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Untangled Vine

An attempt to sort through all things wine. Specifically of, and about, but not limited to: Food and Wine in Toledo, Ohio. Plus the day to day musings of a Wine Distributor...

How to sell wine and sleep at night...

Monday, April 06, 2009

6 years ago, I was a Sommelier at a really good Restaurant in Santa Barbara. My view every day was of the beach, I watched the sunset over the Santa Barbara bay every night. I had autonomy of a 500 bottle list, and loved my job. I never really liked salespeople, even though I dealt with them on a daily basis. I always felt that a necessary evil of the wine business was that occasionally, people needed to sell wine that they didn't like. If my opinion and knowledge were my source of credibility, how could I ever maintain that being obliged to sell wine insincerely. This was easy to say as a Sommelier, and easier to do. I was approached many times to try my hand at selling, and I always said "no thank you".
One day, The Henry Wine Group came a knockin. I quickly said no, but for some reason, I tossed and turned over my decision. I came back and accepted this time. I decided that if I were to ever make the leap, this is the situation for me. I was very comfortable with my job, and didn't feel like I was challenged anymore. This decision changed my life.
Henry was the perfect company for me because for 2 reasons: a) Best Portfolio in California, huge with great imports b) very professional organization. They taught me how to sell and be honest and upfront. No dealing, everything above the table. They taught me about the value of being knowledgeable about wine. It is these lessons that have a will carry me through my entire career.
Once you decide what type of salesperson to be, the rest is easy. I decided to be myself, with opinion (but not opinionated, you don't need to be an expert at everything), and curious (always learning). This gives me consistency. It also serves me well as the choices I've made and opinions I've given were always for the noble pursuits of servicing or educating my customers. If my restaurants can't use the information I give them to sell more wine and improve their wine program (both are equally important), then I have failed.
I could easily sell wine with animals on the label all day long, but then, who have I benefited? In this business, you always have 3 customers in each transaction: Your account, Your supplier, and the company that signs your check. If you don't represent the right wineries, someone else may suffer, usually, this is your customer as you shill mediocre crap with your supplier or employers best interest. I had to find a way to appease all 3. The only real way to appease all 3 was to only represent producers I believe in. So now I have assembled a portfolio. It's not finished yet, but it's starting to look like something. And this is exciting. It's all producers I believe in. There are commonalities to all of them, but that probably just reflects my personal opinions. Now I can walk into any restaurant or Retail store, represent these 13+ producers and hold my head high because I'm proud of these wines. That's how I sleep at night.

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