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Monday, December 22, 2014

Wine Sales -- Getting You to Buy in the Tasting Room

If you should be lucky enough to visit winery tasting rooms you will be subjected to some standard sales techniques used by most of the winery staff. This, of course, is their job just like any other retail sales person.

For the smaller wineries that don't have much wine in the retail channel the sales from their tasting room is how they stay in business. It's also important for the big guys as they have to justify the costs associated with a tasting room. The sales push comes in two major flavors: Getting you to join their wine club and/or getting you to buy multiple bottles.

The wine club is key for many wineries as it's a built-in revenue stream. A typical club will ship you a few bottles several times a year at a discount. This really helps smooth out the seasonal ups and downs of visitor traffic and probably kept a few wineries afloat during the last recession. When you hear the wine club pitch you'll have to decide (1) if you actually like the wines (the wines, not just the experience) and (2) if it makes financial sense. That is, can you get the wines at a similar price without being a club member? Many other club benefits only work if you live nearby, such as wine club parties. Most wineries offer employees a sales commission for each wine club sign-up.

In some wineries the tasting room staff lives or dies by their commission. These are pretty easy to spot by the pressure you get to buy. If you walk into one of these and see one person behind the bar in your line of vision and any others maybe working off to the side that's a sign that the person in the front location is their best salesperson. Luckily, this sort of car dealership-like atmosphere is only found in a very few places. Most tasting room employees are there because they actually like talking about wine and they like meeting people.

A couple phrases often used by the winery staff are, "You can't get this wine outside the tasting room" or "it's almost sold out." These hopefully are truthful statements. With most small-to-medium wineries it's probably correct that it will be difficult or impossible to find a particular wine back home. You'd be surprised at how few wine companies control most of the wine retail shelf space.

Some people get caught up in the experience of visiting wineries--the friendly people, the view, the special tour, the alcohol buzz and buy not strictly based on their best judgement. The "getting buzzed" part is actually a big part of it. Many wineries pour lots of wine or stay open late for this reason as tasting rooms have their best sales during the last couple hours of the day.

So you've decided to buy some wine. How much do you really like it? If you answer "a lot" and it's not out of your budget the first question should be, "Will I be disappointed if I only get one bottle?" That is, you take it home, share with friends, then the next day are bummed because you've drank it already. Two bottles is often the best choice for a special wine for the casual wine drinker. If you eat a lot of steak and find a great Cabernet at a great price maybe you need six bottles. All depends on your drinking habits and your budget.

Rather than saying "no" when asked if they want to buy many customers will ask, "Can I buy it online?" or state "I can't carry it on the plane." Rather than use the online excuse just say, "No thank you, not today." Any good sales team will be ready for the airplane excuse with shipping or check-through options for you.

Visiting tasting rooms is an experience in itself as you get to learn about a region's wines. Whether or not you buy is up to you. Avoid these errors: (1) Not buying anything and regretting it later, (2) Realizing you bought too much when you get your credit card bill next month. If you are on a wine-buying trip it's best to have a budget and know what sort of wines you're looking for. That is, don't get home with two cases of rosé and only then realize you only drink a couple bottles of rosé each summer. Buy what you like, what you can afford, and what you'll consume.