Hi. My name is Amy Christine, I work in LA as a sommelier at aoc restaurant.
I also sell wine for a Burgundy and Bordeaux importer in Beverly Hills because contrary to popular belief sommeliers are just well dressed paupers and I want to be filthy rich. My fiance, Peter (co-owner and co-winemaker for Piedrasassi and Holus Bolus in Santa Barbara County), and I started our own little 500 case wine project in 2005. Hocus Pocus Syrah was the start of our failed “get rich quick scheme”. In order to maximize profits we decided to sell it ourselves.
Making wine is easy. Selling it is hard. There are over 6,000 producers in California now. I will be the first to tell you that the last thing the world needs is another syrah producer. I know this is true because I am one of those jaded sommeliers who rolls my eyes whenever I hear about a new wine company. Being the owner of a new wine company myself is a situation that Alanis Morisette might call “ironic.”
If you’re a sales person, please sit down and take notes. I am going to lessen your sales pain by sharing with you five fail-safe sales tips. If you’re a buyer, take a moment to look into your heart of darkness. Ready?
Tip #1: Sympathy sales are essential. Call every restaurant and retail buyer you know and guilt them into buying your wine. This will take about 7 minutes. With luck, you can sell up to 9 cases.
Tip #2: Its time for the inevitable… you have to start calling people you don’t know. Get out the Zagat Guide and go alphabetically. I like to look at these phone calls as “a death row pardon, two minutes too late.” The buyers do not want to talk to you. They actually hate you. They want you to die. And there’s no altruistic Nun to save you. Accept it, surrender and move forward.
Tip #3: Be prepared for the following conversation EVERY SINGLE TIME you pick up the phone to cold call. This is not a dramatization. Small children are advised to leave the room.
Hostess: Thank you for calling Restaurant Yada Yada Yada, how can I help you?
Me: Hi, my name is Amy Christine, I make a small production California Syrah called Hocus Pocus, and I’m wondering if your wine buyer is available?
Hostess: Who is this?
Me: Um, could you tell me who does your wine buying?
Hostess: Yes, Blah Blah Blah.
Me: Could I speak to him?
Hostess: Can I tell him who’s calling?
Me: Yes, my name is Amy Christine, with Hocus Pocus Syrah.
She puts me on hold without saying another word. She gets this phone call from at least 10 different people everyday, so don’t take it personally that she’s a complete jerk.
BBB: Hello, who’s this?
Me: Oh (said with exuberance), hi there! My name is Amy Christine with Hocus Pocus Syr---
BBB: Oh (said with disappointment), you’re a vendor?
Me: No, well, sort of, ummm, not really, I’m a small producer, I make a little Syrah in Santa Barbara County called Hocus Pocus.
BBB: You’re selling wine?
Me: Yes, my own wine. I make a little wine with my husband in Santa Barbara County, and I’d love to show it to you when you have a minute.
BBB: I’m sorry, who is this again?
Me: This is Amy Christine with Hocus Pocus Syrah. I’m wondering if there’s a good time I could bring the wine by and show it to you?
BBB: What kind of wine is it?
Me: It’s a Syrah from Santa Barbara County.
BBB: (pause)… uhhh… (longer pause)… what’s the name of the wine?
Me: HOCUS POCUS (I try to say this loudly while smiling so that I sound extremely upbeat and devastatingly attractive) We only make 500 cases. It’s very small production, and it’s inexpensive.
BBB: How much?
Me: It retails for $17.99. For the quality, it really can’t be beat.
BBB: (a reluctant pause…Tip #3 ½: it’s important not to say ANYTHING during this pause. Let him feel extreme discomfort and he’s more likely to say yes.) Well you can stop by Thursday I guess. But you’ll have to be quick. I’m very busy.
Me: GREAT! That’s REALLY great! See you Thursday!
He hangs up without saying another word. He gets this call about 10 times a day, so don’t take it personally that he’s a complete jerk.
Tip #4: Be emotionally prepared for you appointment with Blah Blah Blah. One of three things will happen:
- You will charm him with your outgoing magnetic personality and fabulous wine. He takes three cases, puts it on by the glass. He reorders three cases every week.
- For some baffling reason he doesn’t feel the irresistible magnetic draw of your personality and can’t even crack a sympathetic smile when he says, “Yeah, I don’t really need a Syrah.”
- He doesn’t actually show up and you start replaying the phone call in your head and cringing over your words, “For the quality, it really can’t be beat!” What is that? You sound like that guy who sells OxyClean on TV. And NOBODY wants to sound like that guy.
Above, David Foss, wine buyer at Asia de Cuba on Sunset, is hypnotized by my magnetic personality.
Tip #5: MOST IMPORTANTLY…. look at yourself in the mirror every morning and say, “I hate myself. People hate me. I am boring. I am worse than the OxyClean guy.” Build the most oppressive negative sales mantra that you can muster. Repeat frequently. If you can master self-loathing, those buyers have got nothing on you.
Finally, listen to Alanis, and don’t let this be “the good advice that you just didn’t take.”