Design A Digital Pathway To Success With Ben Salisbury of Salisbury Creative Group

by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Apr 6, 2022

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast
Ben Salisbury

Ben Salisbury is the President and Founder of Salisbury Creative Group, a sales consulting firm that helps alcohol brands leverage technology in their sales process. Ben has experience working in the wine industry — he led large, national sales teams as the Vice President of Global Accounts and On-Premise Strategy for Ste Michelle Wine Estates and the Vice President of National Accounts for Constellation Brands. He has also worked for distributors including Green Glass Global and Glazer’s Distributors.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Ben Salisbury talks about his beginning as a wine distributor and leveraging yourself as a distributor 
  • Why you need to be knowledgeable of modern marketing strategies to scale wine varietals 
  • How a customer relationship management software tool can help organize information
  • Ben discusses the process of creating a digital asset for your brand
  • Using wine guides as a useful tool to add inventory value
  • Why cultivating dependability and relationships with buyers can make your brand stand out
  • Ben shares ways to use data to better navigate the three-tier system
  • Ben explains the importance of an email campaign for lasting results

In this episode with Ben Salisbury

When you have a passion for your wine product, but it is not selling as much as you would like, what tools and resources can make your product visible to a wider audience? How can you take your brand to the next level?

Ben Salisbury knows that being a distributor is more than selling — it is forging lasting relationships and partnerships with buyers and wineries. He helps distributors make the selling experience count by effectively using data to build customer relationship management strategies. With these tools, you can scale each varietal based on clientele needs to take your brand to the next level. 

In this episode of Legends Behind the Craft, join Drew Hendricks as he sits down with Ben Salisbury, President and Founder of Salisbury Creative Group, to talk about building digital distribution models and marketing strategies for distributors. Ben discusses the process of creating email marketing campaigns, cultivating respect and lasting relationships with wineries, and navigating a digital three-tier system for growth.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.

At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.

Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.

So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!

To learn more, visit or email us at to schedule a strategy call.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show.

Drew Hendricks  0:19  

Drew Thomas Hendricks here, the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, where I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry, from design companies like VINT who brings a winery story to life through its labels. Today’s guest Ben Salisbury, president of Salisbury Creative Group, whose mission is to bring winery sales and marketing up to the Modern Age. past guests of Legends Behind the Craft include Scout Driscoll of VINT, Laurie Millotte of Outshinery and Ron Scharman founder Astra Digital. If you haven’t listened to these yet, be sure to check them out and subscribe. Today’s episode, sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy when the highlighter authenticity tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue. Go to today to learn more. Now, today’s guest is Ben Salisbury. Ben is the founder and president of Salisbury Creative Group, a sales and strategy consulting firm that helps wineries and craft distilleries optimize their sales results by better leveraging technology. Now Ben and I were on a panel hosted by Outshinery a few months ago, where we discussed the pros and cons of different digital marketing channels available to wineries. And I’m super excited to continue that conversation today on Legends Behind the Craft. Now Ben is a true legends got 38 years of one spirits industry experience including sales leadership roles with Ste Michelle Wine Estates, and Constellation Brands. Welcome to the show, Ben.

Ben Salisbury  1:49  

Thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m very excited to be

Drew Hendricks  1:52  

excited to have you on. I gotta say, I just got back from Ste Michelle winery, few, we visited some friends up in Tacoma and they took us on a little wine tour. I could not believe how much I think it was 20 years ago as last time I was there. I cannot remember that minor recently. But man, they have done a lot with their interior layout.

Ben Salisbury  2:13  

The tasting room had a major river re redo few years ago, I have not been back. I’ve not been back to the chateau, since I left in 2009. But I spent 12 years there. And it’s some of my favorite years that have been in the business. I have great memories of working there

Drew Hendricks  2:31  

yet. So tell me about how did you get into the business?

Ben Salisbury  2:35  

Well, I went to college for culinary arts and food service management. My first career was a restaurant business. But I really got bitten by the wine bug when I was working in a very fancy French restaurant at the top of the Biltmore Hotel in Providence. And I got into wine and wasn’t too long that I was made the move to work for wine distributor, selling wine to restaurants. So that was my, and that was in 1984. I was 24 25 years old. And that’s how I got my star. So I carried a bag on the streets of Houston selling to restaurants and liquor stores. Early in my wine career is a very different time back then. A few years later, I got serious, seriously focused on selling to chain restaurants back when the chains were really starting to grow. And so I stayed as a specialist in that area for 17 years. And that’s what I did for St. Michelle wine estates. And what I did for Constellation, I ran a large national sales team that focused on the big chains. And since both those companies were publicly traded, I was forced to learn a level of business acumen that I might not have gotten otherwise. So I’m very thankful for those experiences. And it really helped me be a good consultant today, having learned all those systems and disciplines and processes,

Drew Hendricks  3:55  

for sure that in the in the trenches experience, it’s irreplaceable. And that and that kind of brings us right into the meat of the meat of the matter here is that you’re you’re devoted to kind of bring everybody back up bringing everybody to what you call like the modern winery playbook or the modern wine and craft selling playbook. And you do a lot you do a lot of business with in that three tier space. Before we can talk about the modern winery playbook. Talk to me a little bit about what the old playbook is, and why so many wineries are still using it and why it no longer works.

Ben Salisbury  4:28  

Yeah, this is such a great topic Drew, you know, things have changed a lot in the wine business. And yet most people are still operating as if nothing had changed when it comes to the way they sell. And so this is a great topic to talk about. What is the old playbook and what are the plays in the old playbook? Because if you recognize that they don’t work anymore, you can you can then start working, running plays out of the new playbook. So the old in the world of three tier especially the world has always revolved around the three tier system and that is distributor, a winery would go and find a great distributor in each market that they wanted to be for sale, they would form a great partnership that distributed bring in their inventory, and turn loose their team of salespeople out in the market to build new distribution. And sales. It was a beautiful time, I worked both as a distributor and a supplier through the 80s 90s and 2000s in that system. But two interesting things happened. One, the proliferation of new brands and wineries just out of control, especially in the last 10 years. And the number of distributors has shrunk considerably from like 3000 distributors in the US, down below 700. So the ratio of brands to distributors is completely out of whack. And that’s why the plays in the old playbook don’t work. So here the place, find a good distributor, educate the distributor, motivate the distributor, get out work with the distributor, manage the distributor, those plays don’t work, because all distributors small, large and medium are just completely overwhelmed with all the things they have to sell. So the bottom line is this true, the burden of building new distribution and sales has shifted from the distributor. Back to the producer. And the saying that I would like to see wineries large and small everywhere adopt for themselves. If it’s important to us, we’re going to have to do it ourselves. So

Drew Hendricks  6:27  

great, that is a great observation there, I come back from I got my start in the wine industry as a buyer in a wine store. So I was always sitting on the other side of the tasting table as the reps came in and poured for me in very rarely every once in a while a winery come in on on a roadshow they’d swing by with the distributors. And that was really the only contact we had with the actual winery, as a buyer, and what you say makes sense in 93, that we must ms been buying from 50 or 60 different brokerage firms and distributors in San Francisco. And they each have a manageable portfolio. So you could take 60 you could taste 60 70 wines a day and get a pretty good accurate and complete view of their product. But that’s no longer the case. It’s really got you can’t just shove the burden off to the distributors and expect it to be sold. So how does the winery succeed in today’s market?

Ben Salisbury  7:24  

So one quick thing before we go on to what the new playbook is like, which is very exciting. Because once you understand the old placement work and you know what the new plays are, you can get down to business executing. But something else that’s changed a lot. And that’s the way people buy and the way products are sold. When there were fewer wind brands out there, you could take time to open a bottle and experience it with the buyer and talk about the attributes of the wine and talk about the winemaker style and that no one has time for that anymore. The idea that you’re being too product focused was actually a detriment. There has to be a larger relationship at work based on service and dependability. Because the fact is, there are a lot of great Cabernets out there lots of great Chardonnays you, it’s really hard to differentiate with your product alone. So selling for a small or medium or even a large winery has to be about something in addition to just the product, having a great product and great story and great package. All that does is get you to the starting line. So it’s not enough of a differentiator. So that being said, let’s talk about the new. The

Drew Hendricks  8:33  

new I was talking to 10th Mountain whiskey last week. And they were he was talking he helped small distilleries basically launch, he’s got a blueprint for launch. And one of his biggest things was you can’t just because you’ve got a great product, and you if you build it, they won’t come you’ve got to promote it.

Ben Salisbury  8:50  

Yes, and so a lot of this has to do with having more strategies that are scalable. So number one of the new playbook is don’t depend too much on your distributor, I’m not saying don’t use them, they’re an indispensable part of the feature system probably never going like the first play in the new play. Because don’t depend too much on them, start doing a lot more of that yourself lowering expectations of what they can do for you, no amount of motivation or education is going to change that. So once you accept that, you’re free to move on to some of the other things. And

Drew Hendricks  9:21  

we have talked about how distributors basically logistics, consider them the logistics, they’re getting the they’re moving the product, that they’re not in charge of marketing the product.

Ben Salisbury  9:31  

That’s right, there’s really only three things you can ask of your distributor, this is a good starting place, hold a little of your product in the inventory, deliver it to the council you and your team have sold to and potentially match your efforts. So if you go out and build 10 new points of distribution, you ought to be able to ask the distributor to match your attempt. They’re far more likely to do something for you if you go do it first. So if everyone listening to this podcast would just start with that as their baseline expectation they would be so much happier with how things are going. So another play and the new playbook because you’ve got to leverage at 20. Not all the accounts are equal, you have to know where your products fit best. You have to do research on each market that you’re in, you need to know who the players are, is it a change driven market or independent Is there are there are one or two major players that suck up all the opportunity for that market. It’s a very data driven and business intelligence driven game. Now, it’s not as sexy as talking about how the line was made, but it’s essential.

Drew Hendricks  10:33  

But no. And in order to know your market, you need to know your ideal customer. You may want to sell your wines nationwide, but there’s gonna be certain areas that will resonate with your winery. And if you don’t know your ideal customer, you don’t know what where those areas

Ben Salisbury  10:45  

are. Well, and I can’t say how many wineries try to show up at a distributor and talk about their products is that that’s enough to make them want to bring them on what the distributor sitting across the table wants to hear is that you have studied the market, you know, where all the business is done, you know who the major players are, you know, what the competitive landscape is like, you know what the competition competition looks like inside their own portfolio. And that you have realistic expectations about what can be done in the first six months in the first year, the first two years, any whiner that walks in like that to distributor is going to get respect and they’re going to take them on. But it’s pretty rare. Because people are, it’s all about the product.

Drew Hendricks  11:23  

Yeah, it’s figuring out like, here’s, here’s a here’s a weak point in your portfolio, here’s how our wine will fit the bill there and solve your issue. So you’re really, it’s it’s really there’s the burdens on the winery.

Ben Salisbury  11:36  

It really is. So the other place in the modern playbook are all about technology. Okay, CRM, CRM, lead generation, email for trade sales, like leveraging email software in the same way that the direct to consumer people been doing for years to to service consumers. The feature trade world needs to be using those same tools and disciplines and practices for managing a large audience of trade buyers and need to know how to attract those people. Get them to enroll in a trade on the email list, and use expert email marketing to cultivate and build relationships with them. One other good rule of thumb here Drew is if it can’t be scaled, you need to set it aside in favor of something that can be scaled one to one selling zit, one buyer with a couple balls of wine sitting down with one, you know a seller and a buyer sitting at a table drinking samples. This is not scalable, it is just can’t get to where you need to go. But if you were to do a webinar, where you’re giving an expert training on blending, blending, for example, and and the only people who would be interested in a webinar like this would be very experienced, very knowledgeable sommeliers. And you had 40, or 50 of them show up for the webinar. And they had to register for that webinar and give you their name and their title and the place they work in the email address. That could be the beginning of managing a relationship with a large group of trade buyers. This is infinitely scalable. And so you have to in this feature world, you have to take a lot of pages out of the DCC playbook, and adapt them to the three, three tier world. So that’s CRM, email, understanding how to do things at scale. So it’s, it’s very different. And it’s not very sexy. I know. And some people say, Well, I didn’t sign up for all this tech stuff. I just love wine. And I love to sell wine, and I love serving my customers, those things.

Drew Hendricks  13:30  

And that’s the problem the wine industry gets people get into the industry, even if they’re in the tech thing, they could have executed a tech IPO in Silicon Valley be worth and suddenly they become a farmer in Napa. And they forget how to use email. It’s like it actually the wine the wine industry seems to like it’s an atavistic kind of industry really, where people kind of get into it isn’t an almost an escape, oftentimes, but they forget that you can’t give up the marketing part.

Ben Salisbury  14:00  

And that it would be nice to you don’t have to give up all of that passion for the product and the process and the romance, you don’t have to give it up. But you do need to overlay some more modern selling strategies and ice. As you know, when I see our clients, the light bulbs come on for this, and I see them out there doing these things, and I see them getting results is very satisfying. And then you have to wonder, well, why aren’t more people doing this? Why are people still doing nothing wrong with wine dinners, per se, but you’ll never if you have 10,000 cases of wine to sell, do you know how many wine dinners you would have to do to sell 10,000 cases? You know a lot because you might sell five cases at that dinner. So it’s just getting out of the mindset of what used to work no longer works, or doesn’t work as well. And even if you get people to accept that the where they stumble as well, they don’t know what to do instead. So that’s what word so you and I are talking about today. Yeah, instead,

Drew Hendricks  14:57  

I can see so just so everyone listening On your website, I’m Salisbury Creative, you have an E course, the modern winery playbook the people sign up for right now. And you also have an amazing video that I tell people all about. It’s the small winery Marketing on a Shoestring, which is more on the more on a global side. But in that playbook, we talk about CRM, what advice do you give on a CRM? Do you outline specific one, so really just find one and use it?

Ben Salisbury  15:26  

Well, I love talking about CRM is one of my favorite topics. And I like to tell people CRM is two things. It’s a software tool, for sure, right? We all we all get that. But it’s also a discipline process for selling. I like to say that follow up is the key to great sales, not persuasion, or overcoming objections follow up, you want to sell a lot of wine, be an expert and follow up. And the best way to have perfect follow up is using a CRM system. There’s a lot of details to keep track of of the accounts themselves, and the attributes of the counts, you know, do they have a Sunday brunch? Do they have a happy hour? Do they have a captain’s list? Do they do they serve serve law, you know, sell large format bottles? Do they have a q&a program, there’s a lot of information about each account that you need to keep track of. And you can do that in this era. And then all the information about the buyers themselves? Who are their influencers? Where have they been to Europe, which wineries have they visited? What were they used to work who’s their boss now, all these if you want to customer relationship management, executed really well is about those, those knowledge points about the accounts, and the customers. So really bleeding into it. And wanting to have all those things in one place, you have information about the accounts, information about the buyer context. And then information about all the interactions you’ve had every email, every text, every, every DM all in one place where you can recall it when you need it. And then you can put in all of your current distribution information and depletion information in there too. So I still see people running around with a spiral notebook or legal hat, or keeping track of their contacts in their Outlook contact list. This is nowhere nearly robust enough to leverage the power of CRM.

Drew Hendricks  17:15  

Yeah, I like what you’re talking about on the processes. The most important thing about the CRM is not the actual CRM, whether it’s HubSpot sales force, Pipedrive, whatever CRM you’re using, it’s the processes behind it. And too often with our clients, we, we hear the Shiny Object Object Syndrome, like Oh, I think we just need to move to Salesforce, or I think HubSpot is gonna solve all of our problems. And it’s a similar to like, an athlete in a gym, whether you’re on a Life Fitness cycle, or whether you’re on the next cycle, it, it’s the processes in the gym, that actually get the results, not so much the equipment. And I, I try to get people off that like switching, like, let’s just show you how to use what you have, before we add another or switch you off something.

Ben Salisbury  18:03  

That’s a great analogy. And, you know, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to study these stumbling blocks around using CRM. And a couple of things that come up time and again, which are worth thinking about is the if the sale is merely a transaction, where I’m giving you information, until you appreciate what I’m offering, and then you buy it, and you give me money. If that’s how sales are truly made, then why do you need a CRM because you make the appointment and you go in with your samples, and you can you make the sale. But that is not. That is not how real selling works. Real selling requires 10 12 multiple touch points. It requires service first, dependability, first, product knowledge later, it’s a longer term play. I like to say and this is not my quote, it comes from Jeff Thull. And his book mastering the complex sale, he says that a sale should be nothing more than a byproduct of a much larger relationship. Yeah, you know, I have over 60 videos on YouTube. But there’s one that’s 10 times as popular as the rest combined. And it’s called the secret to selling wine on premise. I invite your listeners to check it out. But this is what it talks about. It talks about the secret to selling on premise is putting the customer’s needs first, and having a long term approach and bringing real value to the business relationship that is not a transaction. So when you move away from the transactional way of selling, and into more of a systems and relationship selling, CRM is right there at the center of your needs, because you keep track of all that information in one place. And you can recall it anytime you want from your phone. So that’s the biggest stumbling block of people using CRM. They’re too transactional in their sales approach. And I don’t see a need for SEO. But that’s a recipe for failure.

Drew Hendricks  19:48  

And that’s I find that one of the I liked what you said about the 10 to 12 touch points and you need to sit serum to figure out where you’re in that sequence. Is it the first one and what information are you giving someone at that touch point? because if you weren’t the ones sure sign that I see on that complex sale is if you get to the proposal stage, you get to the sales stage, and you’re still writing 20 pages of a proposal, you haven’t done it right. But in a consultative sales through the CRM, the sale just happens naturally, in people go, how did you do it, but you just close this huge deal with a paragraph, because it was already was already there.

Ben Salisbury  20:25  

That is exactly right. And for people wanting to learn how to sell that way, mastering the complex sale is the definitive book that will show you how to that sale a sale is a process is a bit protracted. And if you’re patient and you’re willing to submit to that project process, you will sell far more product than you ever thought possible. But when you put samples that you need to sell on a sample bag, and you run around to a dozen different restaurants, talking about the products in your bag that you need to sell or you have a quota on or that or have a incentive on, this is not real selling this is about as unprofessional as you can get second, maybe only to use car selling.

Drew Hendricks  21:05  

It’s wait. I love these to use car because it’s wheeling dealing. And that’s the way it was back when I was a buyer where the person the distributor had 50 cases of sharpening, they need to unload. And they’re pouring it and they’re trying to convince me to buy it. So they’ve got to start including other stuff to sweeten the deal. And they make one big package deal where I bet 50 cases a sharp but I had to get these. But they had to throw in 10 cases of this allocated wine so I could do it. And that’s just that’s a very it’s a Hustler’s way of doing it.

Ben Salisbury  21:32  

In the US and you know, you do it enough, you can certainly sell enough. But as a brand owner, you cannot afford to be trying to sell this way, you need a relationship with some key buyers around the country. So let’s say you’re small winery, and you’re doing everything you can in your tasting room, and you’re doing everything you can to get visitors there, you’re doing a great job in rolling wine club members, you have a really robust email list with a high open rate and you get a pretty good return on your email campaigns. But it’s still not enough you’d like to sell more. Now it’s time to start thinking about how to crack into the three tier world. And if you have the right approach, it can be a lucrative channel for you. And you, you don’t need to go in every state, you just need to go in a few. And perhaps this is a good way to a good segue to talking about digital three tier which many whiners don’t even know as a thing.

Drew Hendricks  22:23  

Yeah, I’d love to talk about that, especially for the small winery. Because the segment there the segue there is that small wineries, they believe the only way avenue they have now is direct to consumer done such a good job convincing them that direct consumer is the way to go that the pendulums got too far over to one direction, and they’ve forgotten about this three tier. But there’s so many avenues open now that weren’t open just even eight years ago.

Ben Salisbury  22:48  

And not even five years ago, you only have to go back five years. You know, just yesterday, I think it was within the last few days Lib Dib celebrated their five year anniversary. Now feels like they’ve been around longer than that. But it’s not just five years. So five and a half years ago, you couldn’t do digital three tier and even when they started it was only one state then two states. Now it’s nine states.

Drew Hendricks  23:09  

Yeah, just really, for our audience. I mean, not three tier digital three tier.

Ben Salisbury  23:14  

Yeah. So you know, people should run not walk to the Lib Dib website and just read, read what their capabilities are read about the nine states that they can put your product and read success stories of other people using the platform? Well, it is my my father used to say if something’s too good to be true, it’s probably not well, this is not too good to be true. It’s happening right now, while other people are asleep at the wheel. So listen, well. So let’s talk about Yeah, what Lindsey has done, and they’ve partnered with rndc. And in to do the same thing, but lived in is pretty much the game. For digital three chair. They are legally compliant. Third, third tier distributor, they’re a real distributor in the nine states in which they operate. But it’s all digital. Now they have the fulfillment order fulfillment process down cold, they’re improving all the time, what a small winery needs to do is first get their product set up on their platform in the states that they want to be in. And I would suggest start with one or two or three states, get some traction and learn how to sell through those states, then you can open up more states, it’s just a rinse and repeat process at that point. So get your products up and running on live dip. They’ll walk you through it. The support is amazing that you get when you go out to the platform, then you have to go find your own audience so they don’t do any selling for us the key there. You have to and this is a really straightforward process. It’s lead generation combined with email marketing. So let’s let’s give you a real life example. So Wisconsin has wine drinkers. Okay. And I I wonder how many wineries listening to this podcast are have wines for sale in the feature in Wisconsin? Probably not a lot. So you You could go put up your product for sale in Wisconsin, and then start running some very simple lead gen ads in the state of Wisconsin to draw pay buyers to you. And you’ll need a lead magnet for something like this. Like maybe, you know, the unofficial guide to Sauvignon Blanc or the, you know, 12 wines that you should be collecting. Now, you create a digital asset that give something of value in exchange for an email address, legitimate, honest, authentic, you know, value that you’re offering. And we have many, many examples of wineries who do this now, distilleries to

Drew Hendricks  25:35  

now you recommend that the whiners create lead magnet to targeting a consumer or targeting a buyer at a restaurant or soulmate?

Ben Salisbury  25:42  

Targeting chain buyers Facebook’s adverts targeting tools allowing you to target chain buyers, using audiences like Master sommelier, or even others, you know, Ws CT, there’s audiences inside Facebook that only a trade buyer would would know about. Wine searcher is one of those things. Most consumers don’t use wine searcher maybe more now than these two. But for a long time, wine searcher was pretty much a tool of the trade, like 750. But you can target people who have an interest in those trade related things, and put your ads in front of them. So part of it is targeting the other is messaging. Like we coach our clients in your ad copy, say, calling all sommeliers or calling all wine buyers, get your hands on our latest guide to, you know, managing your inventory in a more efficient way. Or you have to offer something of value, it can’t be about your product, it has to self serving. When you do this, you’ll have trade buyers signing up to be on your trade only email us that’s the end game, join our trade only email list, learn about special deals, learn about, you know, be able to talk directly to the producer, you just mentioned this in your buying role. It wasn’t he didn’t have enough access directly to the producers. But thanks to the world of you know, the digital world, these restaurant tours in Wisconsin can have direct access to the producer very often the owner, they can have a relationship with the owner of the winery. So how many restaurants would you need to put your wine on by the glass, one of your wines by the glass? How many would you need to add another 40 or 50 cases a month to your sales, you wouldn’t need very many, six or eight. You don’t need to be in every restaurant and retail store Wisconsin, you only need to be in a couple dozen. And you’ve just transformed your business, then you go do the same in Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, Colorado, Texas, California. It’s New York. So it’s really, really exciting. Now there’s a learning curve. There’s definitely a learning curve. But it’s worth it. It’s worth pursuing. Because there’s a learning curve.

Drew Hendricks  27:55  

What’s What’s the biggest mistake you find people making when they’re kind of DIY this in that learning curve.

Ben Salisbury  28:02  

Being too self promoting far and away. The biggest mistake is being too self promoting. You have to add value and prove pervert provide a value in a service to restaurants and wine bars. They need another Chardonnay like a hole in the head. They have no trouble getting their hands on a sick great six or $7 sharpening no trouble at all. So you’re not going to win them over by the quality of your product or your price, you better have something else. Like being able to bring them knowledge or things that will help them sell more. What if a wine What if a winery owner were to offer to take a look at a restaurants by the glass list? And see maybe we could eliminate redundancies? Maybe we could maybe you don’t need 14 or 17 wines by the glass? Maybe you only need 11. And so which which varietals would you have in which price points? And which producers? And let me look at your Pinot Noir list because you got for Sonoma Coast Pinot and you don’t have anything from Oregon. And you know, there’s there’s advisory things that wineries can do to help restaurants have a better assortment. That’s just one example of how to add value. So you create guides on how to how to cut your inventory in half and double your sales. So that’s a little bit of, you know, fanciful. What’s what’s the word, it might be a little too outlandish, but you get the idea. The idea is to bring step one, bring them to your trade only email us then carefully and expertly build a relationship with them by adding value, adding value, adding value, and over time 12 touch points that are necessary. And then one day you wake up and you get an email that a restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin just bought two cases of your Chardonnay. That’s how it works. And it’s totally scalable. It’s totally scalable. You don’t have to leave your desk and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. So it’s very exciting.

Drew Hendricks  29:53  

And that’s very similar to the way miners ought to be targeting people in the direct to consumer land. So there’s definitely an opening app there between the two, just the just the messaging and the targets a little bit different.

Ben Salisbury  30:05  

Yes. And we’d like to use Facebook and Instagram ads for the purpose of enrolling email subscribers. And then later expertly and patiently using email marketing, to nurture and then convert them into sales and that alone and you you know better than me, you’re an expert in email marketing. But that alone, just being more patient and building relationships first before you start sticking offers in front of people that could could transform winery sales to

Drew Hendricks  30:33  

email, email marketing is such an art. As far as segmenting the list and sending out the right messaging and then tracking what people have done with it, you have to send out a blind email you got to send, you got to send out emails that have a goal, like there’s different cliques there and then change your messaging based on the person’s interaction with it. And that’s something that is once again back to the CRM system. And then maybe a little bit of segue here on the CRM system is one of the other mistakes that I see is they have so much information that’s possible within that CRM system, that I feel like too many people try to get all that information on the first interaction. And it’s there’s just too much friction there. Like, what is your advice on the first interaction? What’s the minimum amount of information you would collect?

Ben Salisbury  31:18  

Yeah, that’s such a great question. Well, if you think of it in stages, which is the CRM process, right? There’s stages the first stage is they don’t know about they don’t even know you exist. So the first stage is that awareness, top of the funnel stuff, right, and the DTC people get this, but the tree, three tier trade, people have never been exposed to this. But that is the first step is to make them aware of you, and then draw them towards you by bringing something value. The next stage is all about researching and learning and doing your homework. So let’s say a summary a from a well known restaurant in Chicago, joins your email list where you have work to do you have work to study that account, help you know what kind of what’s their menu look like? What’s their oneness look like? But what are their busiest nights of the week? Do they maybe Sunday brunches are biggest, or maybe they’ve got two private dining rooms. And that’s where they do most of their volume. You do those that next stage is research, research, the account, research all the people who work there, from the general manager to the executive chef to the wine buyer, the assistant wine buyer, the dining manager, it’s what we call the cast of characters. Collecting information about all the people who work in the process of doing that, usually, opportunities will will arise and only

Drew Hendricks  32:31  

works on you to do it. So don’t have a format there that says your email, your name, your company, your revenue, don’t don’t you know, that’s just way too much information that if you just got someone’s email address is a salesperson, you should be able to figure the rest of that stuff out.

Ben Salisbury  32:47  

And yes, you have to do homework, you have to use tools like LinkedIn, and Yelp. And, you know, Google to just it’s amazing what you can find out if you’re diligent enough about people and accounts. And so the next step in the process is to make initial contact, if people would just wait before they make the initial contact, if they would wait until the thoroughly exhausted all the research they can possibly do. The odds of making a meaningful connection go up dramatically. When you’re when you’re ready to make the initial contact. You don’t have to waste the buyers time by asking a lot of questions you should already know. How long have you worked there? Where did you work before? How often do you change your wine list? Those things you can find out on your own? initial conversations more like how can I help you? I’m sure you’re very live with people trying to sell you one. What What can I do to light to lighten your load? What do you need right now? Well, you know, I’ve been using the same $6 Chardonnay in my banquet list for years, the price just went up and the supplies real spotty. So you got a Chardonnay in the six to $7 range, I might want to sample. So that really becomes that second touch point is getting offering a sample right, which you can then instruct your distributor to do or you can find another legal way to get a sample. So now the ice is broken. And you’re you’ve found some reason interact. And it’s just from there. It’s just looking for more reasons to reach out inviting them to virtual events. You know, bring you bring them information about something really new and exciting that’s happening in their market. I spent many years working in a restaurant and sounds like you did too. You don’t have time to go research anything. You don’t have time to leave the four walls of the restaurant and see what what your neighbors are doing down the street. So your winery partners and you just silly partners can be your eyes and ears in the market of what’s happening and offering up ideas and trends. So if you treat it like a long term courtship, you will and when you make a sale, that way it sticks. They don’t just swap your sharpening out for somebody else’s because it’s 50 cents cheaper. When you make a sale in a quality way based on service and dependability and trust those placements stick and they stick for years on end sometimes And you can go get another one. So it’s a long term game many touch points, and you use your CRM system to keep track of where you are in that in those stages. All right, good for it’s very exciting really.

Drew Hendricks  35:14  

It’s super exciting. It’s there’s so much possibility right now as far as for a mid mid range wine or a larger winery may have. They’re gonna have a small winery is probably the same person that does the DTC marketing and the three tier marketing because there’s just not enough stuff there. But as you go up the case count and the revenue base, you’re gonna suddenly have a whole separate division selling three tier versus DTC. How did the two play together?

Ben Salisbury  35:41  

Yes, I wish they would play better together because they often operate in silos for many wineries. They have a very capable and robust DTC team, which includes social media, email marketing, e-commerce, tasting room, one clubs, they got that covered. And then they might have two or three more salespeople out managing the three chair. The two don’t talk enough about how to use CRM and how to integrate the things that they’re learning. So let’s say they’re using HubSpot. How can I use, I want to get me a user ID for HubSpot. Let helped me do some a little bit of configuring to make it work for my three tier environment like I’m going to want buyer attributes like, are they on premise or off premise? You know, do they have any kind of certifications like ws CT level 123, I want to be able to capture buyer information in the same CRM system, don’t need to hold new CRM system, you just need to add more users and configure it for the three tier people. So just sharing the processes and sharing the tools, and let the three tier people adapt it for their own needs, that would be a huge step. In the right, alright, guys,

Drew Hendricks  36:48  

it’d be huge. Even though the market intelligence that you could let for Gianna on a larger winery that goes national, they can look at the pockets within the United States where direct to consumer sales are strong and pretty much intuit that the three tier would probably there’s some three tier opportunities over there, given the direct to consumer sales in that area. But if the two are talking to each other, they’re both kind of wasting, they’re doing the same work. And they’re kind of wasting effort there.

Ben Salisbury  37:17  

Well, one thing we’ve only we’ve seen only recently is when the three share people are planning an event in a particular market. Let’s say they’re going to do a winemaker luncheon in Atlanta, they ought to be able to send an email to all the DTC, the DCC team should be able to send an email, it’s all of their the buy all the buyer con all the consumer context in their database, and invite them to that to that dinner. That’s only a fairly recent phenomena. Now, some wineries do a much better job than others. But there is a way to leverage the three tier for consumers. And there’s so much data now and more data coming and understanding how to use that data and how to bring more of it into the system. And that that’s where you really start to see some traction of using both sides. The DTC side and the feature side.

Drew Hendricks  38:11  

That’s very, very good point there. And we’re just kind of seeing a hybrid of it right now. And I’m still had Paul Mabray on a few few months ago. And he just launched pitstop wine, which is kind of a singular platform where both three tears being sold on there and direct consumers being sold on there. It’s just Free For All right now, they can sort based on price based on location based on all that. But it’s a the platform’s making a play together.

Ben Salisbury  38:38  

Well, the opportunities are enormous, right, because it’s all data. And there’s data on the consumers, all kinds of data, all kinds of rich, meaningful data. There’s also a lot of data on the trade buyers to sommeliers, wine shop owners. What one good example of an you may have seen this, too, I like to look at what Total Wine is doing. Because they have over 200 retail stores, but they really aspire to, to do a better job of e-commerce, selling those same products online. So whether you go into one of their stores, or you buy online, and they want to capture that, that ring, as opposed to having it go somewhere else. So they’re very savvy marketers, and they’re getting closer and closer to really nailing How do you do it all? How do you tie in the people who are physically buying products out in retail stores in various states, and and yet serving the same community online. And it’s data. It’s all about data and user experience. And that’s what

Drew Hendricks  39:41  

advice would you give a small winery trying to get into total wine?

Ben Salisbury  39:44  

Well, it’s a double edged sword with total wine because if you do a winery direct relationship, which many small wineries do I mean, Total Wine is a machine that needs to be fed by by winery, direct and spirits direct relationships, but the minute you As a winery enter into that relationship, you immediately become the enemy of all of total wines, competitors, so you have to really think it through. And if you’re going to do business with Total Wine, you, you’ll want to and you’re going to do a direct a winery direct relationship, you’re going to want to peel off a SKU, or a brand. And keep it pure, just for Total Wine and have other sell other brands out of the three tier. But I wouldn’t start with with Total Wine if I was trying to, I mean, you have to ask why do you want to be in total? Why? Well, I want to sell more wine, okay, well, there might be a better, faster way to sell more wine, that’s a pretty tall, tall mountain to climb. If you if you do want to get into Total Wine, you’re going to need to have your, you know, on the ground distribution, you know, well documented, they’re going to want to know who your distributors are. They may if you do winery direct, you have to know how that game works and how the math works, and how the logistics work. And so that you don’t get caught with in a supply chain crunch or a blip in the supply chain. It’s it’s very, it’s a very professional level of selling. But But short of that there. If it was me, I would find out who our total lines, biggest competitors and some major markets around the country and approach them you might have an easier time there because they’re fighting for their lives. Yes, you compete for Total Wine.

Drew Hendricks  41:22  

Yeah, we I had a one of my first agencies called dental octopi independent wine stores to compete with the better leverage chain stores Bevmo and Trader Joe’s. It was a it was a good business phone, it was very hard with independent wine stores to get them to practice what they need to practice. And that was the one challenge though working at the wine company was finding wines that weren’t down the block at Vons, or work down the block that Bevmo that was with a 3% markup. right margin on,

Ben Salisbury  41:55  

which isn’t a good reason to be on lib. So back to the Wisconsin I guess, if you’re on lived in Wisconsin, and a restaurant buyer is looking to replace their reasoning by the glass was something that they can get a bit fatter margin on meaning it’s not already everywhere at retail, this is a beautiful reason for them to come to live did to find a nice reasoning that they can put on by the glass and make a fatter margin. So wineries, I don’t want to generalize too much. But a lot of whiners have a lack of understanding of what motivates a restaurant wine buyer, or a retail wine buyer and offering something different that they can get a fatter margin on is usually the top of their list. Next on their list is an uninterrupted supply. Imagine a restaurant turning, turning their customers on to a great reasoning by the glass or Sarabhai glass. And they’re using five to six cases a week. And then they run into a supply chain, and they have to take it off the menu or reprint the menu and tell their customers I’m sorry, we can’t get that line anymore. This is such a huge pain point for restaurants. So you’re going to go into that channel, be ready to provide an uninterrupted supply chain because that’s what’s most important to them. Not how cheap the wine is or how much better your mellow tastes or somebody else’s. That it’s an

Drew Hendricks  43:12  

multilocation tinging. A menu is not trivial, maybe maybe easy for the bistro down the block they just printed on the laser printer in the back. But he got multiple locations with you know, polished menu. It’s it says major expense to shift it.

Ben Salisbury  43:30  

Yeah, so the three tier world is not as intimidating as many think if you understand how to enter it. And I can’t recommend the digital entry, as a great place to start not a lot of downside risk of having your products listed on a website, then you can begin the work of making meaningful relationships in that market in and move some product when you start moving product, you can scale back and enter new new states.

Drew Hendricks  43:56  

So the modern playbook like to give a very cursory summary is embrace the technology have a process, put it in a CRM, don’t try to make a one off transactional sale No, that’s going to take 10 to 12 touch points where you build your intelligence, and then suddenly the sale just kind of flows from there.

Ben Salisbury  44:14  

Yes, and a few other things you don’t need to be in all accounts just a few really well chosen ones. You don’t want to pen too much distributor, we’re gonna have to do most of it yourself. And just like DTC, you need even in the three tier digital three tier world, your email list is the most important selling asset you have. You must grow it you must nurture it and it can’t be taken away from you. So it’s just it’s just that simple. Making email growing your email list of trade buyers needs to be very, very important to you and then treating them like gold. Once they’re on there. You can always you can always tell a client of Salisbury credit because when you go to their website and they have their email signup form, somewhere on that form a two little radio buttons. I am a consumer or winemaker. or I am a trade buyer working in a restaurant a retail store. Because as they’re collecting, as they’re collecting email addresses from website visitors, if you don’t think that restaurant tours sommeliers or visiting winery websites, they absolutely are. When you roll out the red carpet for the trade buyers, and you make them feel welcome, and they know you have a trade only email list, they will sign up as ours. Excellent. It starts as a trickle, and then it grows into much larger stream. But this it’s like cathedral building, or tree planting. It takes time. It takes time, but it is a sure. While it’s a slow way to riches, it’s a sure path to riches, for sure.

Drew Hendricks  45:40  

Toggle lists, that’s the secret for everyone out there. So I mean, maybe see a few other websites now they have that little toggle radio button there. I like that,

Ben Salisbury  45:49  

that it’s magic. It’s magic. And of course, you know, depending on the email software using they automatically get the trade tag. And now you have your segmentation you get your trade buyers and one less than your consumers than another and there’s so many ways to add further segmentation to the trade buyers but

Drew Hendricks  46:07  

wealth, your wealth of wealth of knowledge and advice and you have so anybody that wants to check you out no matter where people can find you online but I will definitely plug your YouTube channel is phenomenal. Your your videos are super polished, I do have to ask do you do those in house? Or how do you produce those?

Ben Salisbury  46:24  

Yeah, no, I use this microphone and this camera and we use cams. We use Camtasia editing software, we do have in house help editing we my youngest son Dan works with us in the business. And he’s very gifted these things he created our Stinger that we use a new YouTube channel. And so we’d like to just we like to crank them out and not worry about being studio perfect, though that one video tell me about that is over 11,000 views called the secret to selling wine and spirits on premise. It’s one of the worst. From a production quality standpoint, it’s pretty bad. The lighting is bad, the sounds bad. But that’s not what people want. They want the content, you know, they want the information. That’s what makes that video go viral. And there’s so many people looking at

Drew Hendricks  47:11  

and getting it out there I have a good friend Ian Garlic with Story Crews and authentic web has his T shirt his motto is version Done is better than version none. And that may be one of the biggest things for whiners looking to create a lead magnet or create something, just get something out there and you can iterate upon it too often you’re just waiting for that perfect, perfect piece that may never come or that landing page that you want to target or that neck get a CRM, get the touch points going and then build on it Don’t Don’t worry about it being perfect on your first outreach.

Ben Salisbury  47:44  

If absolutely does it’s actually in more endearing if it isn’t perfect. I think you get credit for the handheld in the moment quality whether it’s video or PDF, you know, it doesn’t have to be perfect especially if the if the content is kick ass people the content is king phrases overused, but it’s still very true.

Drew Hendricks  48:05  

Oh, it’s true. And then as we’re kind of wrapping Down here you’ve got some credible content credible ecourses where can people find out more about that?

Ben Salisbury  48:13  

Well, the best place is thats you can access the modern playbook which is our free online course. You can also access all of our published content in our blog and our YouTube channel. And then you can also access our paid online courses we have a signature online course called wine sales simulator. We’re also getting ready to launch our first ever group coaching and consulting program which will carry the same name why I’m so stimulator so you can get on the waitlist there but, and you can find all of our assets there.

Drew Hendricks  48:50  

Oh, fantastic. And then you’re doing you’re always kind of on the speaking circuit so people can hear you there. And you were telling me about you’re just you’re starting some LinkedIn lives. Yeah,

Ben Salisbury  48:59  

Friday, tomorrow, one o’clock. I’m going to try to do every Friday, one o’clock Eastern. To show up on LinkedIn live to talk about these topics. Tomorrow, we’re talking about how to find the richest targets of restaurants and retailers in any market us. So we definitely follow us on LinkedIn. We have a less our largest following LinkedIn and joining our email list, which you can do from the website. But being on our email list will help too because every Friday we publish sales tips and tricks. And I can’t think of the last time I tried to sell somebody something with my email. I’m just trying to educate and enrich relationships. So it’s a safe email list to belong to you won’t get bombarded with stuff you don’t want.

Drew Hendricks  49:42  

And that may be the next biggest secret. Don’t always just don’t. They always say I’ll always be selling but always be offering value is really what you should be doing.

Ben Salisbury  49:52  

The sales. Sales will happen naturally.

Drew Hendricks  49:55  

Mm hmm. Well, Ben, thank you so much for joining us today.

Ben Salisbury  49:59  

Well, it was fun, and I enjoyed talking with you. I have a lot of respect for you. I’m a big fan of what you and your team do. So, thank you for having me.

Drew Hendricks  50:07  

Thank you so much. Look forward to talking to

Outro  50:09  

you. Thanks for listening to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.