Everything I’ve Learned Doing Sales for a Drink Startup Company

Howdy folks. It’s me again, your friendly neighborhood guy that just wants to tell you about this amazing new probiotic drink called Benefizz and why carrying it in the little cafe you own is your next big move.


That’s not exactly the sales pitch I use, but it’s not so far from the truth. For the past year I’ve been doing my best to launch and grow Benefizz, a probiotic, sparkling health drink created by a local Memphian, Steve.


While some days running this business feels like driving with my eyes closed, there is one aspect that I like to think I’ve gotten the hang of: sales. (Also stacking Benefizz bottles, but that’s a different topic. If you can beat seven, give me a call.)


We sell Benefizz wholesale, and most of our retail customers are coffee shops, independent groceries, and healthy restaurants. We do sell to Whole Foods, but other than that we haven’t broken into major supermarkets yet, meaning growth comes from picking up the phone and calling new places, one by one.


40 locations later, here’s what’s worked for me:


  • Offer samples, not sales. At first, I used to call up places and basically shout, “HELLO WILL YOU PURCHASE OUR DRINK PRODUCT.” The most common response was, “Um.”So I made a small adjustment — instead of trying to sell the product over the phone, my only goal on the first call now is to ask if we can bring by some samples. No mention of money, commitments, anything like that. Once the drink’s in their hand, it’s a lot easier to then talk details.


  • They don’t hate you, they’re just busy. For almost every customer we have today, there was a point in the sales process at which I thought, “Well, they’re definitely not interested.” I hadn’t quite gotten a “no” yet, but I’d been shuffled around to five different people, left unreturned messages, and was really starting the get the “I’d rather just be friends” hint. But then suddenly, on call number six or so, you catch the right person at the right time and they’d place their first order.As it turns out, people running shops and restaurants usually have a lot on their plate. If you don’t do the legwork to stay in front of them, don’t expect them to pick up the slack.


  • The free trial miracle: For every new customer brought on, we get about three “no thanks.” Comes with the territory, and luckily I was already desensitized to repeated rejection from high school. On one of these occasions I blurted out in desperation, “What if we just give you some drinks for free and you see how they sell?” The manager scratched his bushy beard thoughtfully. (Or so I imagine, it was a phone call.) He agreed, and after a week of strong sales in his shop he placed his first order.Now, anytime I get a no, I see if they’ll test Benefizz on their shelves, risk-free to them. Of course, this free trial strategy only works if you’ve got a good product. But if you don’t, you probably have bigger problems.


Am I the best salesperson in the world? Maybe. Well, no. But, you don’t have be — usually, it’s more about understanding the what your customer cares about and how to fit into their already busy schedule as seamlessly as possible. Good luck.