adopt to be seen as problem solvers and business partners?
-How could you improve the sales for the benefit of your customers?
-How do you want your brand to be perceived by the end user? Is that happening now?
-Who will you use internally or externally to deliver the process?
Do this from now on
Understand that your customers and your brands do not exist in separate universes.
There will always be an “us and them” attitude between buyers and sellers, but the question is this; “Are you maintaining that stalemate on purpose or because you hadn’t really considered the alternatives?”
Wouldn’t you rather be seen as a business partner than a supplier?