Sales force knowledge


It is imperative that the sales force is made experts in the Field by making the team members familiar with how the product is actually made. In this article we are deliberating on how a reputed winery has trained their sales force in the finer working of making wine.

The Director of Marketing and Wine education (DMW) of a reputed Winery based in U.S felt the need to train his team members in the inner workings of wine making. He believed such training to his team including distributors will help them stay abreast of developments in wine industry. At the same time the sales force can put forward the positive points of wines from his winery as compared to their competitors and be able to convince the consumers and connoisseurs of wine to buy this company’s wines.
DMW planned to train his sales force on the inner workings of wine making. The DMW believed Gallo’s sales people and distributors would need such training to stay abreast of changes in the industry, which was shifting focus from high-volume, lower-priced wines to premium wines.

The luxury end wasn’t something wineries trifled with anymore. DMW found wine selling was becoming a major part of the marketplace and to demonstrate credibility with a sophisticated wine retailer the sales people would have to know everything about the wines they were pitching, from the vineyard’s soil to where the wine barrels were made. This was considered by the director as the best way to hold their ground with a savvy customer than to become wine experts themselves.

While certification is typically associated with technical fields, any industry in which salespeople are required to have specialized knowledge can benefit from a certification process. Not only does the training give salespeople proper product knowledge, having those credentials provides greater credibility with customers. It’s a split-second indicator to the customer that the person is qualified to be in conversation.

DMW decided online training was the way to go, so salespeople could study on their own time. He hired an online learning firm based to create a Web-based program. It ran a pilot that put salespeople in five markets through a training module focused specifically on the Wine brand, comparing them against five markets where salespeople received no training.

DMW then teamed up with the Society of Wine Educators (SWE), a U.S based nonprofit organization, because he felt SWE’s Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) program would provide the best base of knowledge for its salespeople. SWE’s content became the basis for an online study and preparation guide (salespeople must still complete an onsite test to get certified).

About two thirds of the company’s 300 direct salespeople underwent training, with a pass rate of about 55 percent—which attests to the fact that the certification is no walk in the park. Salespeople loved to show their success to other people, and having a business card with CSW after their name on their visiting card was a big motivation.

The key to a good certification program is creating a sense of relevancy. The responses should be a real response you would give a customer and, smaller companies with fewer resources should start small. Start with a smaller topic, maybe a product certification first, then add a selling skills certification, then link them together. The markets with trained salespeople saw placement in stores increase 25 to 30 percent and sell-through to consumer rise 15 to 20 percent. Those results were enough for the company to continue with a larger-scale program.