It’s been my first official week of pounding the pavement as a wine broker, and I have to say that doing all this on foot really does put the “ped” in peddler.
And yes, if you’re wondering why I used that word, it’s because I believe I am a peddler of sorts, or at least the romantic in me thinks I am.
I admit it – I am brand new to the broker life and the etiquette and strategies that go hand in hand with this job. What I’m not new to is fostering relationships and learning about and providing what customers need. And I deeply enjoy that. That said, even for having a good number of years of wine sales under my belt and generally reveling in self-management, the physical demands of this job have been unexpectedly on par with harvest work some days.
Securing an account or even reigniting an existing account that had previously been on autopilot takes many, many, many visits. Working as a broker has completed what I’ve experienced so far in every aspect of the wine industry, that it’s all incredibly challenging. There really aren’t any easy wine positions. But working in different circuits of this industry has helped me appreciate what goes into that bottle I love and how it finds its way into my hands.
Trust me, I wasn’t all Mary Poppins going into this particular line of work as a broker; I knew there’d be many steps to take – a lot of genuine curiosity, respect and courting of buyers before an account could be landed. And no, in case you’re wondering, I haven’t, as of yet, landed an account.
And so, when I’m tired and I want to take some disgruntled employee’s response to my initial inquiry about their wine buyer as negative or rude, or I get a “pass” from the buyer herself, I remove myself from the situation quickly, remember that the only thing I should be focusing on is finding the right fit and building relationships (not building up my bank account or thinking I need to piece part of my ego back together), and quite literally, walking it off.
The more I do this, the easier it is for me to see what that initial reaction means more clearly, and it doesn’t mean a hermetically sealed door. It simply means not now.
Remembering that we all have different schedules and levels of stress that we face throughout the day, helps me to show grace and class when a prospective buyer just can’t be bothered with pausing to get to know me. And no amount of energy spent in trying to change my strategy or be the chameleon that has always made me a successful salesperson in the tasting room (selling using empathy) will determinably get me any further.
The fact is that, well, there are too many factors. It’s impossible to go into a buyer’s respective space and decisively know whether a buyer will be in the right frame of mind to really hear what you have to say at that particular moment when you hope to be able to say it. And yes, even if you’ve made an appointment, this still applies, I’m afraid.
Knowing that I’m at the mercy of the buyer’s mood, I try to do the one thing I can – be persistently patient.
I have to believe that if I’m opting to sell wine for brands I care about and feel would make a good addition to a lineup of stories that a buyer’s wines are already telling as a whole, then showing patience should be something I don’t even question.
And I know from personal experience as a tasting room manager who runs around doing a million things at once, that you really do appreciate it when someone recognizes how busy you are – that, in the end, all you’re trying to do is what the person witnessing your actions would do, and that’s take care of your people by way of your staff and your customers.
Naturally, this should not blur obvious lines of extending hospitality, but if I’m new to a buyer’s world and I’m not there as a customer, then it makes sense that I don’t come first or at all. Again, I have to believe that they are busy providing care and not busying themselves to look self-important for no reason at all.
It takes time to build a relationship and how cocky would I be if I assumed they all developed immediately from the first brush of an interaction. The emphasis on building relationships slowly from persistence of presence really does make this a humbling job that is squarely human.
I know it sounds weird, but unless you’re working for a massive distributor or brokerage that just sees you as a number, a small company focuses on right-fit relationships so that the connection built is one of longevity. And, according to the laws of nature, that doesn’t happen overnight.
So, I’m pacing my peddlin’ pedals with pride and finding a stride that works for me and buyers out there who I have to persistently believe that one day, will walk a sale into our conversation as if it had never left.