Reps, as most of us refer to them, or more commonly known these days as BDMs (Business Development Managers) can be another great way to go to progress your career. And this is a sought-after route for those who absolutely love the trade, but really want to get their weekends back.
The way I see it, there are 2 kinds of BDMs;
There are those that work for Brands, Agencies and Distributors. Diageo, Bacardi, Halewood, Indie Brands, Pernod Ricard, Love Drinks, Hi-Spirits…as well as the much smaller agencies who may just have a couple of Brands.
Then there are those who work for the Wholesalers. Matthew Clark, Amathus, Booker, Hammonds of Knutsford, Speciality, Venus, LWC, Enotria etc.
The roles for each will vary massively, but with the same common theme, too boost sales.
...will be charged with looking after a core group of Products. Anything from a portfolio of 4 to 40 Brands, covering most, if not all, Spirits Categories. And you can also be internally grouped to just look after 1 core brand, but that generally comes from Promotion within an Agency.
Lets take my current favvy agency of choice. Halewoods.
Without meaning to be nasty to them, the lowest rung on the ladder, the entry level are the Regional/Territory BDMs. Even referred to as ASMs. (Area Sales Managers or Territory Development Managers). They will be charged with looking after the whole Halewood portfolio of brands within a specific Region. East Anglia, Greater London, Kent etc. Their sole remit is to try and get new listings in Pubs, Bars, Hotels and Restaurants. And look after the current listings.
When they have a listing, say a new Dead Mans Fingers listing in a Pub, yes they will look after that account with branding, training and , but they’ll also be able to draw on DMF BDMs to help promote and sell more. While they have no official links to wholesalers, they will have close working relationships with the key Wholesalers in that area to make sure the new accounts can always buy the new products.
Of course full training will be given. But you’ll need a decent amount of broad spirits knowledge and kind of Sales experience. Although, as I’ve said, you’re not out and out selling, you’re just trying to get listings and offer support. Venues need to work very closely with these guys so they can make money and sell more!
...are the Sales guys and girls. Take LWC. Each BDM will have a Region. Probably a smaller region of a few major Towns and Cities. But you’ll be trying to sell a Venue everything from Spirits, right through to Beers, Wines and Softies. So a much broader knowledge is needed. But you definitely don't need to go too deep with brand knowledge. There may be some favourite lines that your company wants you to sell more of, because you’re getting a better deal, but ultimately you may be selling Diageo Brands to one Bar, then Halewood brands to the Hotel next door. Your life will revolve around pricing and being at the beck and call of the more needy Managers who always forget to place orders on time, or need something in an emergency, or there’s something missing from a delivery...insert 101 other excuses here!
Choosing your Path
For me, there is no right or wrong with this. If you’re super passionate about a niche, say Rum, then working for an Agency could be the most exciting thing for you. Especially if you do love a few of their brands. But if you just love seeing the industry thrive, then you as a Wholesale/Supplier BDM can really help Venues thrive. Helping to assist on stock lines. Help to assist with new trends. You can be the go between, between the Venue and the Agency Brands and help with training. So there’s no right or wrong. Just what suits YOU and your skillset.
How do you get these jobs?
A lot of these roles are advertised. I haven’t heard of too many Bartenders that have been approached to become a BDM. I know that plenty of interagency rivalry and poaching goes on. But generally, unless you’re well in with your BDM and you know they’re being promoted or leaving, you probably won’t hear about the role becoming available, as it’ll be their role, as everyone is Regional. So unless you’re looking to relocate, you’re never going to get a BDM gig for Bristol, if you live in Cambridge.
What Qualifications do you need?
That’s just it. Not a lot!!!
And no disrespect again. But a lot of the skills and knowledge you need, you’ll have gained from being a Bartender…AS LONG AS you’ve invested in yourself and learned.
Many Bartenders go on to be BDMs. The only Sales training they have, is behind the stick 5 nights a week. You’ll ideally need to be computer literate, so you can run your accounts Spreadsheets and Sales figures. Log Calls and Notes etc. But training will be given on the relevant software.
Assuming you know what the differences between Vodka and Gin are. How Rum is Different to Whiskey. And that Martel is a brand of Cognac…and Cognac is a regional Brandy. The only other thing you’ll need is a Personality! Because you’re dealing with people and ultimately trying to get sales, no one is going to entertain a boring, lifeless misery guts who spends 55 minutes of every 1 hour meeting with a client, whinging about life!
Taking that next step.
I have two pieces of advice here...
Firstly, if this area takes your fancy, first up, chat to your current BDMs. Make it known to them that you’re looking at potentially heading in this direction. Ask them how they got into it. How they started. If they like you, chances are, they’ll then mention you to their upline. But the nicer ones will help you on your journey. Give you contacts. Tell you what you need to know.
Secondly, do some research on WHO you’d like to work for and make a list. Then go a check out their company websites, as 9 times out 10, they’ll have potential available positions on those websites. But don’t lose heart if nothing in your area is available. If they have a general “Work with Us” info, then submit your interest so they at least have you on file. Make sure you stand out too. You need to be memorable.
Also, go back and check those websites regularly. During the 24 years I’ve been in the game, very few BDMs are in their roles for too long. Not because it’s a tough gig, but purely through promotion, or because exciting new brands come out which create new opportunities. Even new agencies, so people do jump ship a lot.
But once you’re in those circles and have that BDM experience…and Proved yourself more than capable, it is virtually a free license to move around to where you want, as long as a position is available.