THE REORDER 12/24/18

The Sales Drones

The sales drones of today – A one scene play.


[Salesperson at Bar, Buyer arrives]

Pleased to meet you, have you heard of our portfolio? We have the best [insert category here].

Our portfolio of wines are never [insert technical fact here] or [insert another tech fact].

Cool cool, I love the space.

Ooooh, I love that champagne, I had it with [insert name of known buyer instagram friend].

Didn’t we meet at Compagnie? I was so [you know].

Oh, yeah – I think we did meet at that thing…best [insert sexy event] in the city.

Sorry, it is locked up for [insert hot shit resto here] – she took it all. Damn.

Faceless drones talking sweet sending that pretty sheet...

I do have this, [insert trendy-licious spot] used to pour it. I could maybe get you a few cases.

Let me send you a sevenfifty sheet with some other stuff.

You around next week?

Fin.

Salespeople roaming the streets – all saying the same thing over and over again like cogs in the machine.

Simply notice the difference.

How would you do this if there was no meaningless dialogue dance?

What if you could only ask two questions?

THE REORDER 12/17/18

Type-Casting

Sales rep type-casting is self-inflicted.

Are you a sales rep that feels you are part of a type-casting scheme to box you into certain accounts or style of buyer? Well, look in the mirror and examine what you say and do – chances are high the problem is you.

Messaging Matters

I have heard sales reps talking about their own “brand” recently and I was reminded again of one of my favorite quotes from Seth Godin: “You aren’t a brand, you are a person.”

The stories you tell within the company you work with and the stories you tell in a marketplace are your choice. No one I know of has a concrete script. And if you do, I hope you are asking how much you can play with the script because locking into the same ol’ same ol’ is a recipe for disaster.

The stories you tell within the company you work with and the stories you tell in a marketplace are your choice.

If you feel you are being boxed in, I ask you this: have you done everything you can to open new doors, or are you hoping someone does it for you?

This could be a courageous moment. Make a change.

Don’t be the angry, “typecast” rep in the corner wondering why they never get the “right” accounts. Be the wavemaker.

For the record (again): high-level accounts are never the gimme they seem to be. Today, one can still build an account run that will make heads spin and wine roll without one account that appears on the Heatmap.

SPLASH DECANT 12/03/18

“Secrets” of a Successful Sales Rep

I was recently asked to participate in an article on what it takes to be a successful sales rep.

Naturally, it was edited down to the nub. Wine Journalism today is an open field that is primarily “pitch” first, shape article second. It’s all good, I completely understand.

Below is what I submitted, save the questions and answers regarding the company I work for.


  • Q: Tell me a bit about your background prior to getting into wine sales – where did you work? Have you ever worked in a field other than wine?

A: I am a classically trained Opera singer, and I sang a little bit around. When I moved to NYC, I worked at the pasta palace in Times Square called Carmines for 6 years. I also owned a boutique opera agency representing Opera Singers and Conductors before I shifted into wine sales in late 2007.

  • Q: Have you carried over any skills learned in previous careers/jobs to this position? Tell me a bit about them.

Multi-section A:

Calm in chaos

Working in a raucous, high volume theater district restaurant was integral to building a skill set that I draw on today as a sales rep. I had to make rapid decisions in a chaotic environment, hone my intuition about the customers to a where it was lightning fast (I often had 10 seconds or less to get a feel for what would serve them best), work through errors quickly…and all on deadline.
Basically, I use all of these skills daily as a rep.

Nuance

Voice study helped me tune into nuance.
The energy, core, and overtones of a sound inform the perception of the sound as a whole – but one has to learn to be aware of them. It takes some simple/complicated noticing.
When I am tasting and attempting to understand a wine today, this skill is what I am calling upon. I try to never get tied up in the brushstrokes and miss the painting.

Negotiation

Being an opera agent introduced me to high stakes negotiations. In most cases, I was representing my friends.
Today, no matter how high the stakes in the wine biz, I know I have been there before in a much more difficult dynamic.

  • Q: What are a few skills that you feel are important in order to succeed in wine sales? Why are they important?

Multi-section A:

Empathy + Connection = Dialogue

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and connect is a key skill. A great rep is able to think like a buyer and make decisions like a buyer. If you do that well, you will anticipate needs/wants. Empathy opens up the possibility of a trusting connection and dialogue normally follows. Here’s the gold:  showing wine doesn’t sell wine, dialogue sells wine.

Grit

In the business of selling wine, there are virtually no constants, so having the grit to hang in there and move forward when challenges come up is integral. Your ducks will never be in a row. I have been saying for years that being a sales rep is like playing Jazz  – don’t get tied up about the wrong notes, just keep playing. You don’t give up.

Listening

The best salespeople are expert listeners. Endeavor to become a better listener and ask better questions. Don’t just run around with wine in a bag pouring juice in glasses and “over-detailing” buyers – listen more, and explain less. Listening well can connect you to a customer in a way a wine never can.

Perspective

The importance of knowing how your portfolio and the producers within fit into the broader landscape of the market cannot be overstated. More specifically, I mean you need to have an informed perspective of the market competition in addition to your own portfolio. And it isn’t enough to “Good Will Hunting” the competition like you memorized it in a book and you can quote pages or throw out names. You need to have a feel for them that goes beyond the facts. Having a more textured viewpoint gives you opportunities to see where wines from your portfolio belong and how they measure up.

Belief

You have to decide what your core beliefs are as a rep. What are you doing this for? The answer may evolve with experience. And if the answer is Commission, I can assure you that you will get smoked in some way or another. It has to be deeper than that.
The reason core beliefs are so important is that they inform every step of what you do. From the dialogue you seek, to the service you give. This is the one constant you can hang your hat on in a volatile and constantly changing market.

Moving on

Letting go of accounts is a skill that has to be practiced. Sales reps sometimes hoard accounts or stake claims on accounts that they are working with (or working on) without considering that their energy would be better used elsewhere. They forget that they have options. One of the absolute best ways to open your sales world is to shed accounts. Sometimes you have to let the account go, even when the “numbers” or some account dynamic may be telling you to stay.

Many reps (and companies!) are paying much more attention to the wine equivalent of asteroids and not planets.

  • Q: Is there any one thing that came in unexpectedly handy when you started working as a sales rep?

A: I started paying attention to the super top reps very early on. I studied what they were doing and then put their practices (if they fit for me) through the prism of my style, portfolio, and my customers.

Also, my intuition came in handy. I really followed my gut on a lot of early decisions, even when I was walking in the opposite direction of the crowd.

  • Q:  Do you have anything else to add?

A: Many reps (and companies!) are paying much more attention to the wine equivalent of asteroids and not planets. Instagram is especially filled with this sort of thing. It is good to be aware of both, but ultimately the wines that actually move the NYC market are rarely the same as the ones as that are ‘grammed over and over again. It is vital to know the difference and be able to translate that into your work if you want long-term success.

THE REORDER 11/15/18

Play the Course

Play the course.

I was recently asked who my competition is. They assumed I would say a particular Rep or a certain company.

THEY ASSUMED WRONG.

My answer: I compete with myself first and the full spectrum of the market second.

Reps that compete narrowly with a few companies or a few reps in this scene are not really doing what they think they are doing.


The Competition

I compete with a tough, never give up SOB: Myself.

I have a clear understanding of what I am doing, how I am failing, the issues, the constraints, challenges, shortcomings, and what I am working on. I take full responsibility and I am extremely competitive with myself. The moment I start thinking about someone else’s numbers, the wine that I don’t have to sell, or the coveting of another portfolio, I am lost.

I compete with the full market landscape second.

Every day I commit to trying to understand what is going on with the market below the surface. Not through Instagram or some social media facade (which is not real), but by being out and noticing. I compete with the market like I play a golf course – understanding that I may get stuck behind a tree, or that the wind may come up and there is nothing I can do but just play the shot and move on.

You must decide to study this beverage market to gain intuition.

One cornerstone here: You have to study the market to have a feel, to know what moves what.
I knew that this wouldn’t be an easy year for Rosé…how is that possible? Am I some prescient genius? Nope, far from it. I just study the market, and I have a good feel on how it goes. You can have a feel, too.

Start noticing today.

SPLASH DECANT 11/01/18

Graceful Distribution – a definition

Graceful distribution* will define the wine business in the next decade.

Look across the landscape of all these Importers and Distributors – those who can execute with grace will be left standing and the others with either blow up soon or slowly wither away to nothing.

The Concept

Graceful Distribution honors the producer, the importer/distributor, the beverage director/restaurant/retailer, and the end consumer. It is a circular chain that is exceedingly difficult and innately imperfect. But whoever can get their heads around this concept in these competitive times is not only going to win but win huge.

The importer/distributor that can gracefully support their growers, the customers they sell to and the people that work for them is the real juggernaut.

Graceful distribution will be the difference maker, the lifeline of it all.

The importer/distributor that can gracefully support the producers they represent, the customers they sell to and the people that work for them is the real juggernaut.

 

This is the defining time and I believe there to be a gargantuan amount of opportunity. This is a moment where an importer/distributor can really separate itself. If you can execute on Graceful distribution, you will win…

This is a moment where an importer/distributor can really separate itself. If you can execute on Graceful distribution, you will win.


Graceful Distribution – the act of distribution in the pursuit of serving in every direction. Towards producer, towards employees, customers, and consumers. Each individually, and all at once.

THE REORDER 10/15/18

The Dark Side Part III: Pillars of the Functioning Account Run

What are the pillars of a functioning account run? Does comfort exist?

You are working a group of accounts where (ideally) momentum is building, and there is no longer the time to do the opening account dance that you did before. Your accounts have needs.

If you want to get to dialogue and make waves, below are some guideposts that lead to a functioning account run.


Diversify

You need diverse accounts to sell a diverse portfolio. Don’t get hedged to one big account, one superstar producer, or one buyer. Your goal should be a broad spectrum of accounts without spreading you thin.

Shape not Graph

Look at your run like a shape, not a graph.
I don’t mean ignore metrics, I mean step away and look at it like an abstract shape that is continuously changing, because it is. Buyer turnover combined with the relationship-driven nature of the market equals immense volatility*. It is a constantly changing shape, so treat it as such.

Always. Be. Opening.

Opening accounts will never stop. Get used to it. It bears repeating: you have to feed your account run with new projects and help them grow organically. At the same time, you must protect your time, so don’t go around opening accounts as if you were at the beginning. Look at what is interesting to you first.

Cherries

Know which wines you represent that garner attention, and which should garner more. Also, know where the deep well is in your portfolio for lots of regular wine.
You must have a working perspective of what you offer from the viewpoint of the wine director. If approached correctly, this can really increase the dialogue and in turn, run up the numbers…

Market Knowledge

Know the market better than anyone else. Know it as if your very relevance depends on it.
This is immense work, but worth more than what it takes to get there.
The better you know the market, the more clearly you see space, the more waves you make.

Stay in Contact

Find new and inventive ways to stay in touch regularly that isn’t an appointment. Do it in your way. It will be imperfect, so don’t worry about it. Just reach out.

NO

At this point, you just can’t be around the way you were before. That bar you always went to, those in-store tastings you always did or those late night meetups — you will have to say No. Get used to it now and do it as gracefully as possible. Done properly with yourself and those you seek to serve will help, not hinder growth.

You must have a working perspective of what you offer from the perspective of the wine director. If approached correctly, this can really run up the numbers...

House Style

Find your “House Style” and lean in.
If you have things that differentiate you style-wise as a rep, do them more and/or make them more clear.
But at the same time, don’t get addicted to some ridiculous act* that is fabricated. That will explode fast.

Trust

Sample less, dialogue more and you will gain trust.
I don’t mean allocate like a monster (unless, of course, your portfolio demands it). Be forward about what you believe in within your portfolio.  Anticipate needs and tell the truth.

Sample Theory

You have been sampling too much. I guarantee you have thrown a grenade in a lake in the hope it hits something. What if you couldn’t sample anything? What would you do? Think about this right now.

Comfort?

Some reps obsess about their daily numbers and others sit in the park and take orders. While I don’t identify with either of these approaches, I find comfort in the fact that I know who I am serving and that I am actively trying to do it better than I did it before. I sleep at night because I know what all this is for. Try and find that for yourself and you will find comfort. Perfection is fucking boring and not memorable. Remember that when something goes wrong.


*an unfortunate by-product of this is that you may be down in accounts sometimes (shocker! be prepared for questions: management generally looks at your run through the reds and blacks on a page). Accounts ebb and flow. Shit runs out. If you are paying attention, the downturn of accounts is less painful.

*sidenote: I am noticing that some reps are choosing the A-hole vibe as an attention grabber style. Do not make this choice unless you are actually an asshole (Being honest is different than being an asshole).

THE REORDER 10/01/18

House Style Needed

Do you have a house style?

To all the wine reps trying to make waves: figure it out and you will find gold. No, I am not talking about the house style of your portfolio (which you better be fluent in). I am asking what makes you different? Are you a meaningful specific or just a wine selling drone that could be replaced?

Let me be even more specific: you better be selling something other than wine in your portfolio.

EX.

Before you say “small growers, organic farming, native ferment, natural, clean, infusion over extraction, allocated, low alc., fresh, new, zero zero, ethical, minimal work in the cellar, Glou, etc.,” please realize that someone else is saying the exact same thing in front of the same buyers. Literally. Is this the dynamic you want?

 

You have to have a hook beside the wine that everyone wants or the buzzwords that every one of your competitors is parroting.

If you are just running around selling brands and aren’t using your own house style, you will plateau or even worse, perish.

Figure out what really differentiates you that isn’t about the portfolio you rep.

Is it you? Is it the company you work for? What makes a difference?

Find your personal house style and you can actually make waves. Without it, the wines make the waves and you can be easily replaced.