Time for another edition of What if?
The pandemic is changing how we have to work, which means there is an opportunity to make things better. An opportunity, only once, here and now, to rewrite the rules of ‘normal work’ in the wine business.
So here’s an idea …
What if it became the norm for wineries to bottle a certain percentage of all production into 50ml bottle size for the sole purpose of showing the wine off? Maybe 1% of production. Not a huge amount.
Those sample size 50ml bottles would ship to distributors automatically based solely on what they ordered for their warehouse. Being 1/15 the size of a regular bottle, that means if the wholesaler orders a pallet of wine (672 bottles), they would get the equivalent of 6.72 750ml bottles as samples, or 100 little bottles. 100 little bottles to help sell a pallet of wine.
Those little sample bottles replace normal sales samples entirely. No more bill backs.
Those 100 little bottles get unpacked and then repacked into a box with 11 others from more wineries. So you end up with a mini case of wine. 12 little 50ml bottles.
Those go to targeted customers, both retail and restaurant, who then join in on a group zoom call with the sales manager of the wholesaler and the sales reps to taste through. The incentive to join the zoom call and taste through the wines as a group is a small discount in the price. Don’t show up for the zoom call, you don’t get the price. Of course, this is recorded for future use as well, where the video can be sliced and diced for staff training mini-videos (optimized for cell phones, of course).
The sales rep’s sole job in this scenario is delivery of the samples, encouragement to join the zoom call, and follow up with the buyer.
This doesn’t take the place of a standard sales call. This doesn’t change the amount of work a sales rep has to do (if anything it adds work, which is okay because it is efficient work). But this scenario does several important things:
Responsible and safe presentation of the wines. No more driving around all day tasting sample bottles.
More efficient use of the wine. No more showing a wine to one or two customers then bringing the rest of the bottle home.
Connection between the sales manager and the wine buyer. More connection equals more trust and a better relationship.
Efficient use of time, eliminating a certain amount of taking the time for tasting, over and over, with every account call.
The ability to build a category. If a wholesaler wants to position themselves as the house for, say, dry Portuguese value wines, imagine how quickly they could establish that through a tasting program such as this. Twelve little bottles representing twelve sub-regions throughout Portugal, with handouts, maps, educational materials, and shelf talkers ready to roll.
Or, we can simply hope the pandemic ends soon so we can get back to six sales stops over a day, pouring a couple of bottles at each account, and hoping for the best.
Change has to start somewhere. What if you started it?