By Sue Straight
Wine inspires passion, or it should, anyway. Any wine lover will tell you about lovely, wine-drenched conversations that they have enjoyed with colleagues, friends and loved ones. In my wine circles, we have solved the world’s problems many times over glasses (OK, bottles) of wine.
Now, let’s talk about passion (or lack thereof) in the tasting room – how many times have you visited a tasting room (or maybe even in your own tasting room) and heard a staff member doing a somewhat robotic introduction to the wines that they were pouring? By robotic, I mean spewing facts like clonal selections, type of oak used, malolactic percentages, awards/points garnered in major wine competitions and publications, etc. All of this information is valuable, but it must be discussed within context of the customer’s experience – he or she must be engaged first and actually interested in that type of information. Hint – if the customer’s eyes are glazing over and cobwebs start extending from her/his nose during a factual soliloquy, the customer is not engaged and is not likely to buy.
In order to inspire passion in your customers about your wines, you must first inspire passion in your tasting room staff. Thorough training is essential; your tasting room staff needs to know your unique story and have your wine information down, but the more you get them involved with your winery, the better. Nothing beats learning by doing! Encourage your them to go out and sample sugars, work the sorting tray (if you have one), taste through blends and whatever else you can get them involved in. The goal of exposing your tasting room staff to the day-to-day operations of the winery is to give them an understanding of what goes into the wines you produce. Feeling included breeds enthusiasm that you will never get from “how to sell” workshops or training manuals. Let them get their hands dirty and it will pay you back in spades.
Once your tasting room staff is fully trained and passionate about your unique brand, encourage them to share their passion with your customers. Along with being well educated about your wines and winery, successful salespeople are very observant, intuitive and flexible. For some this skill seems innate, others need careful guidance on recognizing the different ways your customers can be approached. Regardless, staff members need to have the skills to size up a customer within a few seconds and be able to engage them at a level that neither bores nor intimidates. This is most often done by asking leading questions, like, “Have you had our wines before?” “How did you hear about us?” “Where are you visiting from?” “What wines do you enjoy at home?” Once the customer is engaged, they can enjoy a two-sided conversation, where each party learns something. If your staff members are successful in fully engaging your customers, they can gently educate about your wines and winery as part of the conversation. This approach converts your customers into passionate brand ambassadors. And it sells wine.