THE REORDER 08/25/19

To the Salesperson: What to do in a Down Month

To the Salesperson: What to do in a Down Month

There have been long stretches where I have been on a roll and couldn’t even imagine what a down month looks and feels like.

The moment you think a down month can’t happen to you, guess what comes a knockin’?

This is precisely why I am writing this down. Read it when you need to.

The Down Month

It is August of 2019 and I am not having my greatest month of sales. It will likely be a down month year over year, and I have never had more understanding of the movements of the market and what I offer. But, shit happens and here I am.

Did I see it coming? Yes. In many ways, it is just one of those things. A perfect wine storm. It is a super rare pop up in 12 years of hard-hit line drives. I tend to not think any month is worth the worry (I think in 6-month blocks), but in the beverage sales game it is much better to understand why a month trended a certain way.

A few years ago, I would have been sweating myself to sleep. Dreaming of the suffocating action duo of coulda and woulda. But today I breathe easily.

So – when you are having a tough one, lean on this message: what defines our sales game is how we deal with challenges, not any percentage. There is no perfect and there are few (if any) constants. In the most volatile and fast-changing beverage market in the world, yo’ shit will get f’ed up and you will need to be able to roll with it.

So what does one do?

How to deal with a down month

Find a Win

Look beyond the surface and pat yourself on the back for a few things. Realize that keeping glass pours and wine flowing in the most competitive market in the world is a total win.

Good people

Go see someone you truly treasure.

When I struggle, I do everything I can to laugh and spend time with people I really dig. It’s one of the great goldmines of our business. You can always just hit the bar and have a blast.

To do or not to do?

Look at what you can actually do.

Don’t tighten up and just email more. Do something that makes actual connective sense. A real action that propels dialogue in an empathetic way.

Find a Challenge

Is there a curmudgeon-y bro somm that needs to be taken down with a thoughtful Jedi wine move? Go connect them to the absolute right wine for them. Surprise with forethought.

Get. A. PHILOSOPHY

I have gone over this in many posts. I am on record. Having your own philosophy is crucial.

What are you trying to do? If moving boxes and numerical attaboys/attagirls is the philosophy, I can see the meltdown coming. And…it will be devastating.

My philosophy is like my secret mantra. When all else fails, I meditate on the mantra. The constantly changing nature of the NYC market is a beast and having something to go to that is yours will only serve you.

Don’t go Dark

Decide not to engage with the worrying gremlin in your head. Breathe deeply. Enjoy wine, make art, listen to ‘trane. Try the opposite thing.

I know people who are constantly in a recession mindset. Pay attention – but stay off the dark side of the sales game. That side of the aisle is crowded and a bad neighborhood.

Let it go

IF you find yourself really struggling…

Look at the history and write down what led up to the month – what went right and what went wrong. Then write down what you plan to shift around or change next time. Now – let it go. Or reach out to me. @iamlooper

...what defines our sales game is how we deal with challenges, not any percentage.

Epilogue – A Related Story

A conjoined business you have…

Heads up: You are tied to the business of your accounts. You cannot control or predict the trajectory of their business.

That account that is on complete fire today could be in a legal battle tomorrow. A partner could go rogue and disrupt that business forever. A 10k a month account could go to 0 tomorrow. I don’t mean to sound fatalistic, but you must have a longer viewpoint. When it is going well, enjoy it fully and at the same time don’t engage in the thought that it will be that same lovely dynamic forever.

Years ago, I had the biggest sale of my career (an ocean of wine) and a month later they were late paying. I coordinated with the wine director to pick up a check the next day, and when I arrived the doors were chained up and the account was closed forever. In fact, the restaurant that took that space over sold some of the wines for profit. And the crooked previous chef with the closed restaurant took all the expensive Burgundy to his house.

Due to a recent rant post from an Instagram Crazy Wine Importer, I feel the need to make this clear: better people make better business people. They also make better business partners. Keep that in mind when you make that sale to the chum hunting shark who views you as a pass-through or the hot shit restaurant in a constant #metoo brawl.

You can’t control the business of your customers.

If they are dead and struggling and you decide to send 20cs of wine to them, are you a great partner? Only if you have their best interests in mind.

THE REORDER 08/09/19

Samples don’t make Sales

Samples don’t make Sales.

Reports ferreting out who sampled what rarely mean much. Why keep running those reports and scratching your head?

In my experience, most of the time they represent that the wines haven’t been sold meaningfully to the team. These dreaded reports lead to meetings where they bring out the cat o’ nine tails and we all take a turn.

Why don’t you sample this? One should very rarely have to ask this question.

Generally what sample reports lead to is the dreaded sales blitz…Everyone put this in your bag so we can tell the producer we tried.

Sales blitzes aren’t for sales, either. They are for excuses and clean reports.
What gets measured gets managed, right?

Most importantly, as a sales rep you need to launch things. Sometimes you will choose to put wine in a bag and make shit happen.

So how do you put together the perfect bag?

The Perfect Bag

The perfect bag of wine doesn’t exist. It will never happen. You can’t have all the right things unless it was set up and dialogued about beforehand – and even then, the perfect bag will always elude you. It is the Moby Dick of the wine world.

Don’t get mad about it, just flow with it.

The perfect bag of wine doesn’t exist. It will never happen.

What works – the sampling playbook

Sample like you mean it.

When you show up with wine, it is better to have thought through why.

Be a matchmaker. 

Challenge thoughtfully every once and a while – just enough. New wines, forgotten wines, etc.

Always have three insightful questions and/or 2-3 ideas outside the bag. In your head. Hint: these can be combined.

If you show up with a case you look like a head case. 12 bottles may cover your sample requirement, but they rarely build any trust.

Never open wine for a closed mind. 

The goal of samples is dialogue not sales.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We have more choice in this market than ever and tomorrow there will be even more. Every bottle you choose to open is an opportunity to make a small impact. If you can avoid sampling like a drone, you will automatically stick out.

THE REORDER 07/30/19

The Struggling Salesperson vs. The Fluent Salesperson

“The Struggling Salesperson vs. The Fluent Salesperson”

There is a cadence to a pistons firing salesperson – the fluent, knowledgeable seeker of market nuance. The fluent salesperson pays attention to the ripples, the seams, the open fields, and the crowded ones.

The struggling salesperson thinks about portfolio reputation and why they aren’t calling. They worry about small scale competitors and have no feel or touch for the tangible movements of a market.

The fluent salesperson sees the connections that they can make and chooses.

The struggling salesperson plays politics and thinks certain accounts equal success.

The fluent salesperson sees allocations as a tool.

The struggling salesperson sees allocations as the goal.

The fluent salesperson opens doors and rarely pushes anyone through.

The struggling salesperson pushes sales and rarely opens doors.

The fluent salesperson doesn’t fret, they make waves.

The struggling salesperson frets away and tries to make sales.

The fluent salesperson knows that the waves are in motion.

The struggling salesperson doesn’t even see the waves.

July in the NYC wine sales game is always a month that shows salesperson mettle. It shows who has grit and who knows how to make waves…and it is obvious who doesn’t.

The fluent salesperson pays attention to the ripples, the seams, the open fields, and the crowded ones.

The “slow month” is a mindset.

Don’t fret, make waves.

Don’t sell, make waves.

Don’t complain about inventory, make waves.

Don’t disparage the market, make waves.

Don’t get jealous of the one-man show, make waves.

Don’t compare importer to importer, make waves.

SPLASH DECANT 07/13/19

The Gigantic Meaningless Wine Award (s)

The Gigantic Meaningless Wine Award

Dear Sommelier,

Thank you for your entry fee, cover letter, dinner menu, and wine list for the Award this year.

Congratulations! We have decided to award you with a Gigantic Meaningless Wine Award, second level.

We are thrilled to have you as part of the many thousands that paid the entry fee.

As a winner, you will not only feel validated, but random people from the wine industry will congratulate you. You are finally good enough now. You are likable, highly skilled and your parents will love you more now than they did before.

Your award is being mailed to you. It will arrive in the coming week.

Please do not make love to the award.

Do not reenact that scene with Billy Bob and Halle B from Monsters Ball – (this award will make you feel good, you don’t need to ask it to).

This award consents to hugs, caresses, and since 2014 does not allow special exemptions to “Showering” of any sort.

Please congratulate all other winners and get them to congratulate you (preferably on Social Media).

Grab a bottle and pose! If you just started a few months ago and have had little to nothing to do with the program, no big deal. We love group photos. We keep hearing about “stories” – do it for us your personal sommelier brand and make your awesome restaurant owners notice!

Please privately (or publicly) laugh at the others that did not win or participate.

Shame the others like muzzled handmaidens. They probably don’t have enough cash to pay the entry fee! What a bunch of LO-SERS! They suck big time, amiright?

Also, after you have hugged and caressed your award…

Even in well-established culinary destinations like New York City, the Gigantic Meaningless Wine Awards serve as validation for a job well done.

Please display the award prominently in the restaurant so the owners feel so so good.

Make sure that it is prominently placed so customers see it. Give them the opportunity to wonder what the hell it is, or say to their friends as they enter: “Seeeee, this place is great. They won the Gigantic Meaningless Wine Award!”

Finally, please download our app.

We are building a Gigantic Meaningless App that shows everyone where you can find the most Gigantic Meaningless Wine Awarded programs in the city. We promise to bring huge droves of fans of meaningless wine programs to fill your seats.

The code words to know the customers used the app to find you are “Ranch” and “Dressing.” It may appear that they just want Ranch Dressing, but really, they want Ranch Dressing AND they found out about you via the meaningless wine app. You are welcome.

We know what you are thinking: Winning is SUCH an honor…You are right.

And also, you must be thinking: I really really want to GET IT ON with this award. I want to make the award feel what I feel. Please don’t. We have had problems in the past but have signed an NDA and can’t talk about it.

We look forward to your entry fee participation next year.


*the gigantic meaningless wine award is not real.

THE REORDER 07/01/19

When to Walk Away

When to walk away

Years ago, I used to go to Marseille on 44th st. and sit in a line to show a few wines to the Wine Director. It was a lineup – same time, same day, everyone who comes gets to taste with the Sommelier.
Every single time I had to wait for an hour plus and I watched every other rep put on their show. I listened as much as I could to every meeting I could and then I took my turn.
The buyer never took more than a few cases of anything and I am not sure he ever bought big from anyone.

To most managers and owners, this type of account would appear to be a colossal waste of time. Not true.
I learned so much from those that presented wine. What they would say. The stories they would shape.
What not to do was often on full display.
I also met people that were just beginning as reps that now own their own companies.


The Basics

A few basic points that I have mentioned before:

It is possible to show too much wine.

Anyone can sell a label everyone knows.

Listening matters more than artful storytelling, but both woven together are the Jedi move.

Buyers have a style of buying that has nothing to do with their palate, and is likely more important. You should figure out both.


 

Sometimes you have to walk away from an account that has meant a lot to you.

One day in the Fall, I walked away. I decided to let the account go and pass it along to someone else.

It had nothing to do with the monthly number, which had actually built up.

It also had nothing to do with the wine director, who was skilled and I had a good relationship with.

Why?

I looked around and I realized I had outgrown the account – I couldn’t wait in line anymore. It didn’t feel right anymore. I learned what I needed to, connected what I could to that Sommelier/program and now it was time to move on.

You have to make choices as a rep that appear counterintuitive, but open doors that others can’t see. Management will likely not understand because they see customers as a constant stream, but we know better. There is no stream. There is no real constant.

Sometimes you have to walk away and start something over.

Go make waves.

THE REORDER 06/21/19

The Tactics of OG Wine Buyers

The tactics of OG wine buyers have not been documented, but if you are in the NYC market really doing it as a salesperson you may recognize a few of the below moves.

Bottom line is: it is vital to be aware of a few of these tactics because they can really throw you if you don’t recognize them for what they are.
The the upside of being “in” with an old-schooler is HUGE. The OG buyer has had a large impact on my career. Many of them are the most loyal, impressive and insightful that I have had the pleasure of working with. But almost without fail, all of the relationships started wonky, awkward, and with a plethora of mistakes on my part.

This could be a long list – but I chose my own personal favorites. I hope this helps.


The Tactics

Talk to the hand

Nearly every old school buyer In high-level buying positions I have worked with over the years will take the first meeting as a moment to start with no. I don’t mean saying no to everything, I mean the general feeling of no. Don’t worry, they are in the meeting for a reason.

An impossible question

They will most likely mention random things to get you back on your heels. Maybe something only they know the answer to because they go to Croatia every year, or they knew the ol’ man Mondavi. Something that startles you just enough so they exert dominance. No big deal.

Distraction

The OG buyer will involve a distraction at some point, and it could be completely random.
Whether they are bidding on wines, slinking away to the corner to taste in silence, making funny noises, or throwing a sideways, super insulting comment about the wine in the glass your way – expect them to perform a little.
I once had an old buyer in a tracksuit step away and act like he had some form of consumption and hack away in front of his smiling Somm team. He was aiming to distract all of us and pull focus. I almost laughed out loud because it was so obvious, and it still tripped me up.

Accentuate, Denigrate, Repeat

Any wine that has an element that could be accentuated and then dismissed…will be. VA, oak, sellability, etc.

You can count on this move, at least at first. They may even say a wine is horrible, even when it obviously isn’t.
The most difficult OG wine buyer I ever worked with looked me dead in the eye after smelling a wine I poured in our first meeting and asked me if I liked the wine I had poured for him. I said yes. He then said that if I really liked that wine that we couldn’t work together.

The underlying question for them will be: why should we buy from you, or (more likely) why do we need to buy from you?

The Big Deflection

This is a real classic. The OG buyer will deflect the buying to their assistants.

Even if they are doing all the big buying, they will pass you off to their assistants that have minimal buying power while telling you that the assistants have real power.
The only way to get past this one is to know how the OG buyer buys, and why they buy. The deflection has to be followed by a question that leads the big buyer back to you.

OG connections

Most old schoolers have deep connections with producers or importers and view all others through a careful eye.
The underlying question for them will be: why should we buy from you, or (more likely) why do we need to buy from you?

If you have something to offer that retains a long-held connection for the OG (like an old friend now making wine), you need to bring it up.

The Importer Syndrome

Many of these OG buyers came up when now famous importers were in the early stages of establishment. Because of this, they fancy themselves to have “built” importers. Random hero stories about how they helped importer (insert name here) find (insert hot-shit famous producer) will abound.
Everyone likes to feel important and the OG buyer is no different. They just have a longer history and the connections that come along with that history.
NOTE: Unless you know market history and producers very well (which is rare), just listen. Take it from a guy who has had to take my foot out of my mouth a few times…

No love for distribution

A natural extension of the above is: they probably have imported a few things. Or, they may even have a “brand.”
I was once told “I hate importers, they are so greedy” by someone who bought oceans of wine from one importer. Not shockingly, this OG buyer is now a small importer.
They will have some sort of buying pattern that goes outside the typical buying system (like buying on Auction or via some list that their friends run). In this case, it is really handy to know a lot of producers and their respective availabilities so you can know what not to offer.

Appointments are for a*** holes

This is the current view of the appointment for the OG unless you are in with them. Avoid the word at all costs. Send an offer that makes sense, but realize that this first email better have an impact – or you will likely never get email love.

Hardball

Many OG buyers love to play hardball, but don’t like when it is played with them. Beware of the many bear traps that will happen if you try and game an OG. However, some of these buyers will not respect you if you don’t speak up. Don’t be afraid to go toe to toe if you feel it is necessary,

SPLASH DECANT 06/14/19

You have a good portfolio? Congratulations.

You have a good portfolio? Congratulations.

Having a good portfolio isn’t good enough anymore.

If you bring up any company that imports or distributes wine today, inevitably someone will say “they have a good portfolio.” Try it. I have tried it often recently, and it is startling how confused we are as an industry.

How many times has someone said: “They are so great to work with.” Try it…Zero times, right?

Every importer and distributor with reps walking around this city has good wine that is buyable and in turn, sellable. And further, every single one of them is viewed primarily through the wines they offer.

The most important fact in the NYC Beverage market today is: Every player in import and distribution has good wine, and very few offer something special besides the products they list.


The Next Level “Portfolio”

Graceful distribution (Please see my previous post) will define the future not the wines in your portfolio.

Here are some ingredients:

Who can give the best service

Who can connect

Who has the best “logistics.”

Who can tell the best stories

Who knows their audience

Who can pay their bills

Who delights their partners, employees AND in turn who delights their customers

The soul of the company that this market buys from matters now, not just the wines it offers.

The Future

Whoever can build a soulful company will be ahead.

Don’t get me wrong: a waywardly selected portfolio of wines won’t help, but wine will not be the defining piece of the puzzle like it was before. People are the key and the true colors of all of these importer/distributors are on full display.

The soul of the company that this market buys from matters now, not just the wines it offers.

We are going to find out what a truly dynamic market is because the field has been changed forever.

Hang onto your hats, it is going to get wild.