Napa’s Women of the Vine & Spirits Conference Focuses on the Practical

The takeaways include tips on how to know your customer and their needs.
Wine Enthusiast's Virginie Boone interviewed Jackson Family Wines Chairman & Proprietor Barbara R. Banke about her two decades leading the company she co-founded with her late husband, Jess Jackson, while building some of the most beloved wineries in the nation.

Several seminars at this week’s Women of the Vine and Spirits Conference in Napa Valley focused on the practical aspects of the business—including one on sales strategies that many suppliers hope will help maximize their profits.

Some 750 people from winery owners and winemakers to sales and marketing chiefs attended the three-day event at the Meritage Resort.

Tom Swift, vice president of customer marketing for Bacardi North America, moderated a session focused on off-premise sales. That panel consisted of buyers Annette Alvarez-Peters of Costco Wholesale and Amanda Batchelet of Total Wine & More, and two suppliers, Dan Heller of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Mark Merrion of Delicato Family Vineyards.

They came up with five ways sellers could improve their odds of making the sale.

Know Your Customer

Ste. Michelle’s Heller emphasized this point with his philosophy of “RTW: read, talk, walk.” Read about a buyer’s everyday pricing, feature shelf pricing, ad pricing and more. In short, do first-hand research to understand what a buyer needs. He suggested visiting a minimum of five stores or, in Costco’s case, clubs before making the sales call.

“Get out of the office and look at opportunities,” he said. “Look at ratings and price points. What are the gaps? What do they need?”

Delicato’s Merrion agreed. “There are steps to being prepared. Know when the wine is available and what the rating is on it.”

Why Do They Need Your Product?

Alvarez-Peters made clear that she responds best to sales representatives who have done their homework, and she can tell the difference between those who have and those who haven’t.

“You have to know the product. You have to know the price. Tell me something about the product or take it off my desk.” She lamented that it’s not impressive to have a supplier simply read the back label.

“What do people look for at the end of the day?” she asked. “They want to know what it costs. When you ask a buyer what they’re looking for, they don’t always know. Fill the gaps for them.”

Keep it Tight

Alvarez-Peters relayed that most sales appointments last about 60 minutes. “Think about your content, think about what you want to say. Don’t waste [the buyer’s] time. Be thoughtful and focused. I don’t like a lot of paper. I want ideally a one-page snapshot, very simple.”

Be Forthcoming

Heller admitted that he had made mistakes in the past, and even been kicked out of Alvarez-Peters’ office for not being forthcoming about margins on a wine he was trying to sell. “Know the margin philosophy of an account and be forthcoming, tell the truth,” he said.

Alvarez-Peters said it was equally important to learn from one’s mistakes. “It’s O.K. to make mistakes. Just learn from them; don’t make them twice.”

Yes is just the beginning: Suppliers were urged to send an immediate follow-up letter recapping the meeting and main points. They were also told it was a good time to ensure the wholesaler or distributor follows up. “It’s about continued communication and follow up,” Batchelet said. “Keep synching on progress.”

Published on March 15, 2018
Topics: Annual Conference
About the Author
Virginie Boone
Contributing Editor

Reviews wines from California.

Contributing Editor Virginie Boone has been with Wine Enthusiast since 2010, and reviews the wines of Napa and Sonoma. Boone began her writing career with Lonely Planet travel guides, which eventually led to California-focused wine coverage. She contributes to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and Sonoma Magazine, and is a regular panelist and speaker on wine topics in California and beyond. Email: vboone@wineenthusiast.net




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