My winery clients usually give me a list of reasons why it is difficult to compete with their neighbors when it comes to selling wine through their tasting room. I hear that the other guy gets great scores or they have a rock star winemaker or a big fancy tasting room. To which I usually respond, “Balderdash!” or something a bit more colorful. Then I share what I have learned is the secret.
I spend a lot of time with tasting room visitors – not the kind of visitor information you get when you are working in the tasting room, but the real impressions that they leave with and will share with their friends. They are keen to share their candid opinions about the wines they tasted, but more importantly, they want to talk about the experience they had and the aspects they liked and what they didn’t like.
Sounds simple, right? And it sounds like what you are already doing, correct?
Not so fast, remember this feedback may be coming from your guests and it might be something that they are not comfortable telling you!
Guests gather first impressions from the moment they enter your tasting room, so the first thing they notice is if they made to feel welcome. This is easy to do on a slow day, but make a point of doing this for every customer and especially when the tasting room is crowded and especially, when there are no openings at the tasting bar. Those first time visitors are taking in the environment and looking for clues of what they need to do. If your tasting bar is packed, make eye contact, say hi and then tell them what the next step will be.
“Hi there, we’ll be right with you.” or “Great to see you, I’ll set you up right here.” Then if possible, scoot your other guests down to make room – after all, wine tasting is a social event. If you can’t do that, get your floater (and you do have one on a busy Saturday, right? ) to pour glasses of wine and take them over, explaining that you will be finishing up shortly, in the meantime, please enjoy our wonderful Sauvignon Blanc while you wait.
Many times, newcomers hang back because no one bothers to welcome them. Your staff might be engrossed in the customers directly in front of them and to the eyes of the new visitors, it looks like everyone is having a great time, except them. Bad start!
When you do get them into the tasting experience, make it personal. Many times visitors tell me that they got a rote speech, “This is our Merlot from vineyard XXX, fermented five days on skins, then put into 30% new French oak, the rest into neutral barrels, racked six times before bottling. And it got a 91 from blah, blah blah publication.” The mouth opens, the elbow bends and the speech pours out.
Worse yet, they hear it repeated several times whenever that wine is poured to others at the tasting bar.
Usually, it is your new staff members who fall into this trap, because this is the information you have given them and they are keen to do exactly what you have told them to do. And when do you use your new hires? On weekends, of course, when your tasting room is busy.
It takes some time for your new hires to feel comfortable personalizing your story. However, don’t allow them to just memorize the speech, instead make sure they completely understand the winemaking process and give them a compelling story for each wine you offer and each vineyard you use.
Merlot, why does the winery make Merlot? Vineyard XXX, where is it located? What soils? What does this mean for the grapes? etc, etc. What foods do you like to pair it with?
If you are the tasting room manager or better yet, the winemaker and/or owner, put yourself in the role of floater on those busy days. That way, you can be watching the entire room and add your personal touch to each and every experience. Your guests will reward you by buying your wine and go back home to tell their friends what a great new wine they have found.
2 Comments »
Comment by April Yap
Sales goes hand in hand with charm and hospitality. A great tip for those who sell wines. I bet the experience is great with a winemaker who is able to accommodate guest and clients well.
Comment by Stephanie Gwin
Thank you Michele — great posting! I’ve printed it and posted it on the wall for my staff to be reminded!
WineStyles Corvallis, OR