How E-Commerce is Changing The Role of the Alcohol Sales Rep

Posted: 11th May 2017

MRM recently attended the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association Convention in Florida in order to meet with prospective clients and learn more about the US market.

As part of this we were invited to take part in the US Beverage Alcohol Forum to discuss the “Future of Technology” in the industry. To view the replay of this forum, click here.

In preparation for the forum we spent good deal of time thinking about the various changes that are happening within the industry in both the US and the UK.

One exciting technology trend which is growing quickly in the UK but only in it’s infancy in the US is the emergence of B2B e-commerce. Essentially, this means customers placing their orders online rather than through their rep or via a telesales team.

In the UK, the largest wholesalers are now taking between 10-30% of their orders through their e-commerce platforms. The convenience of online ordering means that many customers prefer this option as they can place orders at the time that is most convenient for them.

Based on our evidence from the UK market I have detailed below the trends that the US market is likely to see as it moves away from the current norm of sales reps taking orders.

  • 1. With the majority of orders being taken by e-commerce platforms or telesales teams the role of the sales rep has shifted from being an order taker and merchandiser to a more complex role where they are focused on supporting their customers business by providing category insight, marketing support and up-selling new or higher margin products.


  • 2. The role of a sales rep has become a higher skilled as they now need to be strong in areas outside of just sales includes sales, marketing, finance and product expertise.


  • 3. Online ordering makes it very easy for customers to switch wholesaler which means that wholesalers finding innovative ways to attract and retain their customers by providing an increasing array of added value services such as training, product tasting and education.


  • 4. E-commerce increases transparency in the market and improves competition. This means that wholesalers will also compete over the best sales reps. Hiring and retaining the best talent will become increasingly important.


  • 5. Sales rep compensation will move from commission to a salary. This can result in different selling behaviour with a focus on profit and product mix rather than just as just shifting as many cases as possible.


  • 6. Sales reps are becoming younger and more highly qualified. Many large companies use their field sales team as their training ground for graduates and the best sales reps are often plucked from the field to take on bigger account management roles.


  • 7. Sales reps will be expected to be comfortable using a variety of of different software products and those sales reps who claim “I can’t use this” will find themselves getting quickly left behind.


  • 8. Technology suppliers whose software is focused on allowing reps to take orders will find their order volumes decreasing as customers switch to telesales and then online. New technology companies who focus on services that allows sales reps to provide these added value services should see an increase in demand.