Top 5 Tools for Developing Effective DTC Wine Compensation Plans


[Sandra Hess – October 12, 2021 – DTC Wine Sales Blog]

Tool #1 – Start at the Top

The January 2020 Pandemic taught us a lot about being nimble and adjusting. During this time of pandemic recovery, most wine regions throughout the US have suffered from staff shortages. We have helped many clients hire from outside the wine industry and also cross-train frontline staff from luxury retail, restaurant, hotel, and resort sectors. The ability to provide exceptional customer experiences at every touch-point begins at the top. Winery leaders need to remain motivated and focused on prioritizing customer relationship building in today’s completive landscape. With that said, direct-to-consumer management teams should be incentivized to grow the bottom line year over year while also encouraging re-engagement. Employee retention should be a key performance indicator in any well-rounded DTC manager compensation plan. As winery stakeholders begin to plan for 2022 direct-to-consumer wine sales success, now is the time to revisit management compensation structures. I hope that you find these top five tools to be helpful in developing an effective DTC Wine Compensation Plan. At the minimum, ensure that there is reward built in for:

  • increasing visitation to Tasting Room and eComm channels
  • building and growing consumer communities year over year 
  • retaining and growing annual values of members and loyalists 
  • increasing sales and engagement numbers through each direct sales channel
  • maintaining and increasing referrals from key referral partners 
  • retaining frontline staff and channel managers 
  • reducing waste and increasing efficiencies 
  • developing successful strategies for DTC brand expansion 

Tool #2 – Prioritize Engagement at Every Customer Touchpoint

Is your hospitality team currently focused on driving engagement and re-engagement at every customer touchpoint? If so, are your team members being paid to achieve specific goals in this area? For many years, tasting room teams had been focused on club conversion, case sales, and revenue goals as the main drivers for bonuses/rewards/recognition. These minimum areas for commission payout no longer keep high-performing team members on board. Today, DTC Wine Workshops clients provide 5-7 payout opportunities to members of the frontline staff. When a tasting room host or live website chat specialist can guarantee re-engagement within the first 60-90 days of the first engagement or visit, long-term business success can be achieved. For far too long, first-time visitors left the front door without any guarantee of returning except for club membership conversion. Today, our clients provide front-line staff with a variety of tools to ensure those first-time guests return or reengage while they still have a good feeling about the wine brand. Is it time for your management team to rethink the WHY and HOW behind updating front-line staff incentives? 

Tool #3 – Update Technology to Include Event Ticket SKUs and Reservation Tools 

The #1 reason tasting room hosts have been held back from inviting first-time guests back beyond membership conversion has been faulty point of sale tools and programming. In serving winery teams across almost every wine region of the US, I have personally seen this as a significant miss with low-performing teams. Today, it is possible to add event ticket SKUs or Buttons to the point of sale interface, making it easy for hosts to ring up four event tickets with a wine order at the time of checkout. Today, it is also easier than ever to integrate reservation tools with the point of sale and order management systems. Local visitors who live within a 1-2 hour drive time should always be personally invited back to “the next incredible tasting experience”. Make it easy for your tasting room hosts and live chat specialists to encourage re-engagement by programming your POS and Reservation Software in a user-friendly manner. Take time to train staff on simple ways to ring up event tickets and schedule reservations while engaging with guests and website visitors. PRO TIP: don’t let Winery DTC Technology be a reason your staff is held back or re-engagement opportunities are missed. Most technology partners get the need to keep up with consumer buying trends and will advise on possible solutions. 

Tool #4 – Keep the Main Things the Main Things when setting KPIs

As mentioned earlier, both managers and frontline staff need to remain focused on your top 5-7 key performance indicators that drive long-term sales success. Don’t get in the weeds with paralysis by data analysis. It’s a shame when we see winery owners and managers bogged down with trying to predict how consumers will spend and engage 2-3 years from now. Today, we can forecast consumer buying and engagement trends 1-2 years out at best due to the constant changes in offerings and availability. Wine enthusiasts have a tasting room experience option within a 1-2 hour drive time of almost every home in the US today. Think about that for a minute. About 11,045 licensed wineries competing with wine bars and craft brewery experiences. Consumers have an overwhelming amount of choice when it comes to “Craft Bev Experience” at the producer to the consumer level. Now is the time to take a look at how your direct-to-consumer winery division is keeping the main thing the main thing when it comes to engagement and reengagement. This begins with knowing who your tribe is. 

Tool #5 – Recognize and reward weekly to better retain staff 

Once your management team has updated DTC Staff Compensation Structures for 2022, take time to train your staff. Your front-line team members are your brand ambassadors and face of the brand when family, winemakers, or stakeholders are away. Let’s not forget the importance of empowering these individuals with Top Tools for developing long-term success and proven sales models. Once technologies are updated and improved KPIs are put into place, be sure to dry run with your DTC teams first so that cross-department discussions can be had. Using a “Scenario-Training” approach is most impactful as your teams will learn how to cater to a variety of customers by type and sales channel. Consider the use of tools such as “Hospitality Service Standards”, “The Hospitality Toolkit” and “Key Phrases” for Service Recovery or Delivering the Unexpected. The tools empower frontline staff to prioritize relationship building and boosts confidence in their abilities to drive re-engagement every time. 

If you would like to learn more about the proven methods and long-term success tools share here, register for the “2022 Direct Wine Sales Success Webinar” taking place November 16th at 10:00-12:00 pacific HERE. You can also reach out to the DTC Wine Workshops Consultant Network HERE to get connected.


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About Sandra Hess

Sandra Hess, founder of DTC Wine Workshops and the DTC Consultant Network is a public speaker on the subject of direct to consumer wine sales and customer retention in the US.