Monday, March 18, 2013

Augustan sales force "backbones" new Premier Beverage Account Development Team

Premier Beverage, a member of the Charmer Sunbelt Group, and one of Forida's largest distributors of wine, spirits, and other beverages, is streamlining its operations and enhancing its customer-servicing capabilities by melding the Augustan Sales Force and the Premier Account Development Specialist Team (Premier ADST) into a new organization called the Premium Account Development Specialist Team.  I spoke with Andrew McNamara MS, Director of Fine Wine/Master Sommelier, Premier Beverage Company and Augustan Wine Imports (and newly minted member of the Board of Directors, Court of Master Sommeliers) and Proal Perry, General Manager of Augustan Wine Imports, the team is slated to manage this new organization, to get their perspective on the rationale and implementation of this organizational move.

Andrew McNamara MS
Proal Perry
According to Proal, Augustan was founded in 1983 with the intent of bringing small-producer, estate-bottled wines to the Florida market. The business model was successful but the company did not have the size to fully serve the market so it entered into a partnership with Premier Beverage. The organizational structure that was in-place when I interviewed Proal two+ years ago was as follows: a commissioned sales force; a General Manager/Sales Manager who reported directly to Proal and was charged with balancing responsibilities across the company; two Portfolio Managers – one responsible for the U.S. and the other for the rest of the world – who handled issues such as inventory, profitability, costing, and supplier contact and coordination; and a Marketing Specialist who handled referrals. This structure no longer meshes with Premier's strategic imperatives nor the realities on the ground.

The driving forces for the melding of the organizations were two-fold: (i) Customers have a number of sales people calling on them and are always looking to reduce the number of calls that they have to field.  By having a single salesperson calling on a customer, and representing the company's full lineup of products, Premier can show that it is listening and reacting to their stated needs without sacrificing its goals. (ii) The producers that Augustan represents continue to grow and there was a need to provide a sales organization that could continue to effectively represent their products in tandem with their growth. The process of melding the organization began about four months ago with intensive planning regarding the strategy and operation as well as intensive interviewing to flesh out the team.

The new, streamlined organization has two aspects: (i) The Premium Account Development Specialist Team -- headed by Andrew -- with responsibility for selling the majority of the Augustan-sourced offerings plus selected elements of the Premier book and the capability to sell the remainder of the Premier book as the occasion arises; (ii) A sourcing/marketing/product knowledge function with the responsibility for product acquisition, producer management, knowledge acquisition and distribution (both internally and externally), and creation of events and shows which project the products that are being sourced for the market. 

The new sales force is comprised of 19 sales people plus two managers and is deployed in North and South sub-teams. Andrew, in his new position, will report to Alan Paquette, Vice President of Wine. The Marketing Specialist will expand his focus to include all the wines that will be sold by the Premier Account Development Specialist Team and will have primary responsibility for product knowledge acquisition and dissemination. The team is further blessed by having Andrew, with his capabilities, to assist in staff and customer product training. Proal continues as General Manager of Augustan Wine Import. 

This is an exciting time for the new team.  Andrew's challenge will be melding the cultures of two separate organizations such that the end result is a group with a common sense of purpose and the tools to accomplish its goals. The challenge for the sales force will be getting up to speed on a broader array of products, and a different business model, while getting to know new team members, and maintaining the level of production in the short term. On the other side of the coin, they are now able to offer a wider variety of "new" choices to their existing customers and, as such, increase their perceived value.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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