What is the future of the Work With?*
A lot of national salespeople will really, really not like this – and for that, I am sorry. But, what worked no longer works, and with what is long long gone.
Today, the Work With is the injured old General leaning against the tree saying goodbye as he takes his last few breaths. Thank you for your wine service.
Where is this old concept of selling come from, where is it now, and what replaces it in the NYC beverage market?
The Old Skool
Not so long ago, it was a rarer thing to meet a producer and connect with them personally. The winemaker or owner coming to a restaurant/retail store to introduce themselves and taste with the team felt super good for all parties involved – Work Withs were viewed as a “special treat.”
It was also a key support point in agreements between importer/distributor and producers/suppliers. Coming into town to help and invest in the market by showing wines was a key part of the wine game; an important tool for connection and sales.
Not anymore. The explosion of availability got in the way.
Today, many importer/distributors are using the same encyclopedia sales theory, but the landscape has shape-shifted. Big problem: nearly everything that worked consistently on the street in sales years ago doesn’t function as it did before.
The paradigm has shifted in the city and the Work With is generally viewed as a necessary evil – a burden (with notable exceptions, see below). Rolling around the city and showing your wine wares with a supplier is normally referred to as “part of the job.”
So, what changed?
More events, more tastings, more companies, more good wine, more options – essentially more everything is available daily in NYC. Because of this, the “specialness” of the Work With has nearly vanished. Buyers are less likely to see producers, and at the same time, the number of producers visiting the city every week has grown exponentially.
The classic work-around for this problem has been the event move: Lunch, office tasting, or an educational seminar. But soon these are going to feel stale and contrived because every distributor will have mimicked each other to such a degree, the event will be the goal. Events will be vanilla custard normal.
Here is what I know: invent a new type of connective work and replace the Work With, and you will win.
As a producer, unless you have something to say besides “may I have an appointment to show wine?” you should stay at home and save the airfare. And, if you don’t trust your distribution to do the job—well, that is a whole different story for another day.
Here is what is trending today: The takeover. Just look at the insta, and you will see. The next iteration will go towards the virtual. Stay tuned on that. Coming to an inbox near you.
“ ...the Work With as we know it is dying in NYC. It is the injured old general leaning against the tree and saying goodbye as he takes his last few breaths.
The Exceptions Today
As always, there are some exceptions to the Work With death, and those are (in no particular order):
The prominent, most lauded producer of an Appellation.
The new producer with monster buzz that makes special wine. GREAT WINE. (pretty rare..)
The producer that has deep personal ties with the market and could roll in anytime, anywhere and be comfortable. (this is the gold, rare)
The producer that knows this market and is into quality of relationship over quantity.
The Importer/Distributor that picks and chooses producer visits like an expert curator. (EX: Rosenthal)
*The Work With is when a wine producer(owner/winemaker) or representative hired by a wine producer joins a salesperson for a group of appointments to show their wines.