When you’re a founder of a coffee roaster, you’re juggling a little bit of everything as you will your scrappy startup into existence.
You’re building out a roastery, sourcing the best green you can find, designing that bag to hold your amazing coffees, and then eventually roasting, packaging AND shipping out the coffee - often by yourself or with just one or two others. It‘s a lot to juggle.
And that’s all in addition to actually marketing your coffees, with social media being practically a full time job for coffee roasters with stories on Instagram, posts on Facebook, conversations on Twitter.
Where do you fit sales into all that? You know, actually taking wholesale orders for your coffee once you’ve landed those first few accounts?
For many founders, orders happen in the moments between juggling everything else: texts in the middle of the night, phone calls taken at lunch or on the way to the bank, orders taken verbally as you drop off their latest order.
It’s a lot to do, and a lot of stress. But that’s the life you signed up for, right?
Yes, but it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to be that way.
If you’re going to grow your roastery, you need to systematize, automate, and delegate wherever you can. This is especially important for sales and generating wholesale coffee orders.
I’ve been in your shoes before, and I speak to roasters all the time. So I’d like to share with you some of the hard-won lessons I’ve picked up over the years, so that you can build a sustainable process and stop being the sales bottleneck.
When I say “centralize the data,” I do NOT mean “keep it all in your head.”
Why? Because you can’t remember everything. And other people can’t really see what you’re thinking even though you assume they can.
So what do you need to do? Get it out of your head. You should download all of the sales information from your email, your phone, and your brain into something. Use an ordering platform or a CRM. Use a spreadsheet, if you want. Just as long as you and your team can rely on something that isn’t affected by how much sleep you had last night.
Transferring out of your head will help you keep track of orders better and helps you build a repeatable system to run your business. When the data is in a system, others on your team can access it and help you monitor sales, keep production smooth, and eventually measure your business’ growth.
When most roasters need sales help, they hire a salesperson. And normally, that would be a fantastic idea.
But what usually ends up happening is that the customers continue texting, emailing, and calling you. It’s like they don’t want you to get away. There are a couple of reasons this happens:
First, they’re doing it out of habit. It’s simpler to text “hey Jon, I need ten more bags of my usual next week, thx!” to the same person than it is to dig up the new sales person’s email or deal with someone who doesn’t yet know the ropes.
Second, the customer is expecting you to know exactly what they want--even if the order itself is vague. The problem with “soft” orders like this is that they are too easy to get wrong. Repeat after me: do not use a post-it note to write down your orders!
In the end, a sloppy or nonexistent process leads to unhappy customers and lost sales; it’s hard to build a strong business when that’s the norm.
Instead, I recommend you set up an ecommerce portal for your wholesale orders. There, your wholesale customers can see their products and their prices, which makes the ordering process both easier and more accurate than the “competition” of texting, emailing or calling you. It’s even possible to set up automatic reminders and a “magic login” to make that customer’s experience silky smooth.
Your best wholesale customers order every week, so it’s crucial that you make ordering from your company as simple and painless as possible. While also making it scalable for you. An online wholesale portal can handle 10 customers just well as it can handle 100 or 1000.
You, on the other hand, can’t.
What the wholesale portal does is catch all the simple orders so you can focus on the hard stuff--the complex orders or customer service situations that the platform can’t handle.
Your wholesale customer uses it to reorder each week, you use it to buy more time.
So now that you’ve got an online wholesale ordering system, what are you or your new sales person supposed to do? You just automated that job, right?!
You’re not going to get value out of a sales person if they simply take orders. You need them to invest in your wholesale relationships, and spend the bulk of their time turning prospects into new accounts.
It takes a long time to court a new customer, from that initial contact through sampling coffees to actually delivering the first order. Your sales person needs to be running that process, over and over again - because that’s worth much more to the business (and you) than simply processing transactions.
Remember that whatever solution you pick or process you build, your priority should be the customer.
Don’t pick a solution that makes life more difficult for the customer, because if you do they will just take their business elsewhere. Competition in coffee is cutthroat.
The customer will always take the path of least resistance. Whether that’s texting you, ordering via an online wholesale portal, or calling a sales rep. Your job is to set up your sales process so that the path they take is conducive to your own business’ growth and smart use of systems and software should be a key part of that strategy.
If you want more ideas on how to accomplish this, or you just want to vent about your day, hit me up! I’m always willing to chat.