Friday, February 8, 2013

The Problem of Being A Sales Rep for Alcohol

So, I've been hesitant for a few months about telling people here that I'm now a sales rep for some whiskies.  I guess I fear that people will start thinking that I'm going to lie and say that all of the my products that I carry is the best thing next to Jesus or Buddha.   So, truth be told, there are some products that I super duper love and some that I think, "Hmm sometimes I love you and sometimes I hate you so hard!!"

At any rate, some people think my job is easy because I'm lugging my booze in my car and slinging them inside my WinkiPinki Suitcase inside bars and restaurants.  I get to meet bartenders and have them sip my whiskies.  They think it's equivalent to partying with some Hollywood socialite, but it's actually really hard to be in my position.   Some say, "Well, it's unexpected that you're selling whisky because you're an Asian female, so that can be an advantage.  It's a novelty! They'll remember you over any guy!"   I tell them that I feel like, because I don't look like a typical whisky drinker, I have to study the products like crazy to prove to people that I really care about the subject.  Of course, that's partly true, but the key thing that I still need to work on is delivering my speech.  You don't necessarily have to know everything, but there's a certain way to sell a damn product.  It's about building your confidence and being straight with people, which I still need to work on. When I approach people I'm pretty laid back.  I don't tell them, "Buy my bottles, bitch!" on a first meeting.  Instead, I introduce myself, show them my whisky doodles and talk about the products.  After they taste the stuff, I say, "Hey!  I hope to see you soon!"  There's no, "So, how many bottles do you want to buy?"  

You have to get used to being rejected non stop.  My boss tells me that on average a bar manager will say, "No," to a sales representative about 8 times before he considers buying something from you.   Bar managers don't call you back or email you.  I feel like I'm some sort of a stalker girlfriend who is incessantly calling and saying, "Hey!  I haven't heard from you! So, are we going to hang out soon? I see you!! You're inside your bar, dammit!  Answer me!!!"  In other cases, the bartenders smile and say, "Oh yeah! I love your product, but I don't know how we can put it on the shelf."  That run around answer is frustrating.  It's like having a dude that I'm interested in and he's stringing me along, saying, "Hey, you're a really sweet girl...definitely're going to make someone so happy, but I don't know what I want right now.  Let's just continue to hang out.  Keep it casual." This makes me want to read that book, He's Not That Into You...and I want to show that bar manager, "See!  This is what you're doing here, you son of a bitch! Dammit!  Give me a straight answer.  If you like my product, place a facking order!!"  I guess that's all part of the game in the selling booze world.

But maybe the bar managers aren't doing that on purpose (as in stringing me along).  Maybe it's because they see so many sales reps each week that they feel like people like me are waisting their time.  One of my bartender pals tells me it's frustrating to see so many sales reps who don't care enough about learning their products.  A lot of sales reps, apparently, aren't interested in their products, let alone drink.  They read straight from the pamphlet and they don't know when the distillery was established, the number of distillation, the type of stills, the mashbill ratio, etc.  So, my bartender friends feel frustrated about that.  I asked a bar manager what he found to be frustrating and he said, "You know, sales reps don't even show up here.  I only have 2 sales reps that show up about once a month and they just say, 'Hi,' but I want someone to say, 'Hey, how are you?  Do you need anything? Can I help you? I want to feel supported by having them show up once a week.  No one shows up here.'"

 So, I faaacking am trying to prove to that bar manager by saying, "Hey, I'll write out your tasting notes and history of the distillery on your whole, current whisky portfolio."  He wanted me to train his staff about spirits and I was going to do it, but I have to take a step back and be a little bit cut throat.  I came back and told him, "Hey! Here are the notes that I promised you.  I know I sound cut throat for saying this, but if you want me to train your staff you have to buy a bottle from me. For now, I will show up once a week to prove to you that I'm here to support you."

So, I'm trying to use my social work background by emailing the bartenders, "Hey!  I'm really into whisky and I care deeply about the products.  I went to Scotland by myself to check out some distilleries.  That's how much I love whisky!   At any rate, some of my bartender friends have expressed their frustrations with sales reps.  I'd like to know what your ideal sales rep would be, so I can be accommodating to you. Do you want me to show up once a week?  What would you like from me?" I don't know if I'm unloading to them too quickly or too soon, but I guess I need to just test this approach for a bit to see if it works.

We'll see how all of this goes.  It's hard, but I want to do well.  I really do.  I'm really happy with my portfolio and I want to be a well-respected person in this industry!!!!  I suppose at the end of the day it's all about being persistent and establishing relationships with people.  The product can speak for itself, but it's about me delivering myself to them and showing them that I can be great at this job.  So, I'll keep on trying and trying.  


  1. How does one go about getting such a great job? I know more about Scotch than anyone in California. I'd love to represent the libation I love.

  2. Hi! I've been in the restaurant,bar and event industry for a while. How to you break into a career such as yours? Do you find out which liquor you would like to represent and apply on their website?