Powerful Sales Channels: How to drive results
Since March, the business world has been doing a lot of “pivoting”. The avenues you choose to get your precious bottles (or cans) into the thirsty British Columbian consumer are called your sales channels. This article dives right into what sales channels are and delivers tips on how you drive results.
Product Sales Channels
Sales channels are the path that your brand’s beverages take to reach your grateful drinker. You can sell through a single Sales channel, such as out of your own brewery, or through multiple channels. In fact, every way you move your finished product out your door is considered a sales channel. Distributors, wholesalers, retailers, and agents all work as intermediaries in the sales process, adding value and nuances to your product and brand which flow down your sales chain. It is important to understand the differences between key players and how you can drive value in the alcohol sales process in British Columbia.
So, your sales channels include:
- Liquor Retail Stores (Retailer)
- Restaurants & Bars
- Ollie’s Buyer Platform
- Distributor (Direct Tap, Container World, LDB)
- Your own online store (Shopify, Ollie DTC, Squarespace)
- Instagram & other shoppable social media platforms
- Sales Teams, Agents, and Representatives.
- Value-Added Reseller (VAR) like Skip the Dishes or Doordash
As your product flows through these intermediaries who are integral to the success of your business, the way you communicate with them is just as important as how you communicate with your end-user.
The Players in Your Sales Chain
Liquor Retail Stores (Retailers):
Retailers are outlets where excited party-goers, day-drinkers, people desperate to impress their new girlfriend’s inlaws and so many more alcohol consumers can purchase products.
This is your local Liquor Store. In BC, they can of course be Government owned like BC Liquor Stores or privately owned like Jak’s. The way these two kinds of stores function is similar, and also quite different. However, ultimately, liquor buyers are incredibly busy people. They are often dealing with buying for multiple product range portfolios and want to deal with producers who are professional, transparent and accountable.
Retailers can sell through storefront locations or through online channels. Alcohol brands are able to sell directly to consumers. Retailers can purchase products from distributors or wholesalers or direct from brands like you.
Restaurants & Bars:
We’ve all been to restaurants and bars, so we know what they are. But what you might not have given much thought to is how they work. Buyers, or the person responsible for procurement, in restaurants and bars might not necessarily work your standard 9-5pm business day. Often, they’re working during their working hours, which can go late into the night. This means that their needs as buyers can be quite different and might not align with how your order process is currently set up - particularly if you require a high-touch sales process.
They manage warehousing, orders, deliveries and returns (also known as ‘reverse logistics’). The larger distributors in BC primarily handle the last leg logistics to your customers. You as a producer can choose to outsource your order desk as some distributors, like Direct Tap, offer a dedicated order desk team that will assist in the collection of orders, payments and approval of orders to be shipped every week. However, keep in mind when a distributor operates your order desk function, their service will typically only cover order entry, payment collection and order issue management for in-stock and repeat orders.
Lacking an internal sales team? Lacking industry connections?
Agents are particularly prevalent if you’re in winemaking but can also be found for beer, cider and spirits. They can help connect your brand with retail channels that match the positioning your label is aiming for. Some prominent agents in the BC liquor industry are: AmoVino, Lone Tree Cellars, KIS Consulting, Storied Wines & Spirits, The Drinks List, Wolfe Jack Supply Co and HQ Wines.
Agents handle the logistics of sales, orders, marketing, and can provide a level of mentorship for your label too. On behalf of labels like yours, agents are kind of like the Tinder of the alcohol world: they take ownership of products through the Sales process and match you up with retailers. Within the sales process itself, they will represent you as the tastemaker in the sales process.
How your sales representatives engage with your channel partners can add significant value to your supply chain. Knowledgeable and active sales representatives need data like product sales trends, insights into customer purchasing habits and real time inventory visibility to compete with the sales representatives of the larger multinational brands.
Tips on Driving Results
Streamline Your Ordering Process
Your ordering process is the operational link that connects you to your buyers. Subsequently, it goes without saying that how you manage your orders impacts heavily on the experience you deliver to your retail partners. The more friction and complication that exists in this process means that your business can be at risk of being seen as 'too hard to deal with'. So you want your ordering process to be streamlined, effective, and prioritize your buyer’s needs from start to finish.
Replicating Positive Experiences
Understanding what’s working well and what can be improved is vitally important to remain competitive and also nurture customer loyalty. Finding ways to grow your insight into the sales functions of your business across multiple channels is key to doing more good for your staff and customers.
So with all this in mind, there is a lot to think about when you’re developing a sales channel strategy. What’s most important is how you nurture your relationships with your channel partners to drive growth and customer experience. One thing we at Ollie hear most often is that liquor buyers want producers to have reliable, transparent and accountable ordering, and reordering, processes so they know what’s going on. So finding ways to deliver value to your buyers in turn pays dividends when it comes to delivering value to your consumers.
Take action now
If you'd like to start taking steps to streamline your ordering experience so you can deliver more value down your sales chain, get in touch with us today to access your free, no obligation 30 day trial. You've got nothing to lose!