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The Forgotten People: Wine Pricing Challenges for National On-Premise Accounts 

June 15, 2021
By Doug Hoogervorst

Just as a perfect Cabernet depends on the right amount of sunshine, the profitability of your three-tier winery or wine importing business depends on accurate pricing.  

National account managers are the key to building the best offering for greater distribution and consumer exposure. They oversee the pricing, promotion, and trade for places represented countrywide. Think of large hotel chains such as the Four Seasons, popular restaurants such as Morton’s, and the like. In addition, they may be influencing and making decisions about private labeling programs for these venues. These efforts rely on the right branding, the right positioning, and in particular, the right pricing.   

Yet, despite their importance in product sales and distribution, national account managers are often the ‘forgotten people’ in pricing management, left to reconcile and manage a zillion different spreadsheets across infinite combinations of incentives, promotions, and deals for big impact placement.  

In this article, we take a look at the challenges in national on-premise wine pricing first-hand from a former VP of national accounts at a top-tier, renowned winery and how you can quickly overcome those hurdles with a full-cycle pricing management tool like Tradeparency.  

Pricing for National On-Premise Accounts   

National on-premise wine pricing is known as a brand-builder, according to Wine Industry Advisor. Customers who might not pay $40 a bottle might instead try your brand as a house offering for $10 or less a glass. Of course, these anecdotal numbers scale depending on your wine, region, and brand, but spread over the country, your wines can gain a national following, glass by glass.   

In his presentation on Cracking the Code on On-Premise National Accounts at the International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show in San Francisco, beverage technology expert Adam Billings emphasized that when wineries, wine importers, or distributors set a price, their leaders give their word that the price can be honored. They are staking their professional reputations on pricing.  

Just as quality is essential to a house wine offering, so is pricing, whether it is by the glass or by the bottle. Having the best wine priced accurately helps the winery or wine distributor stay profitable, but it also allows restaurateurs to do well financially while keeping their customers happy.  

Challenges with National Account Pricing Management  

Most three-tier wine suppliers use offline Excel spreadsheets to manage, document, and reconcile wine pricing for national on-premise accounts. This, in turn, requires large amounts of time manually entering and updating information. So right off the bat, the resources and capacity needed attempting to keep the pricing accessible and correct are considerable.   

Accuracy is also a huge challenge for relying on spreadsheets. Not only can the Excel layouts be unclear on national deals, deal level requirements, and deals involving calendarization, they also are prone to human error.  

Finally, sharing Excel spreadsheets, no matter what you are using them for, is a collaboration nightmare. Often times they are shared via email, which means a new version is created each time with a new distribution. On the chance they are sitting on a shared network or Office 365, changes aren’t logged, and no one knows what has been updated from one view to the next.  

Ben Salisbury, former vice president of national on-premise accounts at Chateau St. Michelle, a distinguished Woodinville, Washington winery, said using Excel spreadsheets in pricing takes valuable time.  

“The biggest challenge was how time-consuming it was for all the people involved,” Salisbury said.  

“Collecting the pricing, compiling the pricing, verifying the pricing, and getting it ready to be delivered to price quotes to international chains. It’s a time-consuming process, and it’s exacerbated by having to use static Excel spreadsheets. You’re passing spreadsheets around, and someone has to transcribe all that data into one workbook. It’s just a real-time suck.”  

Adding to the aggravation for national and regional account managers is that pricing laws differ in each state.  

“It’s way more complicated than two prices,” Salisbury said.  

This reinforces how accuracy is such an extensive challenge in pricing. 

“National pricing is incredibly complex and repetitive when it is offline in the hands of national and regional managers. I helped design formats to try to get our hands around all of this. In the end, it was still difficult because it wasn’t cloud-based.” Salisbury said. 

Here we’ll look at why a cloud-based pricing tool such as Tradeparency is better than using an Excel spreadsheet offline when pricing for national on-premise accounts.   

Tradeparency is designed to govern, document, optimize and automate distributor pricing. Instead of manually managing distributor pricing and incentive management, finance teams can use Tradeparency to avoid errors and save time reconciling pricing agreements and invoices.  

Why You Should Consider Pricing Management Software 

Using a full-cycle pricing management and automation tool such as Tradeparency can solve nearly all the obstacles your three-tier winery faces with national accounts and all your pricing and trade management beyond that.  

“I’m very excited about what (Tradeparency) has done,” Salisbury at Chateau St. Michelle said, “because one of the challenges is accuracy. The reason why there is a breakdown in accuracy is it’s not clear to the field people.”  

Sharing that information via a comprehensive pricing platform allows the winery’s financial and sales teams to gather and share accurate information.   

“The reason things aren’t always accurate is that it’s not structured properly to collect the information,” Salisbury said. “What I love about (Tradeparency) is that it makes it super easy for the person entering pricing to know exactly what price to put in the spreadsheet, to know exactly what deal level they’re looking for.” 

“This is huge, and the fact that (account managers) can enter it through a cloud-based tool and not have to fill out a spreadsheet and then email the spreadsheet. This is just a big win, a big leap forward.”  

Download: Evaluation Checklist for Wine Pricing Software 

What is Tradeparency?  

Tradeparency is a software platform for depletion allowance and trade spend management that helps wineries and importers have complete visibility and control over their bottom line. Tradeparency allows you oversight and delivers intelligence with setting and processing distributor pricing, promotions, and bill-backs.  

Tradeparency can become a winery’s pricing hub, centralizing and automating pricing, claims, financial management, analysis, and planning. It addresses the entire process of trade promotion management from pricing, claims, integration with core ERP/financial system, analysis, and planning. In fact, it is the first and only full-cycle pricing management tool for the wine industry that covers the 30% gap in third-party depletion data.  

Read the Announcement: Business Intelligence and Data Masters Use Technology to Solve Major Wine Industry Pricing Challenge 

Benefits of Tradeparency  

Tradeparency has multiple benefits for nearly anyone in the three-tier wine business, including wineries, importers, and distributors. Here, we detail the best features of this pricing tool, especially as it relates to national account management.   

Tradeparency Can Be Accessed from Anywhere 
With account managers constantly in distributor meetings on the road and in a world that’s increasingly embracing working from home, access to account details, deals, and pricing from anywhere with Wi-Fi isn’t only attractive, it’s a competitive advantage. No more leaving a spreadsheet on the desktop of your computer and needing it when you’re in the middle of an important negotiation, and no more tracking down the finance team mid-distributor meeting.  

Tradeparency is Built for Sharing 
Tradeparency was created with sharing and collaboration specifically in mind. Finance, IT, sales, executives, and national account managers can now work together to reconcile and process the most accurate pricing, bill backs, and trade deals for products across all the distribution.  

Which Deals are National and Active is Clear 
Figuring out which pricing arrangements are national and active is simple with Tradeparency. Going back to Salisbury’s explanation, the solution centralizes the input and access to information, and organization is crystal clear, so everyone knows what to look for and how.  

Increase in National Account Sales
With Tradeparency, the probability of making a national account sale goes up because the accuracy of your pricing is much higher.  

“One of the big benefits I see in the system is that the probability of making the sale goes up dramatically if you have confidence in the accuracy of the pricing you’re submitting,” Salisbury said. 

“I can’t tell you how many times I hit the send button on a proposal and just was really worried that the pricing wasn’t very accurate, or I hope we can really honor that price in Massachusetts. That’s all been solved.”  

“The process makes it easy to get accurate information and therefore to deliver an accurate proposal to the client,” Salisbury said. 

No More Guessing 
Tradeparency exposes the gaps in national pricing —state by state— to get full coverage.    

“There’s a false assumption that two different deal levels, by the glass price and by the bottle price, is available in all states,” Salisbury said. “The truth is, it’s only available in about half the states, which means in the other states, you have some other sort of parameters, either a calendarization or quantities associated with a purchase for a certain discount.”  

If that sounds confusing, that’s only because it is.   

“That level of complexity is difficult to manage in an Excel spreadsheet,” Salisbury said. “With a cloud-based tool such as the one Tradeparency has developed, you can go online and enter pricing within the parameters it’s asking for. It’s just huge. The guessing part goes away when you have structure, and you have a process. You’re asking for the right thing, and you know what you’re getting is the right thing.”  

See Full-Cycle Pricing Management in Action 

Tradeparency is designed to govern, document, optimize and automate distributor pricing. Instead of manually managing national account pricing and incentives, account managers and finance teams can use Tradeparency to avoid errors and save time reconciling pricing agreements and invoices.  

But Tradeparency isn’t just a product. It’s an all-encompassing solution that is delivered by knowledgeable wine industry technology specialists and data experts. We consult to uncover all the corners of your pricing needs and deliver a solution that addresses them so you can leverage the software to empower your teams, streamline pricing processes, elevate your brand, and boost margins. 

Don’t just take our word for it; see it for yourself! Contact us for a no-cost and no-obligation, personalized demo today. Just one hour of your time could improve your entire pricing operation.