Friday, September 28, 2012

What it feels like to switch teams

Almost inevitably, as time passes, our resumes build and competition notices, we eventually are asked to consider representing a new portfolio of wines. This could be at the supplier level or at the distributor level. For some, this doesn't matter, it's the same as selling Brand "X" vs Brand "Y". For me, personally, and most of you that bother to read a wine sales blog, it may feel as traumatic as giving your dog away and replacing him with a different, less loveable dog.

In every career, finding purpose is important. If you are a wine geek, you love wine and wineries. Your "book" is your sports team. Rooting for that team and singing it's praises is a natural inclination. It's that collection of players that complement each other and that you know so well. You probably build personal relationships with the wineries through workwiths, social media and maybe even a visit to the winery. Eventually, for any number of factors, but usually it's either financial or personal, you may consider jumping to another book. This choice is a deeply complicated decision. It's personal, and sometimes it works out great and sometimes, it's a soul crushing disaster. I've personally had one of each.

When it's positive, you look ahead at the new book and spend the bulk of your time excitedly learning about this new and exciting range of producers. When you see the old producers in the market, you have much love for them and have nothing but great things to say, and you mean it. When it's wrong, and believe me, you know right away, you realize that the marketplace perception of the distributor and the internal reality are pretty far apart. You may find you have a hard time loving the wines, and you find yourself longing for the old producers.

 Further complicating the situation is the very strange dynamic of: " I know I used to tell you these wines are the best, but now, maybe you'll believe me when I say I've found an entire set of wines that are better." That isn't really a viable approach, but damn if it doesn't feel that way. The best approach is to acknowledge that there is a whole world of great wines in the first place. My personal take has always been that each book has an assortment of great producers, but most sales reps for the big companies are a little too dim, or have had all critical thinking beaten out of them, to recognize this fact.

Jumping companies, particularly laterally,  is a tough choice. If the book you sell is important to you, that can be one of the most important considerations while making a jump. You have to balance that with the personal and the financial, but don't underestimate how hard it can be to forget about that first team.

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