Sid Patel Shares Insider Tips On Sending Samples to Importers and Distributors

14/05/2023 In this video, Sid shares insights on how buying decisions are really made and how samples get tasted at distributors and why it’s important for you to know as a brand owner.

Sid Patel has been in the wine and spirits industry for over 18 years. He is the founder of Beverage Trade Network, a company that owns some of the world's leading events and trade shows like USA Trade Tasting, International Bulk Wine and Spirits Shows, London Competitions, USA Ratings, Sommeliers Choice Awards, Paris Wine Cup, Cannabis Drinks Expo and more.

Here’s what Sid has to say on how to send samples to your prospective importers and distributors.

1) Send 12 bottles. 1 full case. If you only have one SKU, send 12 bottles of that SKU.

If you have 3 SKUs, send 4 each. If you have 12 SKUs, send 4 cases, and so on. The point is a minimum of 4 bottles per SKU. Even if it's a spirit. For beers maybe double that. The best marketing investment you can do is 'use your product'. It will cost you less but has a maximum impact. Here's why and how your samples are getting used at the distributor's business.

Most of the small and medium-sized distributors are owner run. They may have a wine-selling team and from that team, one person may be the technical expert. Normally, they do their new product tastings on Friday mornings. (so keep in mind to send a reminder email on Thursday evening to your prospect).

They see your samples, some samples are in white non-branded boxes which is a huge mistake.

2) Always use a branded case of your product when sending samples. This gives them instant verification you believe in the quality of the carton and branding.

This is also an IMPORTANT element for small and medium distributors as when they store your product, it's easy for them to locate, and it is easy for the warehouse personnel to find your product. I hated white cases when I consulted for a wholesaler for a few years. and I loved sturdy branded cases...my team could hold them nicely. I also loved the standard bottle size so it all fitted nicely on the pallet. Now imagine the same problem at the retailer, they have even less space and resources.

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3) Let's go back to the samples.

So let's say you have this nice branded box of your wine in their office marked as samples. Your distributor pulls the wines out and now has to go back to the laptop to check who you are, what your pricing is, and so on. There comes your email with so many attachments about your winery and not much about how you will help them sell. So here's the tip, send 2 emails, one about your story and one for which the title says "Support, Pricing and Marketing Program Attached For Your Samples Meetings".

In that email, give them a reason to buy, how you will help them sell, and the program which includes launch deals, sample deals, etc. It should be a nice PDF that they can print and share in their meeting with base pricing and all the above. Tip: try and do line pricing of your skus'. I always liked suppliers with simple pricing like $48 a cs / $4 a bottle for all their varietals instead of $62 for Merlot, $73 for Shiraz and so on. Make some extra money on some SKUs and lose some money on some skus but try to make it all line priced for the distributor and retailer. A lot of suppliers go for cost-based pricing, it's okay to make 70% on some and 20% on some but when you are launching try to see if you can come up to line pricing. Buy bulk wine and try line pricing if your goal is to sell 100,000 cases of that brand. Of course, if you can't, you should not. Below is the line pricing of my wines - the year 2011.

There was one deal: but 10 pallets mix and match however way between my brands, and I will cover the shipping cost to their warehouse.

My point is to give this information and a very clear way and it should be there when they are tasting the product.

4) Include point-of-sale material in the box

This is super important, don't include brochures, what you need to include are shelf talkers, case cards, and bottlenecks.

Show them real pictures and show them you will make custom case cards or shelf-talkers if needed for chain accounts and so on. In the picture, is one of my case cards we did for Festival Foods chains floor placement.

Distributors and reps, want to see your scores, and marketing materials (that help them sell).

5) Also, include "pricing" and a "personal letter" in the sample box.

Now not many people do this. I used to do this when I was selling my wine and I loved it when I was buying as well as a wholesaler. Because of this - I don't have to open my laptop and print. I have all the things in the box. I also have a letter that says which products along with a business card stapled so I can call the supplier right away from the meeting if I have any questions. Always encourage them to call you right away if they have questions while they do their tasting.

Now, they have tasted and opened your bottles and one key person is missing. If you don't have an extra bottle left, your chances are 50%. Because maybe there is another supplier that had the extra bottle that the key person gets to taste on Monday when he/she returns and maybe they are the ones who get a chance because the distributor only wanted that one Chilean producer. So here is when that extra 3 bottles will help...one can be used for the people that could not taste in the distributor's business.

6) The other 2 bottles are used this way.

if a distributor wants to carry your product, they will give the 2 bottles to their sales reps who also liked your product and they will take it out to their retailers and show them and get their feedback. Some may try to pre-sell. Sometimes the retailers may ask them to leave one bottle...the last thing distributor will do is say no to their account. Thus, always give extra bottles, and let them pre-sell. It's better. I loved it when my distributors presold my wine before buying...because that meant depletion would happen fast and I would get a new order soon and I would get paid soon. The point of sale that you sent in the 'sample box' will also help the sales rep in making their initial presentation to their accounts.

If a distributor is still left with your extra bottle, and they have NOT made a decision yet on your product, guess what, when you send that follow-up email in a week, they may open that bottle again and taste and you may get lucky that time. It helps them if they are not decided in the first batch.

To sum up, samples are THE most important thing in conversion. Samples do not just mean bottles, treat samples as a sample box and everything that goes into the sampling process. You can also listen to this video that explains the process.

If you are a wine, beer or spirits brand looking to grow in the United States, this is your last chance to enter your wines, beers and spirits in the 2023 USA Ratings. The international submission deadline is May 26. Both domestic and international brands can now enter using the below links.

Get rated by Quality, Value, and Packaging by the top trade buyers in the USA. The international submission deadline is May 31, 2024. Here is how to enter.