[Image of Sue Straight from San Francisco Chronicle wine judge Website.]

Wine veteran, and wine industry direct to consumer wine coach, Sue Straight has launched her own business.

Denise Gill, director of sales and hospitality at Ancient Oak Cellars and long-time friend to Straight has stated, “Using her vast wine knowledge and a focused palate, Sue is able to engage customers and drive sales. I believe her energy and enthusiasm would be a valuable asset to any dynamic organization.”

Most of us know her as a wine writer, wine judge, and even a singer in her funky, down home bands. But, when I first met Sue (over 20 years ago), she was working at Lambert Bridge Winery, with consumers on their direct sales purchases from the tasting room… The rest of her titles round her out. Her true expertise is knowing how to present wine to consumers and the trade, since she’s also been on the road presenting wine to on and off premise accounts… All, in order to actualize sales, increasing someone else’s bottom line.

Sue knows sales. And, if you’re hiring a new employee, Sue presents a unique opportunity to get that salesperson up to speed in record breaking time. Let me put it to you this way…

You can either let your new employees run around with arrows all day, trying to hit a moving target; or you can give your new employee another tool… a bow: Sue’s training, as the bow structure, will go along with those arrows. This way, your employees will hitting their targets much more accurately and efficiently.

Three scenarios:

  1. Employee 1 ~ Someone new is segueing into a career. The wine business seems like the logical (and romantic) place to go. She doesn’t know much about wine, hasn’t grown up in it, doesn’t even know anyone in the business, and has only had one bottle of wine a week in her past life. She does have an impressive resume from her past PR career, so she’s worth training as someone with potential, but is really at ground zero.
  2. Employee 2 ~ Someone is segueing into another company. He’s established in the wine business with about six years under his belt. He’s taken a wine sales and marketing degree program of 60 units… Classes have included viticulture, enology, wine components, sales and marketing. This person has worked with the public, wholesalers, wine festivals, chefs, and wine shop owners, besides having been in the tasting room. Some tasting room work will be necessary.
  3. Employee 3 ~ Someone retired, or segueing into another career, and finding a part time job enjoyable, but not the be-all-to-end-all. this person has been around the block in sales, but not for a while.

Who do you believe could use a direct to consumer consultant?

Employee 1 is so obvious that I know you got that one right away; but, what about Employees 2 and/or 3?

All of these people could benefit from a direct to consumer (DTC) training, and I say that with certainty.

  1. I’m Employee 1 (while at Belvedere Winery, as a tasting room staff member, a PR communication’s manager, and then a district sales manager)
  2. I’m Employee 2 (while at Robert Mondavi Winery, where I was a wine educator)
  3. I’m Employee 3 (while I was in K-J’s tasting room, while segueing from director of PR to PR consultant)

Here’s how a direct to consumer would have benefited me in each case:

  1. At Belvedere, it would have helped me to engage customers to close the deal, instead of praying that they liked me so much they’d want to bring a bottle of wine home, a common thought process.
  2. At Mondavi, it would have helped me to explain – woven into my intense educational format – that becoming a member of the winery’s wine clubs would have given me special privileges at and from the winery offerings (to keep the learning occurring).
  3. At K-J, it would have helped me to get people signed up for their wine club offerings at different levels, because a lot of emphasis was placed there by our managers.

I avoided all of these coulda been scenarios. Why? Because I didn’t see myself as a salesperson. I saw myself as someone involved in hospitality, at the time… And, therein lies the problem for most wineries. Yes, we’re in that business, but not to the exclusion of sales… We’re really in the sales business at wineries. When those doors open in the morning, a tasting room is a retail shop… a retail outlet… a way to pay the bills, at a darn sight better profit than any other way of selling wine. By the time wine leaves the winery, headed for the three-tier system (or even direct sales to an on or off premise account), the wine is so discounted from its suggested retail price that it’s almost a criminal act… And yet, winery owners would rather spend more time dancing the light fandango to get into a wholesalers face, than they do to find a way to sell directly to consumers…. In this ever shrinking shelf space market we call free enterprise, those who wake up sooner, rather then later, are going to be way ahead of the game.

Along comes my buddy Sue Straight… someone with more direct to consumer experience than I’ve ever had, and someone who can help any winery train his or her staff… Especially during these slow, down months, this is the time to bring Sue in to expand your bottom DTC line…

Direct to Consumer wine coach Sue Straight

Sue Straight has s a track record totaling nearly 30 years of helping wineries achieve their DTC goals, while building their brands on all levels. She’s worked in and managed tasting rooms, started and developed profitable wine clubs, implemented other DTC programs, and built successful wholesale distribution networks. This has all resulted in sales increases on an order-of-magnitude scale.

“I love helping wineries achieve their goals by using a creative, personalized, hands-on approach—it really works!” said Straight, who’s been working in the wine industry since 1982. The wineries that have benefited from Straight’s expertise include Martin Ray Winery, J. Rickards Winery, Clos Pegase Winery, Hop Kiln Winery, Limerick Lane Cellars, Lambert Bridge Winery, White Oak Winery, Toad Hollow Winery, Windsor Vineyards, and Old World Winery.

Sue can be reached by Email: susie.winewench@gmail.com

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