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Kevin Delaney

What's your job about?

I essentially own Sydney’s North Shore and Northern Beaches territory for Diageo when it comes to Independent customers (not your big national chains like Dan’s, BWS, etc). It is my job to build, maintain, and grow relationships with the 100+ customers I see every month. The best way I have heard my role boiled down to a sentence is “your business is to grow their business”, so when they grow, they buy more from us and we win as well. All of this includes spending a lot of time on the road making calls in-person with customers, training bartenders on our products, negotiating contracts and commercial deals, finding new business, and trying to add value to my accounts in any way possible. It is very independent, entrepreneurial work and no two days are ever the same!

A lot of people have asked me if sales and working on the road is a hard, and it can be, but in my opinion this is the best type of sales you can work in. I get to talk about some of the biggest, most loved brands in the world with people who want nothing more than to make sure the people around them are having a good experience in the store or venue. It definitely doesn’t hurt knowing every major bar owner on this side of the bridge too!

One of my favourite parts of the job is working with bars. As someone who has come from a marketing background, I absolutely love creating experiences that add extra value or fun to someone’s night out through our brands. A great example of this is Pimm’s – I have gotten to build Pimm’s Gardens in some of the biggest bars in Sydney and then see people try this amazing drink for the first time and fall in love with it. It is a lot of work to organise everything, but it is absolutely worth it to build something like that, then see it sell and have people interact with it.

What's your background?

I grew up in a lot of places. I was born in New Jersey, USA, but then moved overseas to a lot of different countries through my dad’s work. I got to grow up living in places like Belgium, Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia before moving back to the United States and then to Sydney when I was in high school. I went back to the US for university before realising two things: 1) I wasn’t studying what I really wanted to do after Uni. 2) That Sydney is where I really wanted to be. So I transferred to UNSW, moved back to Sydney, and have been here ever since.

Growing up abroad, making the decision to transfer back to Sydney and using the time in between to work in the Bahamas, my first internship at an ad agency during Uni (which made me realise I loved marketing and sparked the idea to transfer), and coming to work at Diageo.

How did you get to your current job position and for how long have you being doing it already?

I am in my second rotation of three in Diageo’s Graduate Program. I started out working on our Culture & Partnerships team, where I got to manage things like World Class (Diageo’s global competition to find the best bartender in the world), our partnership with Broadsheet Media, and our Pimm’s Garden activations at Night Noodle Markets.

After an internal restructure, I changed roles to Assistant Brand Manager for Johnnie Walker and our Reserve Portfolio. As a whisky fan, this was basically a dream come true for me. I got to help bring new products to Australia, work on teams creating national marketing campaigns, and run a whole lot of events as a representative of the world’s largest whisky brand.

Fast forward another 6 months and here I am in sales. I’m coming to the end of my 12 month rotation so will be moving into a new role soon, but the last year I have learned so much from moving into a completely different area of the business from marketing. Aside from learning a ton, I have also been able to leverage a lot of the skills and knowledge I gained in my previous roles in order to become a better salesperson, and I fully expect I’ll be doing the same in my next job as well.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely. I have had the pleasure of meeting both customers and colleagues from all walks of life in sales. Coming into this role I thought that there was one type of ‘perfect’ salesperson, and he/she would be loud and confident, with epic banter and an innate ability to close deals. I’ve come across those people, and they are very good at what they do, but I have also come across people with some of the best sales numbers in Australia who are completely reserved, super analytical, and had never done a day of sales in their life before coming to Diageo. It’s not having a certain type of personality or killer instinct that makes great salespeople, it’s knowing what your strengths (and weaknesses) are and leveraging them into your own brand of selling. Learning how to sell through Diageo’s program has taught me about that better than I could have ever imagined.

Let us also know which kind of characteristics or other skills one should have when it comes to your job!

Being self-motivated, hungry for feedback, being able to assess yourself and your performance, attention to detail, stakeholder management, and able to manage/prioritise (or learn to manage) a very large and constantly changing to-do list.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I love building relationships with my customers. When working in the independents you’re not selling a million cases to a national chain at a time, you’re often selling just one extra case to a family business in order to try and help grow them. When you do your job correctly and that partnership/growth happens, the customer is often very grateful because you might be helping put their kids through school. Although it does feel amazing to sign a huge customer or get a big deal away with a giant store, some of my proudest and most fulfilling moments in this job has been finding that extra few cases for a small customer, and seeing just how much they appreciate the time and effort you have put into their business.

What are the limitations of your job?

My job can be quite stressful at times and it has quite long hours. During the peak holiday periods, you need to keep 100+ customers happy and deliver on whatever you have promised them, which is no easy task.

You learn so much in sales but it is an extremely transparent and accountable job when it comes to tracking performance, especially at a high-performance company like Diageo. Your territory has a number, and you are the only person that is accountable it – you claim all the credit in good times, but you’re also responsible for it the bad times.

You also have to be ok with taking a lot of rejection from customers and not always succeeding, which is something I definitely struggled with. At times it has made me assess myself and my performance in a very honest, and sometimes uncomfortable way. However, it gets easier to do that over time and your ability to grow and adapt improves with it, which is a skill I will continue to use for the rest of my career.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Do as many different types of jobs as you can early in your career. It’s easy to take a super-specific and linear career path, but you might be missing out on a job or skill set that you never would have expected yourself to like. I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy my time in sales very much when I was going into it, but I have come to really enjoy this role in ways I never considered, and I now take a lot of pride in my abilities as a salesperson.
  • Do something that intersects with a real interest/passion of yours. It may sound cheesy but working on the brands and products that I love makes the heavy work days go by a lot faster. Working full-time might mean that you’re going to be spending more time doing your job than almost anything else in your life, so make sure it’s something that you can enjoy.
  • Work for someone who really cares about you, your career, and your development. You can have the job title of your dreams, but if it’s under a manager you can’t connect or grow with, you’ll never enjoy your work. I would rather work for a great manager in a tough job than a terrible manager in an easy job every time.