I think as sales reps, many of us aspire to sell what we believe in… and there are many portfolios out there that are small and focused, and basically put forth a mission statement as you browse through the producers and their offerings. Maybe the book screams, “NATURAL WINEMAKING ONLY!! 13% ALCOHOL OR LESS!!” or perhaps it’s more along the lines of, “SCORE WHORES WILL LOVE THIS BOOK! BUT GET READY TO SHELL OUT SOME BUCKS!!” So as a sales rep, the opportunity to sell only what you believe in or only what you would drink is available, but it might not pay the mortgage on its own. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that the majority of us are paid on commission, and so we’re incentivized to sell what sells, regardless of whether we would pour it in our own glass or stand behind the growing and production methods. Personally, I rep a couple of books, and while one of them has plenty of those easy-sell SKUs that I can’t stand to drink and makes up a majority of my monthly commission, the second one is chock full of wines I find fascinating and that I can’t wait to pour in my glass at the end of the day. So one funds the gas in my car, while the second takes up most of the real estate in my bag. The second book gives me reason to pound the pavement and work harder. It puts a spring in my step and passion in my pitch. I don’t pour the guaranteed sells in the first book. I just sell those, that’s the “easy” part. I pour the wines whose stories scream out to me to be told.
Now that I’ve gone all Jerry Maguire on y’all, here’s what another wine rep has to say:
Dear Wine Producer,
I’m so glad you shared your feelings with us. It heartens me to know that you appreciate our efforts selling your wine in this wide-open, unsaturated market.
And honestly, selling artisanal wines like yours is a breeze, with your low price points, fabulous name recognition and mainstream appeal. I only have to mention your product’s name and my accounts are clamoring to bring in 5 cases to put next to their unproven, slow selling brands like Rombauer and Prisoner.
In the extreme cases where your brand doesn’t fly out of my warehouse, it is so nice to know that you don’t provide a sample budget. It should be our honor to sell your wine, and eating the entire cost of sample bottles is a small price to pay for the privilege of carrying your fabulous product. And of course I won’t sample out any other wines when I meet with the buyer. Though I represent over 4,000 SKUs, no other brand is as much of a priority as yours. I wouldn’t dare to also sample out a bottle from another supplier that received a higher score and has a lower price than your esteemed brand – what a disservice I would be doing to my accounts to expose them to a wine that would sell twice as many cases as yours! I wouldn’t dream of it.
What’s that? You don’t want me to take your product to the bottle shops that move volume, and only to ones that fit the ultra-specific niche demographic that you’ve invented for yourself? I wouldn’t dream of it. Though you want me to sell cases of your wine, I know that we have to be discerning about it, and only sell your wine in accounts where it will accumulate a layer of dust before it moves off the shelf. That’s not a low traffic account, it’s just exclusive. Only they understand the commitment and craft that goes into your wine, setting it apart from every other wine produced ever, which are all harvested by coal-fired bulldozers which push the grapes into vats of SO2 before they fine and filter the very soul out of the wine. Your wines are different.
It was a pleasure having you visit my market as well. I’m sure my best restaurant account was so impressed by the fact that you graced them with your presence that they completely forgot that you groped the hostess and threw up in the bathroom after telling them that their carefully selected wine list was absolute trash because it didn’t have your $500 a case Cabernet by-the-glass.
With warm regards,
A wine rep who doesn’t work for Southern.