Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Congratulations, you're connected! How is your reputation?

We always say it, the world of wine is so small. Forget 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, it's more like 2 degrees of Gary Andrus. Everybody knows everyone in this business. This is why your reputation is so important. Wine knowledge is assumed, it's the understanding of the application of this knowledge that elevates your game. Your reputation is the one thing that will follow you through your career. With so many lists out there right now, here's another one. 9 things you can do to keep yourself connected, and build your reputation:

1) Social Networking-LinkedIn and Facebook. Duh, everyone talks about these, but they are vital. People are skeptical because they have a tough time understanding how this can help in the future. That's what is so amazing about it, that the possibilities are still endless. I have found wineries and solved problem simply by engaging my network. This will keep your degrees of separation even closer. The more you engage your network, the more you will be on people's minds.

2) There's a thin line between self promotion and shameless self promotion- Be careful not to talk about yourself too much. In an industry where the only real accolades are MS or MW (and freakin' impossible to get), your resume may be verbal and you may feel the need to read it off every chance you get. Don't! The past is irrelevant, where you are right now is all that matters.

3) "Have a Take, Don't Suck!"- To quote Jim Rome, having an opinion is important. Can you imagine an art dealer not having an opinion about art? Just make sure you have an interesting and original perspective that give people a chance to challenge their (and your) deeply held beliefs.

4) Take control of the conversation-
This is broad, but it refers to a few different things. You can be the beginning of a chain reaction of enlightenment. Whether this is in a public tasting where it's one on one with a consumer, a wine dinner where you can sway the hearts and minds of the adoring crowd, or your daily dealings with retailers that believe they have no control over consumers' behaviors. Don't be afraid to engage.

5) Tell the truth & be sincere-Being honest in sales seems contradictory, but nothing builds credibility faster. If you truly care about the long term success of your customers, this is the best way to prove it.

6) Think long term- If you chase the acute sale, you'll never build brands. You'll always chase a dollar number. Put the right wines in the right places, practice diligence and patience when training, and you will be rewarded.

7) Give everyone a fighting chance-
Don't prejudge customers or distributors. Give them to tools to succeed, if they don't succeed, they'll know why,and it will never be you.

8)Be a grown up-We are in the business of alcohol. Keep it under control. Never give anyone in the industry a story to tell. Out drinking anyone is never good for your reputation.

9) Be tough, fair and unemotional (i.e.-leave ego and pride at the door). You are an advocate for many things, the wineries you represent, your customers, maybe your employer. When negotiating any of these, it's very important to be that advocate, no matter what it means for your bottom line or for your pride. you are always a representative of something, sometimes many things. Understand what is important, and your needs are the bottom of the list, unless you want to go back to selling copiers...

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