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HOW TO BE A WINE REP

Response Page

Most of the e-mail we receive to our "How to be a Wine Rep" is overwhelming positive.

Here are some responses.

Dear Gerald,
 
Just a quick note to say THANK YOU for your great article on "How to be a successful wine rep"  I am currently interviewing for a off-premise sales position with a Wine & Sprits distributor here in the Milwaukee WI area and in doing my research on the industry I ran across your article.  Having never sold wine before it was a big help.  A lot of what you talk about seems to be common sense when it comes to sales. Now that I have your insight/perspective, I'm really excited about my final interview this Thursday.  Thanks again.
 
Sincerely,
 
Tim Minik 


I can't tell you how much I  enjoyed your article. It was the punch line to a stressful day! I was actually searching for information about a new career, perhaps in the wine industry...after fifteen years of teaching I am ready for a change. We attended a friends Louisiana version of a New England crab boil (much spicier!) and the "chef" is a wholesale distributor. His job sounds interesting but Texas has such quirky Blue Laws I'm not sure where they fall in the market. Thanks for the plethora of information, I love your humor!
Linda Collins

I truly enjoyed your article How to be a Wine Sales Rep.  After a career is sales and mgmt in the energy industry, and a brief sabbatical, Im turning my attention toward the wine industry.  Ive been passionate about wine for decades and am inclined toward melding my sales expertise and love of vino together in a second career.  Brokering/retail seem like a natural to me.  Im happily rooted in San Diego.  Any advice that you care to offer would be most appreciated.

Regards
Warren Mack

Hi Gerald,

After 18 years of nursing and wine as a hobby, I'm attempting wine
sales!  Thank you for the time you put into this note. I find it very
helpful and look forward to more tips (maybe a tip of the week or
month?!)   I'm in the training by trial and error program.  Do you
expect sales reps who attend your tastings to buy wine?  I would if it
was a free tasting, but wasn't sure if you should if you paid for your
tasting.

thanks again,
Susan

Gerald,
 
I own a specialist wine retailer in Melbourne (www.cloudwine.com.au) and was recently alerted to your musings re: wholesale wine sales.  It is without doubt one of the funniest (and horribly accurate) reflections of the industry I have ever read.  Many thanks for the trouble you have gone to.
 
I have a background in investment banking where a high level of professionalism is demanded at all times, and unfortunately this experience has poorly prepared me for the wide array for pathetic service levels and less than transparent sales techniques that plague the 'trade' scene in Australia. Every single scenario you have covered occurs on a frequent basis, although I did note the absence of the 'ol call centre marketing trick that goes a little like this:
 
Call centre: "Hi I'm wondering if you stock wine x?  I've been looking for it everywhere and would love to buy a case from your store.  Would you be able to order it in for me?"
 
Cloudwine: "sure - can you give me a credit card details to secure a deposit?"
 
Call Centre: "oh, er, I'll come in next week. Gotta go. Thanks"
 
It's a shame I could hear the guy next to her battering a fellow retailer with the same query!
 
cheers and thanks.
 
Stewart

Wow!  What an interesting article.  I begin my new job tomorrow as a Wine/Liquor/Beer sales rep for a large distributor here in Georgia.  I have been the "buyer" for two years at a prominent restaurant and am now switching sides.  I really appreciate your article and am going to email it to my new boss shortly.  My only complaint is that it is rather long and my wife is yelling at me to get ready.  I plan to print out this article and compose a small outline for which to carry in my portfolio of things to carry.
 
Thanks for the information!
 
Jeff Adler

Gerald,
Once again I have enjoyed a visit to your website!
I really like the "how to be a wine rep" article---
I think i'll use it with new members of our team, if you
don't mind!!
 
Clay Harpending
Winebow Imports
Upstate NY

Dear Gerald,
 
By way of introduction, I'm one of three principals at Murphy Goode Winery, my wine background first being in retail and then for many years in the wholesale wine business.  When I first became aware of your series of articles, my first reaction was that I could have been the one to write them.  

As a consequence of wholesale consolidation, the level of professionalism and training in the wine and spirit industry is, in my opinion, the biggest deterrent for those of us trying to build brands with wineries the size of Murphy Goode.  Upon reading your comments, I immediately sent copies to all of my salespeople and to several distributors around the country and many constructive conversations have followed.
 
It was my intention to contact you at that time to thank you for addressing the business of selling wine in such a conversational and understandable manner.  Sorry I'm late but thank you.

Dave Ready
Murphy-Goode Winery

Gerald,

You must have been a sales Rep. at one time in your career. You sure have a barrel load of good info. One thing is you Know far more then any of the Calif. sales Reps that call in your area. Gallo should hire you for training seminars. A lot of sales people are in it for just a job, easy money and have no passion or interest at all. After all if you have such a passion as you do for your business, you soon learn there is something out there that pays and has more rewards then being a Rep. 

Cynthia Bell

Mr. Weisl:

A year or two ago I sent you an e-mail that I was starting a distribution company focused on wines from the Central Coast.  We've grown much more quickly than anticipated. So, I always send our new reps to your site to read your words of wisdom.  I'd like to add one comment...

Since HarvestGate started I have encountered many buyers that have been kind enough to spend their time and give their advice to either our sales rep or me.  We're new to market and many have been patient and supportive of a small company.  

Here it is: don't forget to say thank you and a note is always nice.  Make it prompt.  It's a good way to get your name in front of the buyer again.  Most importantly, it shows respect for his/her time.

Thank you again for the wonderful tool.  We're expanding up to Northern California and we'll give you a call when we do.

Kind regards,

Mary
Mary Redmond Woodworth
Co-founder
HarvestGate

Gerald,

I read with great interest the article you published on your website about selling wine.  I am both a career consultant and a wine lover who has helped people from time to time transition their careers.
My current client is a little closer to me...it's my 25 year old son.  He has spent time working at a winery and would love to get into the sales side of the business.  Given your knowledge, I was wondering if you knew any distributor contacts that might be looking for someone in the greater San Diego area.  At least someone that might be a good referral source.  He has many of the qualities you speak of in the article.
If you happen to think of anyone that might be appropriate, be they people publications, or anything related, it would be very much appreciated.
Thanks for the help.
Larry Rossi

Gerald

It's great information.

How do you see the state of being a wine sales rep now in 2010.  Given the economy.  What are you seeing out there.

Appreciate your thoughts.

Boris

Gerald,

  I just read your article on How to be a Sales Rep…

I am a new rep, and am learning to sell wine to Wine shops, Restaurants, and Grocery Stores….

Thank-you for the great advice. It is very helpful for a new rep, and maybe something some experienced reps should read…

Thanks again,

Adonis McNeal

Dear Gerald,

After several weeks of research on becoming a sales wine rep I finally came across your article, "How To Be A Wine Sales Rep". I must say I was very inspired by what you've written, the whole article flowed very nicely and you tackled a lot of questions that I had about the wine sales industry. It's funny to see that there are so many bad sales reps in the business and that many of them don't even take the time out to sample the product in which they are selling.

I have been in sales and marketing for the last 10 years and love the challenge of making a sale. However, some of the products and companies that I've worked for have not always been the right niche for my likings. I enjoy selling tangible products that customers can touch (see, taste, hear and smell) and instantly make a decision based on whether or not they like what's in front of them.  

I am a huge wine connoisseur and would love nothing more than to begin a new career path in the wine industry. I have applied to over 40 different wineries and distributors (sales/marketing positions) but all of them seem to require a profound history of working in the wine business (5+ years). I unfortunately do not have the background in selling wines but I have been very successful in my previous sales positions.  

I am currently looking to relocate out of Southern California and could use a little bit of direction. I will be visiting Sonoma in 3 weeks and would love to stop by your shop for a wine tasting and try that 2006 Rutherford, Cab! Thanks for taking the time out to read this and I look forward to speaking with you soon!

Sincerely,

   Phil

Hello Gerald:
Hola from Argentina!  Thank you for posting the interesting article "How to be a wine sales rep".  I am not a wine rep but have thought about getting into the business for the past year.  I have a background in global supply chains and currently I am working as a manufacturers rep selling building products. 
 I recently have moved to Argentina and have found the wines here to be very good. I would like to learn more about selling wines to the USA from Argentina but I am not sure where to begin.  Do you have any experience importing wines from another country?  Any thoughts on Argentine wine?  Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Regards,
Jeff

Hi Gerald,

I'm so thankful I read the DON'Ts in How To Be A Wine Sales Rep.

A friend of mine is a wine distributor of Argentinian wine. Undiscovered Wines represents small wineries in Argentina and a couple of California wineries. He asked me to be his rep in South Orange County. I have never sold wine, or anything else, for that matter, except for my own services in another field. He is doing very well after 10 years in the business and wants to expand.

I'm flattered that he approached me. I don't want to let him down and I want to sound authoritative and well versed in the field. I've taking some wine tasting classes and seen some video from UC Davis on the subject. One thing I've learned from you is to know MY product. I've been so concerned about learning about wine in general that I haven't been paying attention to learning the prices and attributes of  my own wines.  So there you have it. You have a done a great service and for that I thank you.

Warmest regards,

Esther

Hello!

I read with interest, amusement, and enthusiasm your article on ":How to be a Wine Sales Rep".  I am a rep, and although I live and work in Florida, I would love being in your territory.  I would enjoy visiting your shop.
Thanks for the article.  I am a dedicated wine consumer as well as a wine seller.  And I am fairly successful.  But I learned more about my business from your writings.
Thanks again.
Best regards,
Russ

Hi Gerald,

I just read your web page on how to be a wine sale rep, absolutely awesome! I am heading off to Singapore to represent some Portuguese vineyards and this page is priceless!

  Thank you

James

Dear Gerald,

Thank you for posting and sharing the article "how to be a wine sales rep". It's a big help for us in checking and improving ourselves. Your article does not only apply in selling wines but also in selling our other products. The simplicity and straight-to-the-point article of yours is easy to understand as 1,2,3 but very essential. We appreciate it very much. 

Thank you.

Best regards,

Honey

Hi Gerald,

I read your post on how to be a wine sales rep and must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although so much of it is common sense we all need to be reminded sometimes of what the guy on the other side of the order pad thinks and expects. As a salesperson I have, over the years, been subjected to all kinds of sales seminars, read numerous books, and read hundreds if not thousands of articles about all kinds of slick 'sales techniques.' But what your post points out is that showing up, using basic sales skills, having product knowledge, and following through gains you loyal customers.

  Although I am not a wine sales rep I do sell wine accessories and the same advice really applies to my profession and I am sure to just about any other sales niche. You may not remember me but I worked for XXX Company for a number of years and I think you might have purchased items from me from time to time. I am an independent manufacturers rep now but do not sell in your area, unfortunately. Thanks for your post. I am going to save it in my bookmarks and review on a regular basis.

  All the best,

Rich

Hello Gerald,

I read your entire lengthy article, and the last few lines definitely helped to bring it all together.  You do seem to vent quite a bit but you do so to educate us wine sales reps so that we can be better.  I would like to point out when you mentioned a rep would be upset over driving 30 to 60 minutes for the buyer to be AWOL… I’ve driven 3 hours each way for a buyer to be AWOL and a few other times driven about 3 hours for the buyer to say “I wasn’t planning on buying anything when you called to set up this appointment. I can’t bring anything new this month anyway.  Thanks for stopping and I’ll keep you in mind.” 

Another time, I had a sales call 2 hours away and the wife of the owner (who often does the ordering) enjoyed my wines but wanted her husband to approve of a new product and so I followed up the next day.  She asked me to call in a few weeks and so I did just to be asked to wait a month or so and call back.  This repeated several times when just the other day (now almost a year later) I went to visit with her husband who also enjoyed my products but he refused to bring something in that his customer didn’t specifically request.  So another 2 hour trip wasted.  I have followed up, and will continue to do so. 

I already do about 90% of the things your article says to do, and I don’t do about 95% of the things your article says not to do.  Hopefully improving this 15% will increase my sales at least that much!  Thanks so much for publishing, and keeping your article so up to date.

Janet

Here's a negative response:

I couldn't help myself; I just had to respond to you after reading the article HOW TO SELL WINE.
Info For Brokers and Wine Distributors on your website.

On behalf of all the Wine Reps that have the unfortunate task of having to call on you allow me to say what they are all thinking:
You are a complete DICK!

I can only imagine what a pain-in-the-ass you are to deal with. No wonder you have so many problems with people coming by......no one wants to. You should try taking some of your own bullshit, self-serving advice..?!

The next time a customer comes in imagine your response as he reaches for a nice old Barolo, sets it on the counter and asks you to open the bottle so he can taste it.  I only BUY wine that I've personally tasted. I'm serving this to guests and I don't trust YOUR palate.  If you want the PRIVILEGE of having ME as a customer, you MUST open every bottle I'm thinking about buying. If I like it, I will buy a bottle or two. If not, you can just KEEP opening bottles until I find something I like. And by the way, since I'm such a good customer, MAKE SURE when you get a bottle or two of that highly sought after bottle of wine you call me FIRST. I know you could sell those bottles to several other customers that aren't so difficult and that buy more wine from you than I do but I'm SPECIAL.

Please feel free to forward this to anybody that has to call on you. It would be a great holiday gift.

John McCarthy

Hi Gerald,

I came across your article as I was searching on how to become a Wine Distributor. I live in Southwest Michigan, where the wine industry is flourishing in hard times. I have worked at two local wineries and have found a love and passion for wine. I just graduated from college, worked at a boring call center, and have quit that job to pursue a career in this industry. Anyone who works in the wine industry in Michigan has to have a passion for it because they have all started wineries, not to make money, but because there is something special about wine. It brings people together, whether it be the wine festivals, or a day for girlfriends to get together. 

Maybe you have been in this business so long that you know longer remember the simplicity that wine brings to people all over this country. 

To be truthful, this article is negative and brings me no positive thoughts when thinking about being a wine distributor. Yes, the points you made were true, I'm sure, but where's your passion? 

The successful wine reps will have a natural love of wine and there is no need to write an entire article on the bad ones. All I wanted to know was how to be a successful one. How much knowledge do I need? After working for two wineries, is THAT enough? After reading countless wine books, is that enough? I guess all I'm saying is, whomever is in the wine business has to have a great deal of passion for wine. Or at least that is what I have learned in this little corner of Michigan. 

Thanks for letting me know what I shouldn't do if I do pursue this career and thank you for letting me know that I know longer dream of moving to Cali to pursue this because now I am thankful for the pride and true compassion of the winemakers in my area. They have not been taken over by fame or fortune. They are farmers, they are normal, loving people, who just want people to enjoy their wine.

I personally think you should re-write this and make it into a positive article. Because anyone who reads this is only reading it because they adore wine and want to pursue something great.

Regards,

Lauren

 

MY RESPONSE

Hi Lauren,

Thanks for the note and the suggestions.

It's interesting that you think my article is negative.  You know, most of the letters I receive (probably 4 or 5 a week) thank me for having so many good and positive suggestions.  Perhaps this is an instance of whether one views the glass as half full or half empty.

In fact, despite having been in the wine business for more than 30+ years, I still have a great deal of passion for wine.  If you look at our web site, you will find much evidence of this.


I am presently writing this to you from Italy, where I am visiting wineries because I love to discover new wines and meet the winemakers whose wines I have enjoyed.  And the people I've met today and yesterday include old friends and some new ones and I can tell you, we share a deep passion for wine.

Part of the problem in the California wine business is that it is no longer "frontier' territory.  I am sure I can easily identify with those in Michigan (and elsewhere) where wine is a new and growing industry.  I was in the business in the relatively early days of Napa, Sonoma and Santa Barbara and Monterey.  People in the wine business in those days all loved wine.  Today it's a different world and it's populated by people for whom "it's just a job."  This is not the world I entered and, frankly, it's sad today to deal with so many people who lack passion for wine, respect for the history and little care for its future.

I am sure you'd agree this world would not be one of interest to you.

My article was written because the big liquor distributors, who control much of the wine business, do little to help or train sales reps.

When I began, the sales people tried to initiate a sale.  These days, sadly, the customer must initiate the sale and it takes much effort to cajole people into doing the job they should be doing.

Thanks for your thoughts, again.  I'll give them some consideration when I next add to my article...

Best wishes,

GERALD WEISL
wine merchant

 

I actually did share this individual's response with some people.
*******

Gerald,

Is this real!??!   I'm speechless...

Happy Holidays to you sir!

Cheers,

Gil Watkins
Sales Rep in Santa Clara County for Alexia Moore Wine Marketing

*******
Gerald:
Thank him for his constructive advice and sell him something.

Randy Kemner
Wine Country in Signal Hill, California

*******
HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Well,  isn't that a RUDE person. Almost sounds like he's in the business...but maybe not because then he would understand that our customers expect us to give them experienced advice. Or maybe I just don't understand what a WINE BUYER'S job is???

If we don't need to taste the wine, think of all the time we could save. We don't need salespeople, wouldn't need to waste our time going to tasting events.  We could just buy wine from a catalog.

See you next year!

Nancy Girard
Half Moon Bay Wine & Cheese
 
*******
Hi Gerald,
What a freak!! I hope you didn't respond. This guy sounds like he's drunk.
I know this article of your website was featured by TORB, so that highlights it to thousands of more people.

Oh well, who cares what some drunken rep has to say.

Michelle in British Columbia

*******

Gerald:

Bob Sawicki passed your "How to Sell Wine" critic's comments to me. I enjoyed reading your web site and I can't help but contribute a few thoughts.

Even now, 20 years since retailing (Wine & Cheese Center; Crane & Kelley: Union Street and Oakville Grocery, San Francisco), I still have the odd salesman berate me for being such a difficult buyer.

Difficult! My staff tasted all that was brought to us, we tasted with the presenter, we usually gave an instant response, yes (sometimes with enthusiasm and a large order) or no and, if requested, we would say exactly why we weren't buying the wine. We demanded to hear no ratings, medals and awards, and especially not who else purchased it (usually couldn't stop them from that). Today, I would love to present to such a buyer.

Mr. McCarthy seems to be offended that you want to taste a wine before buying it. What a joke! Does he expect you to buy off of the winery's frippery, or perhaps you should go by whatever ratings you're presented.

It was actually your comments about ratings that inspired me to write.  Frustrating for you, yes, but can you imagine how it is from the supplier side? I hate ratings! There are retailers that want to know nothing but ratings. I make a point of not knowing the ratings. Fortunately, I usually suppress my desire to shout: ISN'T THAT YOUR JOB? AREN'T YOU SUPPOSED TO CHOOSE THE WINES THAT ARE BEST FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS? AREN'T YOU SUPPOSED TO HAVE SOME VALUE ADDED?

At my prior job, I once received a call from a sales representative in the D. C. area. He was all excited to tell me that he was now able to make a placement at that difficult prestigious restaurant. The one that would only buy wines with 90+ ratings from the Wine Spectator. Now they'll buy, now that we picked up a 94 from Parker. The salesman was a bit taken back from my response, which was to tell him that we will sell to them only if there is wine left after orders from prior customers were filled.

You and I remember the days before ratings. I believe we have such reliance on these numbers because, in post fair trade days, people could not get decent information and recommendations from Liquor Barn and later Costco and the like. It's a shame because I always felt that an important part of the pleasure of wine should be in the purchase...the discussion, the anticipation of matching a wine with a fine meal.

We are getting to the point...but we're not there yet.

Back in my retail days, I would use my "toupee analogy" with new employees. One of my pet peeves was a wine guy asking: "how much do you want to spend?" I would say: 'Look, imagine that you suddenly need a toupee. You have some trepidation as you know nothing of toupees. How do they stay on? Will people be able to tell?, etc. You walk into the toupee store. "I need a toupee" you say. The clerk responds: "How much do you want to spend?" That is not what you want to hear. You want to hear: "I am going to make you look great!".'

'Our customers are to wine as you are to toupees. Sometimes we get so involved in wine that we forget how confusing and intimidating it is for the average buyer.' 

'Then you find out that there is a publication that can help: The Toupee Spectator...and they have ratings, and best buys, and new releases of toupees. "Wow", you say, "I'm going to get this 92 rated toupee".

Wine is so much a part of our lives, that we sometimes fail to remember that, for most people, wine is still a foreign language. Perhaps people rely on these ratings because we, as an industry, have not provided our clientele with a sense of ease in buying wine. We need to provide a comfort level where folks feel that a conversation with a person whose livelihood is on the line will yield a better experience than writing down ratings created by a faceless person from a magazine or newsletter. That is our challenge.

Regards,

Dave

David W. Crane

Assistant National Sales Manager

Heck Estates

Kenwood Vineyards-Valley of the Moon Winery-Lake Sonoma Winery.

*******

John,

I read your email to Gerald Weisl of Weimax Wines & Spirits.  However entertaining it is, it is a bit misguided. I wanted to bring a few facts to light that will hopefully give you some insight.

I call on Gerald for one of the larger distributors in California . I find his shop to be a stand-out in the industry for a number of reasons. He carries an amazingly varied inventory; many of us are in tasting groups, and occasionally need the Pinot Nero from Italy , a Cab Franc from the Loire or a Pinotage from South Africa . Gerald actually has long-term staff working at Weimax that can tell you about the individual wines. This shouldnt be rare, but it is here in California , John.

This is a time in the wine industry when enormous international companies are swallowing up many smaller independent wine companies, resulting in an enormous sea of uninteresting, mass-produced wine products. Many of my friends ask me for wine advice when considering purchases. I advise them, and always send them to a knowledgeable small retailer in their area. I am a proponent of the small local retailer; the small merchants were, and should continue to be, the backbone of this industry, along with larger venues, of course, as well as restaurants (where you will not likely get any information on the wine you are purchasing).

Many of my close friends are turning to CostCo, Cost Plus and other large chain venues for their wine purchases. It will be a sad day when these are the only choices available for our wine purchases. Our tastes in wine will be as monochromatic as our selection. But I digress.  Back to Gerald.

Your attack was rather personal. You called him a dick. I actually laughed out loud.

Is he difficult? Certainly can be.

A demanding perfectionist? Guilty.

Is he a bit tired of the languishing attributes in the wine sales reps that are sent to him, does he tire of  warehouse employees who send him filthy wine bottles, repacked, stamped, and shown no respect? Yeah.

Does he show frustration when he is shipped wine at the wrong price, as in we forgot to tell you the price went up? Of course. (His favorite, by the way.)

Is he perturbed when he finds out about a wine tasting two days prior because the sales rep forgot to give him an invitation? Yes. (And do a lot of us in wine sales enjoy his acerbic wit and great stories? Yes.)

I could go on, but you get the point.

You should have your ducks in a row as it were before stepping in for your, yes, weekly sales call (industry standard John) or twice-weekly call if you have some hopefully, interesting wines to taste him (and his staff) on.

I assure you Gerald has seen it all. He was teaching wine classes before he was old enough to drink. Yes, he might have an inherently short fuse, and be a bit lacking in patience occasionally, but you will be hard pressed to find a more passionate merchant in the bay area. He actually goes to wine tastings. (I briefly worked for a top wine merchant who rarely attended even the standard annual tastings, and I guarantee you this is the norm.) He actually takes the time to find hidden gems in all the catalogues. He sees even the tiniest wine distributors/importers in the hopes of finding a gem even further off the beaten path. And, John, Gerald actually purchases most of the sample bottles from the distributors so as to not deplete the sample budgets.

To respond to your comments about being a customer who wants to try the wine before buying; you will find anywhere from 25-35 wines open on any given day, and for a nominal fee (a fee must be charged according to law) a customer may taste a wide variety of wines.

He sells A LOT of wine and he buys a lot of wine from me. I have made mistakes. He has chewed me out. We all survived.

John, I am almost through. Have you seen his newsletter? It is excellent. His blind, sit down tastings? You have obviously seen the website. Gerald, his staff, and his store are unique and refreshing in this ever increasingly bland mass-consumer-driven retail wine business.

So John, thanks for the holiday gift.  It was certainly fun to reada tad bit on the rude side though. You definitely had a bee in your bonnet, dude. I am not quite sure where it came from, but I can guess. I just wanted you to know why some us actually do enjoy Gerald, and his unique operation.

Jerry Cooper

The Estates Group, Youngs Market Company

*************

Mr. McCarthy,

I have to tell you, reading your response to Mr. Weisl's manifesto on "How to Sell Wine" leaves me at a bit of a loss. To be quite honest, I think you have a much uninformed view of how Gerald does business. 

I've been working for a wine distributor for about six months and I sell wine to Weimax Wines & Spirits.  Weimax is by far and away my best account and makes for a large part of my business; Gerald sells more than 500 cases more than my number two account.

I read Geralds "How to Sell Wine" about a year and a half ago even before I took this job, and thought to myself, "he has some very valid points, but that's a bit harsh." Now after selling wine to him for almost six months, I reread the same article and found his observations to 100% correct and on target. He's actually one of my easiest accounts to deal with!!

After reading your email I could also tell, that you, Mr. McCarthy, are not self-employed. Otherwise, you would realize that every wine Gerald brings into his shop is a direct reflection of the integrity of Weimax Wines & Spirits : to 'bring the customer the absolute best product for the best price' is his mantra. He can only do that if he tastes every wine that walks through the door. This is actually not an uncommon practice in this industry. When I was a buyer for a retail store, I used to take sales reps word that, the wine is tasting GREAT, FANTASTIC, BRILLIANT! Honestly, more often than not I was very disappointed with the product. Not to mention, the looks you get from our clientele when we all taste a wine that was not up to our standards. Thinking about our short history together, here are some the questions I ask myself about Gerald:

Is he a perfectionist? YES

Is he extremely picky?
YES

Is it very hard to get a new placement in his shop? YES, oh God YES!

Did he ask me if I had my company logo tattooed on my a** on the very first minute I met him? YES

In his next breath did he tell me everything that was wrong with my company? YES  

Does he yell at me on the phone once a week? YES

Call me and leave messages in strange accents? YES (he's actually quite funny and amusing)

When I asked if I could P-O-S my wines, did he respond, If you want to do that, the stock boy at Safeway down the street would love your help?" YES

Could I live with Gerald any other way? Absolutely Not

Stephen Beckner

Fine Wine Specialist
North
Peninsula
The Henry Wine Group

Here's an interesting tale from a local wine shop about a fellow who changed jobs from working for a distributor to being a representative for a winery whose products are sold through a statewide distribution company.  It's a great "Oops" story.

WELL GERALD - I HAVE FINALLY JOINED THE 20TH CENTURY AND TURNED ON THE COMPUTER!!!  I JUST NEED A LITTLE TRAINING AND DISCIPLINE AND I'LL GET THERE.

SO HERE WE GO!
YOUNG SALE'S REP (WHO ALREADY HAS A BAD HABIT OF LOOKING DOWN  HIS NOSE AS HE SPEAKS TO YOU) STROLLS INTO THE SHOP , WINE BAG IN HAND. 

AT THE TIME THERE ARE SEVERAL OTHER GENTLEMEN SHOWING THEIR LATEST AND GREATEST WINES (OR THE ONES THAT ARE "ON GOAL" THIS WEEK).  THE PROPRIETOR AND BOTH OF THE WINE BUYERS ASSUME THAT YOUNG SALES REP KNOWS EVERYONE AND HE SAYS HI TO ALL . 

THEN ATTEMPTS TO WAIT HIS TURN.  UNFORTUNATELY THE YOUNG SALES REP IS NOT PATIENT AND  DECIDES TO JUST JUMP RIGHT IN WITH THE SALES PITCH. 

WE TASTE THE WINES AND HE GOES ON AND ON AND ON!!! 

FINALLY HE ASKED DO WE DO BUSINESS WITH A CERTAIN DISTRIBUTOR????

PROPRIETOR SAYS "YES WE DO."

YOUNG SALES REP SAYS, LOUD ENOUGH FOR ALL OF THE GENTLEMAN (AND I USE THE TERM WITH HUMOR) TO HEAR. " WHAT DO YOU BUY???"

WE REPLY: "SEVERAL THINGS". 

YOUNG SALES REP SAYS "WELL I CAN GIVE YOU A LOT BETTER PRICE--- "PAUSE"--- AND THEY JUST DON'T HAVE TO KNOW!!"  

AS THE TWO WINE BUYERS, PROPRIETOR AND ASSORTED WINE SALESMEN TURN TO LOOK AT YOUNG SALES REP IN DISBELIEF, THE DISTRICT SALES MANAGER FOR THE DISTRIBUTOR WHO DISTRIBUTES THIS SAME WINERY'S PRODUCTS PICKS UP HIS CELL PHONE AND BOLTS  OUT THE DOOR.   

ONE  OF THE SALESMEN TAKES PITY AND SAYS "IF I WERE YOU I WOULD  CHASE HIM DOWN A.S.A.P. AND TRY AND GET YOUR FOOT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH"
YOUNG SALES REP HAS A "COME-TO-JESUS-MEETING WITH THE MANAGER OF DISTRIBUTOR" WHO EXPLAINS "IF YOU (SALES REP) DO THIS IN MY TERRITORY AGAIN I WILL CUT YOU OFF AT THE KNEES!"

YOUNG SALES REP COMES BACK IN AND ACCUSES PROPRIETOR OF LETTING HIM HANG OUT ON A LIMB AND CUTTING IT OFF!!!

THE
PROPRIETOR LOOK'S AT THE REP WHO HAS HIS FOOT IN HIS MOUTH AND ASKS "DON'T YOU KNOW HIM??"

REP SAYS "YES, BUT I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT HE DID.  WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME??!!" 

YOUNG SALES REP FINALLY LEAVES.    HE CALLS  BACK SEVERAL HOURS LATER AND SAYS "THANKS A LOT FOR LETTING ME HANG IN THE WIND."

SOME PEOPLE JUST DON'T KNOW WHEN TO LET IT GO . I USUALLY REFER TO AS THE  PIT BULL SYNDROME.  

JUST ANOTHER INTERESTING DAY IN THE WINE BIZ!

DO THEY TRAIN ANYONE FOR MORE THAN A DAY AND HALF ANYMORE??

Hello!
Thank you so much for the invaluable information on your site!
After several years in the wine business (mostly as a stock boy) I got a chance to rep for an interesting company. I am the lone salesman in all of Los Angeles....and I have ZERO experience. I am doing it from scratch, and happily feel like I am doing most of what you suggest. The accts are still getting acquainted with me, and sales are sluggish, but I expect that to turn around.
Finding your page was a god-send, as I have been having some very anxious afternoons lately.
Nevertheless, I am extremely grateful you took the time to commit the information to your site. I hope to live up to the standards you set!
Cheers,
Matthew Miller

Hello Gerald,

As a newly appointed restaurant sales rep, I found your article most helpful!  Thank you!  Even though most of the comments were aimed towards retail accounts, I took everything into consideration.  I know this will help me forge a new path for our small winery into restaurant sales.  Thanks again!

Hayley Foster
Summerwood Winery

 
Dear Gerald,
I found your article online because I am very interested in pursuing a career as a wine rep.  I graduated from college with a degree in history with a plan going to law school after graduation.  Instead I decided to spend several years overseas and during that time decided that a career in Law was not for me.  I am now in the process of deciding what I would like to pursue and a friend suggested to me that I should be a wine rep.  She knows my love for wines and fine dining.  I grew up in the Bay area and spent a year living in France and have always enjoyed wine culture.  I will be moving to Charleston, SC in September and I am curious as to how to pursue this career.  I know Charleston has a huge restaurant culture and I assume that a wine rep would be successful in this area.  Do you have any advice as to how to begin searching for this type of position?  Any help that you have would be very appreciated.  Thank you so much for your time.  I enjoyed your article.
 
 
Jill

Oops...a rather negative missive arrived in December 2006 from a sales rep who works for Noble Wine Estates, a distributor in Florida with a wonderful array of wines.

----- Original Message -----

From: Jennifer Clement

Sent: Saturday, December 02, 2006 6:14 PM

Subject: How to be a sales rep

 

Gerald,

After doing some research on the net regarding wine sales and selling I came across your manifesto and it interested me. I have been in wine sales for a number of years and was amazed and irritated by your lack of respect for the job of being a sales rep for a distribution company. Its no wonder you have trouble getting good reps.

Your article had some good information on the things not to do when trying to be a successful sales rep such as keeping appointments and showing up with wine. Those are useful tools and the first part of your article contains quite a few worthwhile gems of advice but as you continue you become sarcastic and degrading.

If you have been in the business as long as you have you know how things work and sometimes you have to give a little to get a little. Maybe you wouldn't have such a hard time with reps if you weren't so difficult to work with.

Do you know your stuff? I am sure.

Do you know what you like and what you don't like and what will work for your customers? Of that I have no doubt. But it wouldn't kill you and buyers like you to treat the reps that come into your establishment with a little respect.

We all have a job to do. Yours is selling and acquiring wine for your customers. Ours it to get you that wine and develop a working, respectful relationship with you.

It is hard to do with someone that asks you on your first visit "Do you have your company logo tattooed on your ass?" That my savvy, know it all buyer, is rude and degrading and makes you not worth the time it takes to get you the coveted Barolo you are looking for.

Why would someone go to bat for you to get you something you really want if the next time they need you to work with them on something they can be sure that they are going to be met with sarcasm and berating?

This business is all about relationships and working with people not making people feel like they are small and stupid. I am sure that this will all go in one ear and out the other since you seem to know it all, but if you were one of my buyers I would tell you to take your need for my Barolo and shove it.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Williams

********

I sent Ms. Williams or Clement, take your pick, the following letter.

Hi Jennifer.

Many thanks for your thoughts and suggestions.

I, actually, have great respect for the folks who sell wine and most sales reps with whom we work appreciate that we value their time and appreciate their efforts.  One fellow the other day said "I wish I had 20 more customers like you...I present the wines, you taste, we write an order, you sell the hell out of my wines that are in the shop and you pay in a timely fashion."  We don't waste their time, we appreciate their efforts on our behalf and we don't ask for anything other than good wine, a fair and honest, competitive price and good service.

I originally intended to write something humorous, but as I started writing, it became a more serious article.  Most of the responses I've received have been rather positive.  Yours is only the second note that's misinterpreted (I think) my attempt at helping people in the wine business avoid some of the mistakes made by untrained and unprofessional people. 

I suspect you have a former colleague with whom you've spoken and you've listened to "her side of the story" without knowing the customer's perspective.  Given the number of poor comments I've heard about this particular representative, my experience with this person was not unique. 

I am not a "know-it-all" and I work diligently to acquire knowledge.  I ask for suggestions and tips to improve my "manifesto" because I do not know it all. 

I do much research in my thirst for wine knowledge.  For example, I have been a friend of the family of the Barolo producer (who's wine you've told me to "shove"), since the early 1980s.  I was one of the first American customers to discover their wines, well before they were especially famous.  We have sold their wines for more than 25 years.

I spend a lot of energy and effort to visit wineries and learn about their products and philosophies.  It's a labor of love and we try to impart our knowledge and enthusiasm to our customers.  We demand a lot from ourselves and we demand a lot from others with whom we work, be they wine growers, distributors, importers, sales reps or delivery people. 

I hope you will "adjust" your perspective of me and my shop and view us in a more positive light.

I wish you well in your sales efforts and much success.

Best wishes,

Gerald Weisl
wine merchant



Dear Weimax,

Thanks again for the great website.

I love it.  I am glad someone put a pen to paper to

It is long over due.  Kudos to you!

Joe Goodrich
National Account Manager

Spaten West



Hi Gerald,
  You have to love the many varied responses you've gotten on your article about "How To Be A Wine Rep". I've known you for over 20 years and I've always felt the greatest respect for you, your knowledge and your opinions. And that's quite a comment from someone who's been in the business of wine for well over 30 years! I think that this article is one of the clearest, most accurate and objective articles on the topic.
 
  We all know that it takes a thick skin to deal with all of the various issues that come up in the world of wine. Remember the cartoon about the Winosaurus  Rex? How true that is! It's a business of strong personalities and opinions and, as we all know, everyone is entitled to their own. Most of us in the industry take that to heart. Consequently, the good salesperson learns that life can be very tough if you treat each and every wine as if you made it with your own two hands. The buyer's opinions and decisions are what make their business successful. As a salesperson, it's your job to realize that every buyer has their own palate and preferences and IT'S THEIR RIGHT TO EXERCISE THEM!
 
  As a salesperson, it's your job to take care of the buyer's problems, show up regularly, check your inventory and try to carefully present wines that you think may be of value to the buyer. If and when they give you an order, when you leave the store, call the order in before you leave the parking spot! Don't leave it to chance! When you find that something is out of stock, call the buyer and let him know that it's not coming. it's not as hard as some people make it seem.
 
As someone who's been both a buyer and a distributor rep of some success, I've always been struck by a number of recurring scenarios that we all see. Such as the following:
 
1. The distributor manager who makes unattainable promises to a producer, with poorly or totally not planned marketing goals and objectives. He consequently urges his staff to "Control their accounts. Go out and make them buy this wine, come hell or high water, or else." Hello, doesn't the buyer have any say in this? Maybe the wine is overpriced or poorly made or in a God-awful label! Many times, it's all of the above. (Guess the manager got a nice trip or some sort of goodie for making that promise?)
 
2. The salesperson who has had little or no training, who is basically given a bag of samples and a goal sheet and is then told to "Go get 'em slugger!"  And, then, the weekly beatings are handed out for not making their goals.  A recipe for success if I ever saw one.
 
3. The good quality, veteran salesperson who becomes "Unmanageable", so the management focuses on finding new and different ways to make that rep's life so difficult that they finally give up and leave, to be replaced by the previous type of salesperson. Believe me, it happens all the time.
 
4. The winery that is so nice in the beginning, gets a couple of good reviews from Parker or the Spectator and, suddenly, they're too busy to make sure that the people who supported them in the beginning are taken care of. Many accounts suddenly don't fit the winery's "profile" It really is a shame.
 
  It is interesting to me that we have an industry that is steeped in creativeness, information, culture and history and yet, as it continues to get bigger, the training and development gets less and less. I see the wine distribution system getting closer to being the same thing as selling shoes or hardware. I joined up because I thought that it was all about something that tasted wonderful and added a sense of goodness to all of our lives. At the time, I didn't realize that it was more about funding expensive cars, lavish parties and vacations.
 
  Mr McCarthy may be so rude as to call you a "dick" but it's easy to hurl insults from a keyboard, especially when you don't appear to know the person that you are insulting. I, for one, am happy to consider you a good account and, even more importantly, a good friend to the wine business. People like you (and I hope, me) are what the business should be made of. I respect people of knowledge and intellect, who put in the time to really understand what they are working with. The older I get, the less patience I have for a lot of what I see going on in the business.
 
  Over the years, I've had many people ask me why I feel the way I do about you. It's always an easy one to answer. It's because I learn about wine from you. In my humble opinion, you are one of the most wine knowledgeable people I've ever met. With salespeople, you are very clear about your expectations and the majority of them are completely based in respect for each other and common courtesy. Do you tell everyone what you are looking for that day? No. You give each and every rep the courtesy of tasting their wines and deciding yes or no, on the spot.  when you find the wine that hits you right. You buy it and sell it.  I'd much rather have that than the buyer who goes, " Umm, yes, uh, I like that. Get back to me in a couple of weeks on that one." Life is too short to have to go over the same information 3 or 4 times before you get a 1 case order or the wine is just forgotten.
 
 I guess it really all does come down to courtesy and understanding of what is going on the other side of the discussion. Some people take the demands for professional behavior as rudeness, when it's really a request that they do things the right way and follow up. 

Personally, I can't remember a time when you yelled at me about anything, If there was a problem, the criticism was generally directed at the source of the problem. I can't take that personally. But, as a salesperson, I can take on the responsibility of trying to fix the problem, to correct it so it doesn't happen again and, if necessary, go to the warehouse/winery and take care of it on the spot. That's what phones are for! Maybe I'm just too "old school", but I don't see a lot of that going on out there today.
 
  Looking over the responses, it's pretty clear that the excessively rude people are in the minority. It's just that they stand out so much, at times it seems overwhelming. Every day the business gets more people in positions of authority who  would be every bit as effective selling nuts, bolts or X Boxes. 

Gerald- keep doing what you are doing. I love your store and your opinions. Somehow, we all need to do what's right, no matter how outnumbered we may all end up feeling about it. Let's all remember that wine is subjective and fun. It's made all the more enjoyable by those with different opinions and perspectives.
 
Personally, I appreciate your dedication and passion for the stuff! Keep on letting people know what you think. Those that see the value in it will gain from it. Those that don't,...won't!!! It's a service to all of us.
 
Paul Manchester
Into Wines, Fine Wine Brokers

 

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