Effective relationship management is the key to selling to the owners of restaurants and bars. It may sound simple, but most aspiring vendors are ill-equipped and uninformed to accomplish this. Some of the bar owners I know have found their sales reps to be very awkward and clueless.

In one story I heard, a craft beer rep showed up with an entitled attitude, dropped off a six-pack of canned beer, said, “I’ll follow up in a week,” and then left. The bar owner didn’t even remember their names, who they worked for, or what they were selling when they returned. Despite how sad this sales approach is, it is widespread in the industry.

Although many high-income vendors have different approaches to generating business, most agree that a relationship must come before a value proposition is presented.

The following tips will help you build better relationships with bar owners, which will ultimately lead to more sales.

1. Send out a newsletter

Send out a newsletter to all the liquor licensees in your territory that highlight your personality, share your opinions, and display your expertise. Send it out to your list monthly in an envelope that appears to be a personal letter.

When you meet these people who have been receiving your information directly, they will be more respectful, interested in knowing what you’re about, and more likely to do business with you. Spend 30 minutes a day writing content that would be interesting to bar operators. Doing this consistently will lead to more leads, fewer losses, and easier closes.

2. Take the extra step

It is unlikely that you will have a large lead list. You’ll likely have 100 to 200 names, or even 1,000 if you’re covering a large area. Since the list is so small, you have to know everything you can about each person on it. Your marketing to them will be more effective if you know more about them.

3. Schedule regular meetings with your clients

An in-person meeting with a client who buys from you is unbeatable. Meetings can be fruitful.

Direct clients are more likely to remain as repeat customers. Meetings also generate valuable information. My clients and I meet regularly to discuss the effectiveness of my services. However, we also talk about the industry during our meetings. During these conversations, I learn about which bars are closing or being constructed, who is being fired, and more. I sometimes receive referrals as a result.

4. Be part of the industry

A hospitality professional has the best chance of success in the market. Knowing the core value proposition of your product or service will enable you to communicate it effectively.

If you can’t comprehend the pain of a POS system failing right after ringing in a large order for a table of eager customers, each requiring three changes. If you sell POS systems but never worked in a restaurant or used one, you’ll never understand the suffering of a POS system failing at the worst possible time. As a salesperson, you can’t understand the value of a POS system in the same way that a hospitality professional can.  To understand your prospects’ pain, direct industry experience is necessary.

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