Tips for Working with Your Spirits Distributor

Selling a spirits product requires a route-to-market strategy, and you can’t do it without a distributor. Having a good distributor relationship is essential to penetrating any market. While there are many ways to build great relationships with distributors, we’ve outlined a few of our top tips and considerations for you in the following sections.

What Distributors Want: Support & A Story

Distributors want to see a brand that’s sellable. You need to do your homework first. Figure out where there’s a hole in the market and how you’re filling it. Know the right price point for your market and have realistic goals for how many cases can be sold. Ask your distributor for their feedback and be prepared to have an open conversation. Knowing your price point and flexibility allows you to work together to find a price that fits within your financial plans and makes the distributor feel comfortable in terms of ability to push in the marketplace. Once you’ve worked out the numbers, you can get to work supporting your product and distributor in the market.

In addition to supporting your distributor physically in the marketplace and agreeing on numbers, you especially need to have a story to arm your distributor with and get them excited about. The fact is, the market is saturated with craft brands – why does yours stand out and why should a distributor carry and care about it?

How You Can Support Your Distributor

Support comes in many forms, in everything from going out in the marketplace yourself to being sure you have the funds set aside to market your product effectively.

For starters, show support by being out in the market, selling, and doing the legwork. Show that your product can sell by actually doing it. This makes it easier for your distributor, validates your value proposition, and helps you build relationships in the market to drive purchase through great interactions and building brand champions.

When you go into the market, focus on accounts that are a good fit. Is your product a shot-and-a-beer type whiskey or a craft cocktail lounge type spirit? Being hyper-focused on who your audience is will make you more efficient when selling your spirits. In addition to knowing your consumer, you also need to know who’s selling your product. Build relationships with the bars and retailers who carry your spirits. Get to know what they care about and how you can support them individually through, for example, sponsored events, product trainings, or distillery visits.

How Not to Treat Your Distributor

It’s easy to believe you have the best product, and while it’s important to be confident, it’s more important you don’t overstep your boundaries with a distributor by being demanding or treating them as if they’re your employees – because they’re not. Focus more on creating a working relationship with your distributor and seek to understand where they’re coming from. Distribution is a business – distributors need to make money, too, and they have goals they need to reach to be successful. Instead of being demanding or having unrealistic expectations of them, ask, “how can we better help you achieve your goals?” When you work together with your distributor, you’ll find your niche and both of you will be happy.

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