Mike Smith is a brand development manager based in Birmingham. Following a criminology and politics degree from Sheffield University, he found his way to the drinks industry, managing various venues before joining Edrington-Beam Suntory UK in March 2018.
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Can you describe a typical day at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK?
One of the best things about this industry is no day is quite the same. I cover a fairly large area so my day could take me 50 miles north one day and 50 miles south the next. Before heading out, my day usually starts with an hour or so of admin, tending to any emails and making sure the day ahead is planned and clear goals set for any meetings. My day will then consist of meeting and managing my accounts, working with them to drive visibility, rate of sale and overall profitability of our brands. I’ll also be constantly on the lookout for new opportunities and new business partners - i.e new openings or prospecting a new area. My day will usually end with working on a proposals, tenders, planning activations, chasing volumes etc, ready to start the next day.
What is your favourite part of the role?
My favourite part of the role is the relationship management and development. I love to engage with people and I enjoy seeing a relationship grow from an initial cold call or first meeting to a mutually beneficial working relationship. For me sales, is a ‘people-buy-from-people’ industry, having good relationships and contacts makes the job much easier. You can’t beat that feeling, from the first distribution point or cocktail special win to taking ownership of the back bar and cocktail menu. I also love the educational side of my job, engaging with someone who may not know the brands or categories and being able to influence them and share the knowledge we have.
What do you find challenging?
Switching off. Working in the independent free trade, a lot of the time you deal with operators or owners who work bar hours, not office hours, so I can often end up ‘talking shop’ at 9/10pm, or later, at night or on a weekend. This is a result of not wanting to miss an opportunity, and also knowing they wont be at their desk at 9am Monday morning replying to emails; it’s a fast paced industry and you have to move with it.
Any advice for others looking to move in sales within the drinks industry?
Do it. If you have a passion for the industry, just do it. I’m not a born salesman, I wouldn’t be able to sell spoons, for example. I thrive in my job because I have a passion for the industry and believe in the products I’m selling. I have the tools and skills to sell anything now, but I wouldn’t be able to work within an industry I didn’t enjoy. In my opinion, it’s the best industry in the world, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it...?
Finally - the most important question - what is your favourite serve?
I mean if we’re talking a 'dream dram' type of serve, I’m a bit in love with Highland Park 25. If we’re talking an 'every day' kind of drink, having made an unthinkable amount of cocktails in my days behind the bar, I’m a sucker for a Laphroaig Highball. Laphroaig, soda and just a twist of lemon. Perfect.