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 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.

THE REORDER 09/28/18

When in doubt, look at the Wine List

When in doubt, look at the Wine list.

Salespeople get into real trouble when they are too attached/focused on their own portfolio…too self-involved with regard to their portfolio.

When you have no idea what to do and are searching for empathy, or you can’t get attention, the answers you need are almost always right in front of you on the wine list.

When you are trying to decide if you are wasting energy, and before you make any moves, just look at the list.

List Questions

What are they missing? And are they missing it on purpose?

Who are they buying from?

Can you change their world with something?

If you were in their shoes, what would you want?

How could you make it easier for them?

Who is the wine list for?

If you truly think they don’t need wine from you, you are either wrong or you MUST move on.

It takes a lot of practice to look at a wine list and translate it in a minute or two. If you aren’t already, I would be practicing this skill now.

Here is what I know:

If you truly think they don’t need anything, you are either wrong or you MUST move on.

THE REORDER 09/14/18

Change the Goal

I was speaking to a very talented salesperson recently and they asked me about a plateau. They were concerned about the tension between the “gaming” customers and how it doesn’t feel good – but the numbers are up.

He was in tune with himself enough to know that the numerical goal didn’t feel sustainable and that gaming customers is never a good move.

I asked him a simple question: what if you changed the goal? What if DIALOGUE is the goal and not NUMBERS?

His whole body changed. His eyes cleared and his voice became more resonant.

“That makes sense.”

Reality Check

I am not downplaying the pressure of number performance. It will always be there. But the fact is that a number is easy to judge but it can also lie “bigly.”

A great month looks nice and comes out clearly on a year over year comparison — But what if meeting your numbers this month just damaged your potential for dialogue forever?

Is it worth it?

I go to zero in number every month, but I never go to zero dialogue.

A wine sales career demands dialogue. You want those who you seek to serve to want to engage with you for a real reason.

Don’t just pour some stuff in a glass. Pour it for the person you are sharing with.

Don’t just take that order. Listen to them.

Change the goal.

 

SPLASH DECANT 08/14/18

NYC Market Watch Quickfire – The Fab Five

Back in the saddle with The Fab Five.

Enjoy.


The Fab Five

Canned answers
Canned wines are the fast-casual of the wine world.
I have written about this in the past but canned wines are exploding in the market (not literally). It has broken through the barrier and is now a viable category. This is part of a broader “make wine easier/millennial drinker” crescendo and we will see much more. There will ultimately be some losers, but in the meantime, watch this thing grow…

Who imported this, again?
A few short years ago, this was easy to answer.
Answer today: Who knows?
DTC, acquired from a private collection, etc., has changed the whole game and the impact has yet to be fully realized.
Remember that lockbox allocation of (insert famous name here) and all the trust, dancing, connection, space, budget issues and anger it sometimes produced? Now you don’t have to choose that route.
Someone is importing it who is not that producers chosen importer, and you have access if you want it.

And if you want an old vintage from a cellar in France? No Prob. Some collector in Jersey? Of course! Everything’s on the table…
Throw in the fact that many importers are competing directly with their own customers for producers to bring in and you see how real this is…a giant shift that is not to be ignored.

  • New “rules” + high, flashy, rare wine or new producers + demand = New game.

Don’t @ SevenFifty me
Full disclosure: I use Sevefifty every day and I love it.
But, since I believe some are very confused: SevenFifty is not your sales rep. I am so glad you can search broadly – it is a game-changing tool – but don’t forget that the rep may be able to connect you to something new, delicious, and also, not easily found. The not to be missed shit.
To quote a friend: You will only ever find what you are looking for with this incredible tool.
There are elements in SevenFifty that deliver interaction and we should be using those together much more.

Mouse in a bottle…
I have recently been poured an increased number of mousey as F%^^ wines.  Please don’t try and Jedi mind trick anyone by starting with “this is clean,” and pouring. We who taste are not convinced.
I have to wonder, though, are buyers’ tolerance for this flavor going up? Is the shift towards the mission/story of these wines outshining the actual flavor?
Personally, I rank this flavor up there with burnt rubber and it is not my thing – contrary to popular belief, there is nothing easy to drink about it.

One night stand sales…
For one night only! Bottle shot. Price slash…
Until it is gone! Bottle shot. Price slash…
Just one magnum! Bottle Shot. Price slash…And the band plays on…
What used to be a narrow field of one-night-stander marketed wines is expanding. This is “true follower” driven marketing that varies from restaurant to restaurant. Those who have the following win, while all the others pose and then drink the bottle themselves.

Canned wines are the fast-casual of the wine world.

BONUS

Out of the penalty box

It is nearly insane how many of the Raúl Perez wines are on lists and shelves in the city right now. Can you keep count? I certainly can’t. These wines are on a huge wave that includes volume and quality with extremely adept distribution. Nothing is stopping them in the short term.

EN. FUEGO.

Bonus en Fuego

Eastern Europe – looking good, along with a rebirth of Austrian coming strong.
I am noticing a shift, but haven’t tasted anything particularly moving…yet. All the wines I have tasted so far are perfectly serviceable. But the neophiliacs don’t care – they just see NEW, rare and imminently buyable.

THE REORDER 05/21/18

The Dark Side Part I – The Wine Sales Interview

Are you coming to the dark side*?

With the proliferation of import/distribution companies in NYC, there are more sales positions and opportunities available than ever, but little clarity on what it takes to put yourself in the best position for success as a salesperson at a good company.

I am hoping you will let me throw you a little inside baseball. Let me ‘leak’ some advice…

Below are some key points to consider when you are interviewing for a sales position in the city. As obvious as they may seem, it is exceedingly rare that anyone thinks this through enough to do them.

And just in case it bears repeating: There are many roads to Rome. What is below is not a one size fits all perspective. The market you are in, the standard practices of the distribution companies and the character and scope of the portfolio you sell will impact the below.


#1 Know the props and players

Ideally, you should walk into an interview knowing the company portfolio well. The history, who is behind it, where it is going. Take the reins and do more than a little research. Who are the props and players and who has which producer? The better you have a handle on the market you are interviewing in will directly impact the choice (and level) of companies you interview with. Essentially, the more you know the import/distribution scene, the higher the echelon of company you can go, and in turn, the better choice in companies to work for you will have. No viable company sleeps on someone that really knows a market.

#1a – curveball question: Why didn’t you buy from us?

If you are a buyer (or were) and never really bought from** the company you are interviewing with, you should be ready to answer why, and you better be convincing if you want the job. Also, have you considered that who you are buying from currently could be your most connected contact for a new job?

#2  The playbook no one thinks of…

Inventory is one of the most misunderstood and least talked about elements of a company in sales positions across the city, and yet, it is a vital ingredient to success.

Think of it like this: the inventory, open availability and producers will be your wine list. If you only have a few cases to sell of that sexy Beaujolais customers ask you for – you need to know that you have other options to take them to when that is gone. You need a spectrum of choice in your figurative bag. If not, you are going to run into problems once you really start selling wine (from an availability/volume point of view) – and these problems can be crippling and create a concrete ceiling. I speak from experience and this dynamic isn’t pretty.

Once talks get real (real enough to feel comfortable), ask to see the full inventory with associated availabilities (limited availability wines and their allocations, wines that sell out in a day, etc.) over several months. Ask what the seasonal flow is like. Do they DI offer their Rosé, for instance, or do they stock Rosé?

I guarantee you that most companies will be shocked that you are asking about inventory because most potential salespeople never think of this. Bottom line: You need to know what the inventory looks like and how it functions to make waves. You must have inventory/supply to sell to succeed.
The companies that are serious about hiring you and aren’t transparent about inventory are giving you a hint about what it will be like to work for them. If there is some concern on their side about transparency with you then tell them that you understand that inventory + accounts + passion + thoughtful work + connection = sales.

If you are missing the inventory piece, it is extremely difficult to find lasting success. And don’t forget that the more you sell, the better for the company.

#2a The small ball game

Imagine that portfolio that everyone says is “on fire” with the owner/partner who is also a salesperson. There is a very good reason that the owner is selling. I bet you that there isn’t a good spectrum of wine to sell with inventory behind it. There are exceptions, of course, but this is generally the rule. And this is not to take away from the strength of these types of portfolios, some of my favorites in the city are these portfolio models and I would bet on a few of them, but that doesn’t mean it would be great for you to work for them today.

#3 Culture Club

I would argue that the culture of a company has just as much to do with the quality of the portfolio as the wines in it. It has a massive impact. But, it is difficult to interpret and understand the culture of a company from the outside.  I always advise talking to reps in the market about what it is like to work at the company, both current and former. An importer/distributor with a “good” portfolio may come with owners/managers that are not good to work with. No one says when they are hiring: look, we are shitty to work with, but the wines in our portfolio are great.
Insider tip: if they have a portfolio of note, but a regular turnover in prime sales positions, I would be very aware of what that says about the company culture before interviewing — and if the vibe is right during the interview, I might even ask why they have had the turnover.

It is easy to be hypnotized by the wines in a portfolio and not understand that the culture within the company impacts how it will be to work with those wines.

#4 And…the account goes to…

Always ask what type of accounts will be available to you.

No matter what your level of experience, importer/distributors are generally cagey about which accounts are available, and every once and a while for understandable reasons. Figure out which type of accounts you will have access to as a rep and how the company decides who gets assigned to which account.

And if they say “we have house accounts and dead accounts for you with a lot of potential,” I would ask to see the list. I might even request ahead of time that they note all accounts that have trouble paying or have had recent buyer turnover. Generally, dead accounts are dead for a reason. Pulling blood from a run of dead account stones is a really hard game.

Now, the hard part that is basically unheard of:

#4a The Bait and Switch

Once it has been decided and you are getting an offer that includes accounts, mention casually that you have heard that companies switch runs on new sales reps and ask for some sort of assurance. 

Why? I have seen the bait and switch NUMEROUS times at high-level companies. As in – here is your run, and when you show up on the first day it is different than what was promised. If they are committing to you, they should be open to it. But also keep in mind that you will have to feel out this moment, and trust in the outcome – just make sure you feel comfortable with what you are walking into.

You need to know what the inventory looks like and how it functions to really make waves.

#5 Understanding commission and expectations

The way reps earn money varies wildly. Some are on a draw, some are 100 percent commission (in which you need to know the average commission), some are on salary with bonus opportunities, and there are variants of all of the above. If you have the inventory and know the accounts you will get – you must have a handle on the commission or payment structure you to project how you can support yourself.

Most companies do give 6-12+ months of salary as support when someone starts. This is “fairly” standard, but can vary as wildly as the pay structures.

Question is: what happens when you are off the support? Can you handle it? Look ahead and be realistic.

The Final Decision

If you have a good handle on the people you are working for, the portfolio and inventory available, the accounts you will have, and the way you will support yourself, you should be able to make an exceptionally good decision on whether to take the job, run quickly away and/or keep looking.

Once you have the job, your world changes quickly…This is where the tough part starts. Getting things rolling as a sales rep is a little more complex.

Part 2. Coming soon.


*the dark side is a common term used to describe beverage sales

**there seems to be some general confusion about what “buying from someone” means. It means you bought regularly, you gave a BTG or two, and always kept them in the game. Why would you want to work for a company that you put in the low, non-existent slot in your rotation as a buyer?