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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.