Why can’t you?

Why can’t you be the most successful wine sales rep in the state? The region?

Why can’t you become the most successful wine retailer in your city, or your state, or even the country?

The common answer, the default answer, is competition. “Too many other wholesalers / sales reps / retailers  … that’s why.”

But that argument is hollow because you’re assuming you’re competition is just like you. Or to flip it on its head, that you have to be like your competition. This is when the conversation becomes uncomfortable because you don’t need to be like them. And when you’re not like them at all, you have your own space, and when you have your own space you can be the best and most successful at what you do.

So let’s go back to the two questions at the start.

Being the most successful sales rep in the state or region first depends on how you define success. If it’s income, some think you can make more money by simply working more hours and having even more accounts, and if that is your driver then opening more accounts, being first in the door for new accounts, and hustling like nobody else should be your focus (watch out for burnout). But what if your question of success is more about making enough money to be happy but also having great work-life balance? Or your yardstick is being the go-to Champagne salesperson for higher end restaurants? Or the Southern Rhone specialist for your city? In other words, the key is your definition of success and not trying to be all things to all people. In other words, you have to learn to say no.

If your goal is to be the most successful wine retailer around, you again have to find your definition. In wine retail, trying to become the biggest is a futile game and a race to the bottom because you’re talking about moving huge quantities of commodity wine. And then the only way to compete is to lower your price. However, what if you aimed to dominate the European wine selections of your city in the $12-20 range? How about the go-to Pinot Noir destination? Natural wines? Do you think Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants cares much about their competition? No way. Only by finding your niche (and refining it, and promoting heavily who you are and who you are not) will you find success, which means you have to learn to say no.

Saying no is the most important skill you’ll ever learn, because then you are saying yes to your own definition of success.

Why can’t you? Maybe you can.