THE REORDER 10/01/20

Sustainable Sales Success Lessons

Tradecraft: Sustainable Sales Success Lessons in the Beverage Arena

Very early on, I was lucky enough to run into some of the truly great Jedi salespeople in NYC. These craftspeople knew that longevity didn’t mean Foreau, foie gras, and four negroni lunches. They helped me succeed with simplicity.

Take these to heart and go make waves.

“Don’t take this too seriously.” – Dan Lerner

Wine taken too seriously is a farce and beyond boring.  Dan Lerner said something like this to me at the Core Club in 2008 and it was an over-the-shoulder bullseye. Remember this: If you make beverage sales your life, it will take your life.

“Take care of your relationships at home. It’s a lot harder if that isn’t working.” – John Coyle

If you do not give care to your home relationships, your family, and those around you in your daily life, the beverage game gets incredibly hard, super fast. Imagine being out to dinner with buyers of the opposite sex and not having trust at home. It will crush you. I actually have come to take this as a credo in life in general. Chaos without care at home makes everything harder.

“That isn’t real wine.” – Michael Wheeler

I was out on a tear one night and I ended up at Blue Hill in Manhattan during their last call and I ran into Wheeler and Phil Sareil. I bought a bottle and Wheeler said it wasn’t real wine – as in, it wasn’t a wine of substance, terroir, or nature. Whether I believe he was right or wrong (he was most likely right) is of no importance. Wheeler taught me at that moment that putting wine in buckets is a hard habit to break. I had put the wine in question into a box that I believed he would agree with and I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Context matters. Understanding comes with experience and seeing wine as more than the tech info checklist or tribe that promotes it is vital. It’s easy to like what other people like. But it may be a bucket of fake frosty cake that may not be what you think it is.

“Never open a bottle for a closed mind.” – Robert Chadderdon via Christopher Russell

I think about this one often. You don’t need to push, you need to connect. A lot of wine has been wasted on folks that will never give it the time of day in the name of the appointment or the new sales blitz. To have a strong, curious perspective about what you present and don’t present is empowering. Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer.

“Why would we want to do what everyone else is doing?” – Naomi Rosen

You don’t have to be like everyone else. You don’t have to say what everyone else says. Naomi has her own style, sense of clarity, curiosity, and immense charm. She approaches her work as a meaningful specific. Consider doing your own personal version of this as a practice.

“Orders only matter if you have dialogue, and philosophy over numbers.” – Looper

You need a philosophy.

I specifically think one night when I realized that I had sold 175k in a week with no connection whatsoever. Zero dialogue. I could have been an order machine. Avoid this dynamic as if you mean it. Find a philosophy that you can hang your hat on every day no matter how much or little you sell and you will find much more clarity in what you do.

THE REORDER 09/15/20

The Worst Word in the Wine Business

The worst word in the wine business is…drum roll please…: Appointment. 

As in, may I have an appointment?

Imagine looking at your email and having 25 plus people email you requesting the same thing: an appointment.

Appointments are for dentists, therapists, and proctologists.

I wish I could jettison this word forever because it automatically brings a strong connotation of a favor or a bothersome necessity that belongs to the old postal service model of sales in the beverage sales game. So, why did we decide to use this word? A question for the ages.

An appointment is supposed to be a dialogue, an interchange, a discovery, a connection, a first dance, a new direction. A new opportunity to see something beyond what is in front of you.

I have said this often: appointments are highly overrated – but if you want to do one, fine – just make sure it means something more than an appointment.

SPLASH DECANT 09/01/20

Is it Art or Science?

Asking if the beverage game is an art or a science is the wrong question – it’s almost always too much of one and not enough of the other.

EX: If you can look at your inventory turn over a relevant period and predict exactly what will sell next month, you are selling a commodity, not a handmade product. Everything goes out the window when there is an external force like an economic downturn or once-in-a-lifetime pandemic or a restaurant closing or a retailer gets hit with a wicked fine that leaves them cash-strapped.

Most of the time there isn’t enough art. There is no song, cadence, belief, impulse or feel – an absence of rubato.

Anyone can run a report and think they have the answers. But to weave art into what you do requires a strong, invested core.

Conversely, working purely on artistic impulse without observing data and you are a fool – maybe at times a lucky fool, but a fool.

Relearn to thread this needle every day and you will find a balance that others wish they had.

THE REORDER 08/15/20

Death of a Beverage Salesperson

The classical beverage salesperson that we all knew will not get a do-over. The beverage version of Willy Loman really is dead and there won’t be any kind of sequel.

Gone are the postal routes, encyclopedia sales methods and schlocky promises. Covid-19 has forcefully jettisoned the sad-sack, antiquated practices of the mediocre plus.

For those of us that actively participate in the streets of NYC in the beverage ecosystem, the old way of sales was already on the way out and we saw the last hurrah. Covid-19 just accelerated it.

Here is what won’t be going away: the Connection Artist. The Artisan Salesperson in a new and more perilous landscape.

The salesperson will either evolve and lean into a more connective artist or disappear into the ether. Why? Because the playing field is now a head-spinning, multi-dimensional pitch to play on – a shape-shifting game is now the daily field of play. In short, it just got more complicated.

The Connection Artist is a multi-faceted, tech-forward, learned, fuller-scoped, market-savvy beverage player. This new modality of the connector is fluent in what was done before by the classical beverage salesperson, chooses wisely when to apply past principles, and when not to.

The beverage game today is a freshly-picked paradigm of immense opportunity and the Connection Artist is the star player.

SPLASH DECANT 08/01/20

The Biggest Beverage Industry Reset in History

We are in the middle of the biggest reset in beverage industry history since prohibition.

What we once knew as “normal” is flattened, cracked, and in many cases, decimated by the pressure test of the coronavirus. Today it is a tabula rasa – a leveled playing field that will not be repeated in our lifetimes.

Legacy importer/distributors are shaken up and quietly toppling over.  Sales reps are getting laid off in droves because the pre-covid sales rep role no longer exists.  Wine clubs are the new, splashy-blasty trend. Celebrity-owned, mostly private label wines are occupying valuable shelf space instead of grower/producers. Athletes are moving into the beverage space in droves with wineries, brands and partnerships.

The beverage game has been shifted forever, but because of the dynamic reshaping of the industry, more is possible than ever before.

High-level producers are in play. Internal culture in distribution can be invested in and changed for the better. We can extend a hand to those that have felt like they can’t enter this business. The old 8-track business models of the beverage industry can move into the now – or wither away.

Look around. It isn’t the beverage version of Planet of the Apes and we aren’t looking at Lady Liberty. It is time to rethink, renew, and execute on something new that really represents the future.

SPLASH DECANT 05/01/20

A Pause – Returning Soon

A Pause – Returning Soon

It has been a while. I have many posts in queue that I just can’t bring myself to publish.

When I think about the passionate table side messengers that would leave a bottle without a word, or the intuitive advocate behind a full rack of wines that points me in the direction of a new, quiet jewel, I am deeply saddened. I am brokenhearted that I may not see them making art in their work again – that they may not return. It is a difficult possibility to accept.

Not only is it hard to see the light right now, but the world around me is screaming that this is a time for reflection and recalibration and I am going to listen. The world has shifted and we must to shift with it.

While there are so many more uncertainties today, I am certain that the beverage industry that I have been blessed to be a part of and work with over the years is the most dynamic and imaginative group of people around. We will rebuild this together and it won’t look like it did before. But we must charge forward – resolute and clear-eyed.

I will be back making new things in August. Until then, I wish you hope and safety and good health.

RL

 

We will rebuild this industry together...

A Long Walk

April 28th, 2020 – Bushwick, BK

Walking at dusk in my neighborhood is like wandering into a zombie movie set and not knowing it isn’t real.
Rebel restaurants with masked people doling out batched Negronis and Beer. They are making the best they can with whatever they have.
Every block, shiny signs are without luminescence loom over an empty space or new mercado. Every sound seems louder. Each truck that crashes by to deliver something essential snaps me back to the edge of the corner.

The birds chirp and sway. The flowers are in broad bunches of blooms. Both unaware that there is unfathomable uncertainty and hope and despair all around them.

I cry under my mask and wonder if anyone can tell. Do we even really look at each other any more as we dodge to at least six feet away like a giant game of human tetris? How can we see each other again?

But what can we do? We breathe. We stay present. We walk forward, not knowing what is ahead (we never knew before…).

THE REORDER 03/20/20

Salescraft: What to do in an Economic Downturn

Salescraft: What to do in an Economic Downturn

The current pandemic is the worst market event I have witnessed since September 11th. There is a complete restructuring of the marketplace and the future looks uncertain and at times, downright scary.

What do you do when an economic downturn like this forces your hand and you have to adapt?

These are choppy waters, and the challenge is to observe what is going on, stay present and enter these waters without flinching.

Some ideas and thoughts below. Do not despair.


Zen and the Art of Sales in a Crisis

I vividly remember walking out of the restaurant called Bolo during the economic meltdown more than a decade ago and wondering if I would ever sell a drop of wine again and be able to support myself. I was as scared as I had ever been. The moment I stopped scaring myself, other avenues opened and possibilities arose. I saw the edges and the spaces available clearly.

While the future is uncertain, what we are in today shall pass. If I could hug you, grab you by the shoulders, look you in the eye and tell you that the fight or flight response will not serve anyone, especially you, I would.

It is easy to get tied up in your imagination and think about what has been lost as a forever kind of thing – but the truth of the matter is that you don’t know. What will be reborn, rebuilt and revitalized will surprise you.

What is vital in times like these is to continue to envision a better future.

SALESCRAFT – WHAT TO DO

Retail

Retailers have understandably gotten a positive bump in these turbulent times. If I am sitting down and considering what would be best to offer – it looks like this:

Reaching out thoughtfully with both ideas AND inquiring about needs. Putting up ideas like the ones below. Start here if you are locked up.

Any wine that retails under $24.99 in “good” Inventory that can be a  go to core item.

Any wine or spirit on special deal.

A wine or spirit that will be on special deal in the future.

A wine or spirit that has been overlooked for no good reason.

Rosé that can be on deck for when the weather breaks (Most have probably sent offers by now, but I would encourage sending a follow up offer or two now to gauge the temperature/reaction).

Any wine or spirit that is a “call category.”

Restaurant

Get involved. Call your representatives and go to saverestaurants.co to be a part of saving the restaurant industry.

And, reach out to friends and colleagues in this diverse industry that are currently unemployed. There is massive uncertainty, so please extend a hand and support however you can. Give to the gofundme pages that are all over social media supporting various restaurant staffs, if you are in the position to give.

These are choppy waters, and the challenge is to observe what is going on, stay present and enter these waters without flinching.

 Company

Some companies are in straight up survival mode and they will do whatever they have to do to stay afloat in this trying time. Realize that you probably don’t know what is truly behind the curtain and that the better you can adapt, the better you will fare long term. Also, don’t be afraid to ask to help so you can understand the challenges and what you can offer to get through them.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If companies start adjusting commission and/or salaries down in order to endure, it can potentially set off a domino effect of panic. This type of survival move can have a culture shattering effect unless it is messaged properly and the messaging is exceptionally difficult because no one wants to lose anything in a downturn.

Personal

Be thankful – consider that whatever the future holds, it is a gift.
Immediately scale down any extraneous spending.
Learn something new that you have always wanted to, but never had the time. Challenge yourself to think forward, not back.