Live by the Score ~ Die by the Score

Wine’s a beautiful product to sell. When a salesperson visits a wine shop owner, a restaurateur, or a chain store buyer to sell his or her wine, it’s a fascinating process. When approached as a relational meeting, there’s so much more to it than a score.

It’s a home run when Robert Parker or Jim Laube has said that (on his palate) the wine deserves a 92 score. From that day forward, that wine needs no further introduction… It sells itself, and you can go to the golf links, to a ball game, or knit a sweater for some fun.

But… How many times is that going to happen, and with how many wines?

The odds are slim to narrow, just like hitting home runs. They don’t happen every single time at bat. It’s occasional, and it’s a special moment. A most important point here is this: both Jim Laube and Bob Parker have particular preferences, and are looking for a certain profile. That’s what gets their attention, and if it meets that criteria, that’s what will be rewarded. No harm, no foul… I have deep respect for both men, because they have influence and power. I also trust my own palate, which is just as important to me… because it’s really all I’ve got, besides their opinions.

The best thing a sales person can do is internalize what I just wrote and get on with your own process.

Here’s a fun experiment… Yesterday, I met with someone I just adore, Denise Sanders. She and I worked together at Belvedere Winery, where she is today, although we’ve both worked in several places since the early to mid 90s. Denise is just one of those people with whom I can get together and giggle until it hurts. There’s a mischievous side to both of us, so getting together is this side of dangerous, but we love the encounters.

One of the first things Denise said to me is, “I’ve been reading your blog.” I find it fascinating that people are reading this (nearly daily) rambling… And I’m learning certain things by watching the back end of this Web site. (If you have a site, you can step behind the curtain, and see lots of things, including the audience – from statistics that exist.)

I told Denise that my blog being placed on Wine Business Monthly has forced me to be a bit more thoughtful. I know that provocative titles draw people in. I’m also gearing what I write on the weekends toward more lifestyle issues (Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn, for instance). I’m beginning to think like an editor… not just a writer. Denise said (and this is why I’m off on this sidebar), “You should title one of your blogs, ‘Paris Hilton’.”

“Well, if I did that,” thought I, “that would give me a 92 score.” Winemakers who want a 92 score can craft the wine and get it, or at least get close. Is that serving the public’s palate, or is it just serving scores? Hum…. When you taste that wine, you’d better have a palate that’s identical to Robert Parker or Jim Laube’s, or you might not understand why the wine pleased either one of them. Wine and wine scoring is a subjective thing. Live by the scores, and you’ll surely die by them.

So, with the title, “Paris Hilton,” it’s an immediate attention getter, like a wine crafted for a 92, made with psychology in mind, versus freedom of content.

Here’s how I sold a ton of wine, and this could work for you, too, if you developed the methodology. A great book to read, if you really want to succeed, is “ABC’s of Relationship Selling,” by Charles M. Futrell (Texas A & M University), published by Irwin. It’s also a four unit college/university course, for the really serious among us:

  • Extend your hand for a hand shake. (You’ll learn a lot about the person from that instant, and continue to watch body language. If someone’s leaning away from you, you might as well thank him/her for his/her time, and go find another prospect. I did this once; I left and went and sat in the car while my colleague continued on with the sale. I could tell by the person’s body language that he was expecting “Joe,” not “Jo.” He wasn’t ready to work with a woman that morning… Maybe I reminded him too much of his mother, but he bolted for a few minutes, while Joe Nagan and I wandered around his store. I decided to go to the car. Joe came back with a floor stack… Stealth selling. I didn’t take it personally. We were there to sell wine, not me.)
  • Next, exchange business cards. (This is more important than an order, because now you can call this person, send a note, etc.)
  • Find out a key piece of personal information about the person. (You’re building a relational bridge.)
  • Write that info on the back of the person’s card. (Mention it when you send a thank you note for the person’s time, “I hope your wife’s broken arm is doing well!”)
  • Recognize that the person you’re selling the wine to also had a palate, and ask what the person’s favorite wine is. Then ask for a wine s/he’d recommend. (Write that on the back of his/her card, because you can continue to discuss this wine with your colleague.)
  • Tell the story of the wine (the passion of the person who’s behind the company, what makes the winemaker so special, any special techniques that were used to craft the wine, the location of the vineyards, what’s going on in the vineyards, the wine’s flavor profile according to your palate, what kinds of food would pair well with the wine, etc. Tell the wine’s personal story… Each one has one.)
  • Now… You can discuss what third party endorsements you might have on the wine… (Notice this was last in where you want to go… Lead with it, and you’re as good as dead… Unless it’s a 92 by you-know-who…)
  • End with it if you must, but a better ending is, “I’d like to have you taste this wine, so you can see for yourself what a wonderful product this is.” (Dah!)
  • Scores sell wine when it hits the 90s. What happens to the rest of the wines? People sell those wines… one story at a time.
    Scores are only a talking point in the process, but if it’s the be-all-to-end-all, think about what other line of work you’d like to be in, and start job hunting.

    No Responses to “Live by the Score ~ Die by the Score”

    1. “I think we all have to be more challenging with these sales reps

    2. jo says:

      “I couldn’t agree with you more

    3. jo says:

      “Until then

    4. jo says: