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10 tips for a valuable distributor sales meeting

Distributor sales meetings are perhaps the single most time effective way to make an impact on your distributors sales force. It allows you face to face time with the entire sales force and helps put a personal touch on your brand. Distributors should allow you access to a group sales meeting on a quarterly basis. Sales meetings can vary significantly from distributor to distributor. Some wholesalers will only allow you a short 15 or so minutes, often sandwiched in between numerous other suppliers also giving a presentation. Other distributors may give you the opportunity to speak for most of the meeting.

How to best utilize that valuable time? Here are 10 tips for conducting a distributor sales meeting:

1. Have a Plan - Have a written outline for your meeting and stick to it. Writing it down helps you stay on course. Be concise and precise. Have specific goals you want to achieve during the meeting; such as introduce a new incentive program, present sales goals or increase sales of a new style.

2. Visual Tools - Visual tools add "color' to your presentation. But don't overwhelm with a Powerpoint presentation or handouts. These can be good in short blasts, but tend to draw focus away from your presentation and from you. Hanging up banners or other POS, placing six packs around the room or even a mock-up of a ten case store stack adds a positive appeal and shows that you care about the presentation. Be creative!

3. Engage - Grab their attention right away! Be self-assured, speak up so that all can hear, and start the meeting off with something of interest. A short review of a humorous event during the day or other short intro that is light, funny or of broad interest to the whole group personalizes your presentation and gets everyone - including you - relaxed and into a flow. Don't pass out handouts before you get started! Wait until sometime during or even after your presentation. Otherwise the sales staff will be engaged with your handouts - not you.

4. Provide Value - Provide market or industry information that the sales staff would not get otherwise such as industry stats or trends in retailing. Provide them with tools that will help them sell not only your brand, but make them better sales people. Make their job easier!

5. Motivate - How can you motivate the sales staff to sell your beer? Have at least a few ideas for each meeting. If you can't think of reasons that they should be selling your brand over the brands in their portfolio, then you can't expect them to sell your beer.

6. Say Thanks to Reps Who Did Well - Always give notice to specific sales people that have done well with your brand. Acknowledge them in person and by name during the meeting. This shows the staff that you are in touch with their efforts.

7. Ask Questions - Listen. Get input from the sales staff - it shows that you care about what they think. It also allows you to learn about the specifics of their market. Ask what barriers and problems they have in selling your beer, and work though these problems by offering solutions. Also ask them what works well - this will help share the positives with the whole group.

8. Know the Local Terrain - Use local examples, names of local accounts and landmarks. This shows that you know and understand their market. Know the top ten accounts in their territory, both on-premise and off. Know the routes that have favorable demographics to your brand and other craft beers.

9. Know Your Stats - Study the depletions and trends of the distributor you are meeting with before the meeting. Know which sales people are selling your brand, where your brand is selling and how the numbers are trending. Do your homework!

10. Review Your Meeting - After the meeting, take a honest look inward and review your performance. Did you meet your objectives and goals? Did you motivate the staff? Did you make a difference and was the time spent of value to the sales staff? Ask a manager who was in the meeting to give you honest feedback about what worked and what didn't. Make notes and apply what you did right to your next meeting.

11. Bonus - Have Fun! If you don't have fun at the meeting, the sales staff won't have fun.

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