I like to tell wine sales reps that they are not salespeople. They are problem solvers.
When I say that to a group, I notice people sit up straighter and have a curious look in their eye. It’s really just another direction to look at the job from, and it’s a crystal clear way to look at how to approach a day.
Identify a problem (lack of Oregon Chardonnays, a disorganized Australian section, old vintages from Alsace) and be the one that proposes and brings forth solutions. Pretty simple, right?
Here’s the tough part, and the first step: does your customer even know they have a problem? And after it’s pointed out, would they acknowledge and label it as a problem? So the first step is to make sure the people you are selling to are open to the idea of problem identification. Then you have to be careful and only call it a ‘problem’ if it truly is. Otherwise you’re making stuff up, causing false alarm.
No wine shop will go out of business just because of a lack of Oregon Chardonnay, or if they have a disorganized Australian section, or a few older Alsatian wines. But they might erode over time, so slowly that they themselves don’t notice it.
The retailer down the street (which you might call on as well) that does respond to this thinking, that does see problems with you and trusts you to help solve them … that is the retailer to focus on.
Where you put your time and energy as a sales rep is one of the most important equations you have to figure out. Your customer base is not “everybody,” it has to be “somebody.” Much more on this topic in the near future.