We’re friends, right? I mean outside of the whole wine rep/wine buyer relationship thing… before you were a buyer and before I was a rep… we were friends. So off the record, friend to friend, you gotta get this whole professional relationship figured out. Not just with me, with all your reps.
I could see how your position could create a feeling of power. I get that. Every day you get phone calls and visits from the whole parade of wine reps, all pandering to you and pampering you in hopes that our wines make your cut, make it on to the list or on to the shelves. And I think it’s all going to your head. I cringe watching the way you treat a new rep who is cold-calling to drop off a book and a card… and even watching your greeting to those reps who are coming in for their appointment with you… in your eyes they are the low-man on the totem pole, and you let them know it.
But just last week you complained to me over drinks that your reps don’t do enough for you… they/we don’t work hard for you, they/we don’t help you when you need it, they/we don’t give you enough. And I listened, all the while thinking about the numerous appointments you’ve stood me up on, or the collective hours spent waiting well past our appointment time at the bar while you chat with a friend on your cell phone or sit hunched over your laptop. Your time is precious, yes I know that. So is ours. That’s why we make appointments, so that we both set aside a few minutes to taste and discuss. I thought about the numerous times you’ve chewed me out for a mistake that was not my own, the instances where I could even point out physical evidence to show that the error was yours, but why bother when you still would not take responsibility and it would only serve to further ruin our working relationship.
And while you complained to me and as I ordered a third round, I kept my mouth shut. I nodded as if sympathizing with your dilemma.
But I’m sick of reps complaining to me about you. I’m just as sick of that as I am of your behavior towards me. So here’s the secret, I’m going to share it with you: Treat us well, and it will return in ten-fold. It’s really not that complicated, it’s like everything else in life… We all learned it back in Kindergarten, our mothers told it to us repeatedly growing up, it’s basically The Golden Rule.
A translation of the Golden Rule: Treat your reps the way you would like to be treated.
In the long run, in some ways, we can make or break the success of your establishment.
Cherry pick your way through a rep’s book, and you may find yourself without an allocation offer on their next big offering.
Ignore a rep for months and he’ll ignore you when his distribution company acquires that Spanish portfolio you love so much and you finally use one of those 20 business cards he’s dropped at your establishment over the months.
If your rep comes across a wine that they know you could make a killing off of, that’s right up your alley, that they know will suit your palate and that you would be just as excited to sell to your customers as the rep is to sell it to you, wouldn’t you want them to run straight to you to share this with you? They won’t, given the way you treat them currently. They’ll take it straight to your competitor and give them an exclusive.
Your reps see a lot of people on a day to day basis. We know the ins and outs of every wine shop, every restaurant, every bar in our territory. And our opinions are respected. Friends, family, acquaintances ask us where to eat, where to shop, what bars to frequent, what wines to buy. Do you think we’ll send them your way given your vindictive and surly attitude toward us?
Say it’s a Friday afternoon before a big weekend, and your rep finishes their sales meeting early. Wouldn’t you love some help stocking your wines or writing shelf talkers for your shelves?
I’m telling you this as a friend. But I’m also hoping you take it to heart as your wine rep. We can do great things for you, if you let us. Yes, we’re a tug on your time, and there are those who will repeatedly shove their quotas down your throat or only show you wines with incentives hidden behind them… but not all of us are like that. A good rep genuinely wants their accounts to succeed. So treat your good reps well and watch as they work hard for you.