Monday, April 20, 2009

Pay it forward

The "old boy" culture of the wine industry is dying a pretty quick death. Deeply and long held beliefs about how to buy loyalty are becoming passe. The old way of bribery with court side seats, or free wine is being replaced, at least in some circles. Want to know how to get loyalty? Help your customers improve their business. This should be at the heart of why every person sells wine. Healthy customers makes your business healthy. The lack of this understanding is at the very stench of corporate insincerity. Old tired lines like "in these tough times, people are looking for a brand they are comfortable with" is absolute selfish BS. It shows immediate disdain for each customer by over simplifying the complex economic effects on the wine industry.

I don't believe in dealing, I do believe in being a valuable resource for my clients. I rarely say no to an event. Many of my competitor scoff at this idea, but now, they can't wait to get me off the streets. I volunteer to present staff training with wines that aren't mine. Why? 2 reasons, increased exposure to competitors wines make me more relevant. And, irreplaceable expertise. When the competitors can't speak as eloquently about my wines as I can about theirs, it puts them at an immediate disadvantage. Engaging your account's staff is a sure-fire way to build your business. Sommeliers don't come from the roofing industry, they work their way up. They all worked as a busboy or hostess. somewhere. Don't you wish you would have caught them on the way up? If you treat every support staff as part of the equation, you will be rewarded as their careers blossom. even if it is a relatively low rate of return. If you invest yourself in education, and having the patience to know all of the servers at your best account

The most important part of being involved though, is the value of "co-ownership" of your account's wine program. A genuine and sincere interests in the very best wine selection or list, will come back around. Invest your time and candid opinions. Help your accounts to be as competitive as possible. A big chunk of my wine education came from my reps when I was a buyer. If you help your accounts, and represent great wines, the placements will come naturally and every will feel better for it. If your trying to manipulate rather than educate, you will have no loyalty or credibility. 2 qualities you just can't buy.

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