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Besides bottles: what reps, managers, and suppliers should always have in their bag
A checklist for prepping your tote in the 21st Century
Airplane pilots and intensive care physicians use checklists to improve their likelihood of achieving favorable outcomes for passengers and patients.1 While a number of processes in logistics, compliance, and accounting would benefit from the adoption of smartly constructed checklists, the idiosyncratic nature of sales means that reps, managers, and suppliers are left to their own devices whilst working the market. That doesn’t mean that a different kind of checklist can’t be implemented to ensure that those in sales are best prepared to take on the challenges of the day.
A wine and spirit bag packing checklist can guarantee that those on the street have everything they need prior to leaving home or the office. This safeguard protects against the rookie mistake of forgetting a corkscrew or failing to prepare for a wine stain disaster. The routines of wine and spirit sales are relatively predictable such that the inevitability of encountering busted cardboard cases and running out of price books can be easily avoided if you know how to best outfit your bag.
Besides the obvious utility of the items on the checklist, it was devised with the following factors in mind:
Weight, because you’re already carrying too many bottles.2 Less the water bottle, the combined weight of all the items on the list is under one pound.
Affordability, because your commission comes from hawking Pinot Grigio and Vodka, not Hermès handbags
Travel-friendliness, because you don’t want your stuff confiscated if you’re boarding a plane.3
Essentialism, because no one needs more stuff than absolutely necessary.
Here are the nine things you should always have in your bag besides bottles:
QR code on your phone or tablet for your portfolio and/or price book. If restaurants and bars can adapt QR codes for menus and drink lists, then surely importers and distributors can do the same. No one wants that grubbed up book that’s been sitting in your bag for three weeks. Save the paper. Simply, add a copy of your portfolio to Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, etc. Create a link to the file and go here to generate a QR code that any customer can scan with their phone.
Portable battery. If you’re doing your job well, you’re going to drain your phone. Having a charger on hand will mean you won’t have to ask if you can juice up while sitting at the bar. The bartender might be polite and let you, but don’t be that rep. Plus, if your phone is plugged in behind the bar, its retrieval might slow you down. Find yourself a nice 10,000 mAh battery pack (enough to fully charge most smartphones three times).
Stain remover. Shout wipes, Tide pen, whatever. This isn’t an article espousing the glories of any one particular brand.4 Pick your fav and move on. Someone sometime will spill some red wine. Best to be like a Boy Scout: prepared.
Two corkscrews. The Navy Seals have a saying, “Two is one and one is none.” Building redundancy into your bag is the surest way to avoid the embarrassment of having to borrow this most essential tool from your customer.
Sharpie marker. Write prices on the back labels of bottles left behind. Leave notes on cardboard cases. Scribble on dive bar bathroom walls.
Mini duct tape. Repair blown out cardboard boxes. Add a makeshift handle to anything. Fix problems. These particular rolls—designed for backpackers—take up virtually no space, weigh next to nothing, and are very inexpensive.
Small recyclable cup. You never know when you’ll need to supply your own spittoon. Or, perhaps, the buyer isn’t in yet, and you want to leave them a pour.
Pain relief and a bandage. You don’t have to be Florence Nightingale, but having aspirin or ibuprofen (like Advil) will make you a hero to that colleague with a hangover.5 Since accidents with broken bottles and glasses abound, the recipient of that Band-Aid you had on hand will be much obliged.
Reusable water bottle. Hydration is key. This also doubles as a sealable spittoon when empty; redundancy is a beautiful thing.
Lest anyone accuse me of forgetting “obvious things” like ice packs or shelf talkers and scotch tape, I recognize that some seasons or accounts might require you to add these to your bag as well. The above list is one that is built for most occasions, not all.
What do you put in your bag?
Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto is essential reading. The earlier link is to the original article that spawned the book.
Four bottles of wine and/or spirits are ideal when you’re on foot. This number allows for variety without overwhelming your customers with choice or your body with strain. If you’re traveling by car, you can swap the bottles in your bag with those you have in your trunk so that you have access to even more. Understandably, certain accounts or circumstances will warrant carrying more than four bottles and that’s all good and well when it’s the exception rather than the rule.
Note that according to the TSA, some corkscrews are allowed in carry-on luggage on planes, but the final decision rests with the TSA officer at the security checkpoint.
That being said, if you’re in the New York Metropolitan Area and reading this in 2021, feel free to ask me for Shout Wipes. An online shopping mishap has found me with dozens more than even my clumsy self could ever need.
Stay away from acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), which may cause liver damage when combined with alcohol.