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1038 Capewood
CA, 95492
United States
(707) 953-1289
707 6577301
Elizabeth Slater

In Short - Specializing in Staff Training: Customer Service, Sales & Wine Club Membership Sales,

Elizabeth Slater of In Short Direct Marketing is recognized throughout North America as speaker and trainer, increasing sales for wineries through staff training in sales, customer service and all avenues of direct marketing. In Short has works with individual wineries as well as winery associations throughout North America.

INCREASE WINE CLUB SALES & RETENTION:  Do you have enough wine club members?  Are you retaining them?

Elizabeth Slater, In Short Direct Marketing’s wine club expert, gives your staff the tools they need to make your wine club membership sales and retention soar.  In addition to working with individual wineries, Elizabeth teaches wine club classes at both Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College.


After a very interactive training with our team, our following month saw over a65% increasein wine club signup rates—our best month to date!    Dutton Goldfield, Sonoma County

…Elizabeth Slater’s guidance and training provided the perfect platform, helping us double our Wine Club signups in the last 3 months compared to last year. If you’re serious about improving your business, then give her a call...”    

Franciscan Estates, Napa County

 Other Seminars & Training

Staff and management training should be as integral a part of the operation of a successful winery as using the very best grapes and producing top notch wines. Yet, despite its iymportance, it is the component of business operations that is most easily and most often ignored. In fact, it is frequently not recognized as a component of successful business operations at all.

E (as she is known) presents seminars and workshops on a variety of marketing and sales subjects to wineries and winery associations throughout North America. She is a featured speaker at Wineries Unlimited and presents regularly at state and province conferences working across the US and Canada.

In Short was started as a direct marketing company in 1994 and added workshops and seminars to the mix in 1997.  Elizabeth's dynamic and humorous speaking style has made her a popular and busy speaker both in and out of the wine industry.


"In Short Direct Marketing is an essential business tool." - Maureen Hendrikson, Patit Creek Cellars

Workshops & Training: Wine Clubs, Customer Service, Sales

In Short Direct Marketing offers a full range of training services for staff, managers and owners on a variety of topics (see list below). The interactive seminars and workshops, presented with humor, are jammed with innovative, useful and easy to implement information and concepts that assist any winery or association in reaching direct sales, marketing and promotional goals.

Topics include all facets of Direct Sales, Customer Service, Wine Clubs, Tasting Room Management, Events, Direct Marketing, Merchandising, Training the Trainer, Promotion, Social Networking and more.


INCREASE WINE CLUB SALES & RETENTION:  Do you have enough wine club members?  Are you retaining them

Elizabeth Slater, In Short Direct Marketing’s wine club expert, gives your staff the tools they need to make your wine club membership sales and retention soar.  In addition to working with individual wineries, Elizabeth teaches wine club classes at both Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College.


After a very interactive training with our team, our following month saw over a65% increasein wine club signup rates—our best month to date!  Dutton Goldfield, Sonoma Count

…Elizabeth Slater’s guidance and training provided the perfect platform, helping us double our Wine Club signups in the last 3 months compared to last year. If you’re serious about improving your business, then give her a call...” Franciscan Estates, Napa County

 Other Seminars & Training

Staff and management training should be as integral a part of the operation of a successful winery as using the very best grapes and producing top notch wines. Yet, despite its importance, it is the component of business operations that is most easily and most often ignored. In fact, it is frequently not recognized as a component of successful business operations at all.

These are not one-size fits all workshops. All In Short seminars and workshops are individually crafted to meet clients' wants, needs and expectations. Elizabeth works with closely with her clients to set the stage for success long before the training takes place.

Mystery Shopping

The perfect adjunct to training. Discover your winery's strengths and weakness through a well defined mystery shopping program and make your training even more effective. In Short offers a variety of programs tailored to meet the needs of any winery.

E presenting a seminar at Wineries Unlimited in Pennsylvania
My logo (to the left) shows a picture of my great-aunt who was only 4'6". In the picture (taken around 1915) the chair is a little tall and her feet don't touch the floor. This picture of me (taken in 2005) shows that I too have problems getting my feet to touch the floor, even though I am much much taller (okay four inches taller) than my great-aunt, who though very small had a huge positive impact on many lives.
Time Management Tips
Time Management Tips
This three-minute "mini-seminar" with Elizabeth "E" Slater offers valuable tips on juggling your daily tasks.
Wineries Unlimited
Wineries Unlimited
An overview of Wineries Unlimited, featuring, in part, Elizabeth Slater of In Short speaking about the seminars she presents and moderates
Be Open to Change

“It is not necessary to change. Survival Is not mandatory.” – W. Edward Deming

In this time of the Coronavirus and the uncertainty as to how long it will last, we are confronting change every ten minutes (or less). To run a successful business in today’s volatile atmosphere, you need to be prepared for change in small and large ways.

The world and how we work and prosper within it demands change at the best of times. You know that serving guests in your winery hospitality center has never been a “one size fits all” or a “this is how we do it forever” proposition. In the days of the Coronavirus we are lucky if it is a one-week proposition.

Wineries are seeing new rules coming along almost daily and definitely weekly as the procedures change with every spike in the virus. Many of the wineries that have re-opened are working by appointment only and with a limited amount of staff. In certain states the wineries and many other businesses have re-opened and closed again.

Keep your eye on how the world is changing and the ways you are going to have to change with it. Also, keep your customers informed as to the changes that are taking place. Encourage customers to call the winery if they are planning to visit. Or if you are suddenly shut down again because of COVID make sure that your customers are notified as soon as you know.

When you notify them that the winery is closed also remind them that you are still able to ship wine to them and that they can order online.

You might also want to call your best customers to ask how they are faring with the virus and to tell them that you miss them and look forward to seeing them again. Keep in touch with as many of your customers as you can through a personal phone call, email or text. Let them know that they are important to you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

News Archive

A Sense of Connection
26 June, 2020

Connection with others (co-workers, guests, even the UPS person) is created through many different avenues and through all five senses.

When you see the listing of the five senses they are usually listed in this order: See • Hear • Smell • Taste • Touch.

However, in the wine industry, especially when interacting with guests, I would rearrange the order slightly to See • Hear • Touch • Smell • Taste.

Our vision is our first introduction to any winery. Even as we drive or walk to a winery, the view should be a pleasant one, showing a clean and well-maintained exterior. When guests approach the hospitality center, they should walk into a sensory space that gives the guests a complete sensory experience including pleasant aromas, color and décor.

When guests are introduced to the wine, they see first the bottle and the tasting glass. Then, they hear the wine as it is poured into the glass. Touch comes in as the guests pick up the bottle or the glass and feel the coolness of a white wine, or slight warmth of the red.

A gentle swirl brings out the aromas as the guests raise the glass to smell the mixture of aromas in the wine. Then, they taste the wine, on all parts of a palate as the aromas, flavor, and mouthfeel flow into their throats. Lastly, coming back to the touch as the wine is savored, filling their mouths and throats with smooth flavor.

The hospitality center and other sensory areas are environments that should be created to give an immersive sensory experience. These areas should be thoughtfully designed to provide a vibrant experience and a one-stop-shop for a variety of needs. It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway… the whole area should be clean. Especially the wine tasting areas, which should be wiped down after every guest leaves (especially in this Corona virus time) and before the next set of tasting glasses are put out.

How does your hospitality center make your guests feel emotionally? Your guests should walk in to a warm and welcoming winery. I have walked into a number of wineries where the staff members were not particularly happy to see me. Many of your guests can feel any tension in a room as soon as they in. It is rare that an unhappy staff members will make guests feel welcome.

Making Assumptions About Winery Guests
12 June, 2020

You must stick to your convictions but be ready to abandon your assumptions.”- Denis Waitley

We all make assumptions, it is just part of life. If our assumptions are based on long time experience, they may serve us well. Though when our assumptions are just what we think based on insufficient evidence, then we may misjudge visitors to our wineries as wine buyers or non-wine buyers.

Are you making assumptions about guests that allow you to keep an open mind? Perhaps because of the way they are dressed, or the car they drove up in.

In the course of a day in the tasting room, you are going to meet people with all different degrees of wine knowledge. Before you start pouring the wine, you may ask a few questions to assess their level of understanding.

  • Do you regularly go wine tasting?
  • Are you more of a white or red wine person?
  • Do you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner?
  • What varietals of wine do you prefer?

Once you have the answers you will have more information as to your guests’ enjoyment of wine.

Wine has its own language. Don’t assume that all your guests are fluent in the language of wine. If guests do not understand, explain in a different way.

Additionally, be aware of what your guests are saying. When we assume, we are liable to hear what we think we are going to hear, rather than what was said.

General assumptions when working with the guests may influence not only the way you receive their messages but how you interpret their willingness to buy wine. If you show through words or demeanor that you don’t believe they are going to buy, they probably won’t.

Consider your body language. Are you communicating that you do not think your guests will buy by manner or facial expressions? If your guests pick up on the cues, your assumption may come true and they will leave without buying.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Customers Appreciate A Phone Call
07 June, 2020

I am on a large number of winery email lists and so have been able to keep up with what the wineries are doing to maintain customers’ interest in wine and buying wine. So many of the wineries have had their creative hats on and come up with lots of great ideas to keep their customers interested.

The tactics have included:

  • Large discounts when buying wine by the case or six-pack
  • Minimal or no shipping costs
  • Virtual wine tastings
  • Create your own 12-bottle Mix & Match
  • National Wine Day Sale
  • Re-opening celebrations
  • Information on how wineries will keep you safe when you visit
  • Wine and Food Pairings
  • Holiday Sales
  • Dinners to be picked up at the winery
  • Monthly Pizza night at the winery (pre-purchase tickets)
  • Outdoor dining at the winery
  • Tasting & a picnic

And much more.

With all that the wineries have been doing through email or mailing pieces, I wonder how many of you are picking up the phone and calling your best customers. The ones you or your staff have, over the years formed personal relationships with. For those people, a personal phone call will mean a lot.

Of course, you cannot talk to all your customers, so, create a list of the top 10% of your customers. The ones who buy wine from you regularly, come to most winery events, and belong to your wine club.

These are the customers who have formed a personal relationship with the winery the owners and the staff. The ones who recommend you to their friends or co-workers and at times bring these people to the winery.

 Once you or your key staff members have called the top 10%, start on the next 10%.

If these customers have a particular relationship with a member of your staff, get that staff member on the phone to speak with those customers. Obviously, those good customers love your wine, but they also appreciate having a personal relationship with your staff members. When they form a relationship with the staff members, they also develop a deeper relationship with the wines and the winery.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Connect with Customers in Different Ways
30 May, 2020

If the emails I receive from wineries are any proof, selling wine at a large discount is the most popular way to keep wine sales going through this pandemic.

While these sales have been successful for many wineries and a great thing for their customers, many people have been stocking up on wine and may have a large amount of wine left after the pandemic is over.

Many customers are getting used to getting 30 or 40% off the posted prices on cases of wine and are not going to be thrilled when the prices go back to what passes for normal.

There are other incentives that the wineries can offer to customers to encourage them to return to the winery when they re-open.

  • When customers buy wine now, they will receive a coupon for a free tasting for two, four, or six people (depending on how much they spend) when the pandemic is over.
  • If the winery has rental accommodations, the customers will be entered into a drawing to win a stay at the winery (one or two nights.)
  • Offer a lunch with the winery owner, the winemaker, or other staff members for a certain number of people (could be 2, 4, or more.)
  • Your customers could win a cellar tour with the winemaker or a vineyard tour with the vineyard manager.

There are lots of things that you can come up with to offer as incentives, starting with the ones shown above.

The customers who buy in a certain month put their phone number into a drawing. The person whose phone number is picked wins that month’s prize. You can do different prizes each month

These are just a few ways to keep your customers engaged and excited about your winery. If you come up with any other ideas, I would love to hear them. Drop me an email at or call or text me at 707 953 1289.

Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions about this or any other sales subject.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Encouraging a Personal Relationship with Customers
15 May, 2020

Many of the people who buy wine from you also consider you a friend. Whether you own the winery or work in the visitor center or the cellar, through your work you have made many friends over the years.

Think of the customers who visit you and buy from you regularly. The customers you are happy to see in your tasting room and at your events. They can no longer come to the winery, but they still want to keep in touch.

While these customers are still buying wine from you and you are still sending them information on wines; this is a great time to send some personal notes, texts or emails.

These personal notes, emails, or texts can be a quick check-in, asking them how they are coping with the upheaval in their lives. Saying that you hope they are keeping well and telling them how you, your family, and winery are doing.

The emails, texts or notes don’t have to be long. Just a quick check-in to catch up, one friend to another. This is not a selling opportunity, but an opportunity to create a more personal connection with the people who have been supporting you and your business. There will be plenty of opportunities to sell to them at other times. And don’t be surprised when some of these people write back to you asking what wines you have available.

You can involve your winery staff in sending these missives to the customers with whom they have a connection. It gives them the opportunity to enhance the connections they have made over the years. Your staff can send these messages from home, keeping them involved with their favorite customers.

Also, encourage your customers to keep in touch. Strengthen the association with those who feel connected with you. It is amazing how much wine you can sell, even when you don’t mention it.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Rewarding Your Customers with Special Offers
08 May, 2020

Over 6 days, from 4/30 – 5/5, I received 57 emails from wineries, each one of them with a special offer. The offers included special pricing on cases and half cases, lots of free, 1 cent, $5, or $10 shipping, depending on how many bottles of wine are purchased.

Sometimes the savings are shown as a percentage discount, while others may offer, “Buy 9 bottles and receive 12 bottles” Also, as it is coming up to Mother’s Day weekend, there are lots of suggestions for what to get Mum and the savings or free shipping that is included with the special Mother’s Day wine gifts.

Of course, there are also many virtual tastings on Zoom, of which wine lovers seem to be quite fond.

One winery (cleverly) was offering free masks (two I believe) with the name of the winery on the mask if the customer purchased a case of wine. I rather liked that idea.

I was glad to see that there were not any offers in the list of emails I had received that were offering 50% or more off on cases of wine. Remember, eventually, we are going to want to sell at full or close to full prices. If we spoil our customers with 50% off a case and 1¢ shipping for the remainder of the pandemic (which could be for several months or more) it is going to be difficult to get them back in the habit of paying full price when it is over.

Think about other ways you can reward your good and best customers with other things they may enjoy when we are able to open up the wineries again:

  • A special tasting and cellar tour for them and (two or four of) their friends
  • A free cheese plate or small food pairing next time they are able to come and visit the winery in person
  • A special event (a barbeque perhaps) for the best customers who have continued to buy from you
  • A small group tasting presented by the winemaker.

You might want to include a certificate for a treat that can be used when you re-open with a wine shipment. Or send the invitation separately by mail. Make your customers feel special about supporting you during these hard times.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What’s Your New Plan?
01 May, 2020

The world is changing, and your business is going to have to change with it.

What‘s your new plan?

Hygiene is going to be more important. Emphasize your efforts in this regard when making, bottling, and aging your wine.

Focus on the cleanliness of your production area, cellar, and winery as a whole.

Focus on the experience your customers and potential customers get from you:

  • What can you do to improve the experience?
  • How can you make the experience more personal?
  • What can you do to connect with your customers every step of the way?

Consider new fears you might encounter in your customers. For example, fear of:

  • Becoming ill
  • Losing a job
  • Losing family members.

For Your Customers:

  • Focus on creating a path from production to your customers, so (if they wish) they can be familiar with all parts of the process.
  • Consumers may want to deal more with local wineries to be more connected to their brand and to the winey owners and staff. In the midst of what is strange and different people seek what is familiar.
  • Create clusters: If you are selling in parts of the country that are out of your areas, plan ways to stay connected with those customers and create links between those customers with online events.
  • Create Zoom chats that bring customers in the same areas or with similar wine tastes together online.
  • Make shopping online more interactive. Have a staff person available to talk to customers who are buying online (if that is what they wish). Allow people to shop through Zoom so they can interact with a person to keep them engaged.

Concentrate on how you can more personally engage with your customers and make your best customers into friends by interacting more often online. It looks like a lot of your customers are going to be home for a while, so keep them engaged.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Correction:  Last week, in my blog, I included a note from a wine club member at an Oregon winery who was pleased to receive a personal note in her wine club shipment. Unfortunately, I misread her name on the information I received. Her name is Marla rather than Maria as I put in my blog. My apologies to Marla.

Make Your Winery Unforgettable
27 April, 2020

Before sending written information to your customers, think about what you can do to make the message stand out. People who enjoy wine, usually subscribe to the mailing lists for more than one winery and may get emails from lots of wineries. Today, I have a couple of real winery examples of how they made their mailings to customers stand out.

  1.  Make It Personal

Here is a note that Maria (real name), a wine club member sent to Bryn Mawr Vineyards in Oregon, who gave me permission to use it:

“Opened our shipment tonight. The enclosed personalized card put the biggest smile on my face and made my night! You went above and beyond and just further confirmed that we made a great decision to join your wine club and also continue to buy your wines!

…Thanks again for all you do. You are all top-notch! Stay healthy.”


It is just a small thing to include a personal note, but one that can increase the connection between the winery, staff, and wines with the customers.

2. Use Humor

While going through my winery emails, I came across a winery newsletter from Bowers Harbor Winery in Michigan. Besides the information on the wines being featured there was a sentence that caught my eye:


Tomorrow is National Buy a Nurse a Bottle of Wine Day

It’s nothing official, I just made it up. Tell the others!”

After I stopped laughing, I immediately emailed the winery to ask if I could use this in my blog.

They graciously gave me permission. I always encourage the use of humor but especially in these dire (and sad times). You have the ability to make your customer’s day a little better

3.  Get on the Phone

Many of your customers are home these days. Give them a call to see how they are doing and if the opportunity arises (which is usually does) tell the what is going on at the winery and what wines are showing well.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

707 953 1289

Adding Personal Touches to Your Customer Interaction
20 April, 2020

How can you start making your interactions with your customers more personal? What information do you have in individual customer files to remind your customers of, in order to keep them coming back?

If you have done a good job updating your customer files, you may have small things that you know about them:

  • Things they said when they were at the winery about certain wines or other topics
  • The hobbies they engage in (wine or non-wine related)
  • An amusing anecdote they told you about something that happened on a trip or about a family member.

Recalling details about their lives that they may have forgotten will bring them closer to you in these strange times. They want to remember the times when the world seemed to be an easier and more normal place to live in and they had fun in small ways.

Try to recall fun interactions you had with these customers and remind them of those. Or even the times when things did not go the way everyone expected (an open house where everyone had to crowd inside because it was pouring down with rain or when the food ran out).

Sometimes the most memorable experiences are the ones where something goes wrong. While, perhaps you would prefer not to remember it, to your customers it can be the thing that went wrong that was the highlight of the day. We all can do little things wrong and for your customers, they are glad that they are not the only people it happens too.

And if they can help you out of a rough spot, even better.

So, make note of the little things, the time where the customer can be a hero or help you out. For example, a good customer is helping to carry other people’s wine to cars because you were short-staffed. Remind them of their good deed. Everyone likes to be the hero/heroine.

A tip of the glass from me to you. And a big thank you for all the people who have helped me out over the years.


707 953 1289

Wine Games and Puzzles
10 April, 2020

Being stuck in the house for long periods of time (only venturing out to go to the grocery store) is getting old fast. I am sure that many of you who have wineries are busy keeping up with the spring chores both in the winery and in the vineyard.

For those of you responsible for marketing and sales at the winery, it is your job to keep your customers’ minds focused on wine (preferably yours) and on your winery, for part of the time at least. My suggestion this week is to engage your customers through different types of games.

I want to thank Margo Sue Bittner from The Winery at Marjim Manor in Appleton, New York for sharing with me (and with you) some of the things their winery does to stay connected with clients.

The first is the Marjim Manor Scavenger Hunt which was part of their newsletter one month. The scavenger hunt information lists all the different items customers may have acquired from Marjim Manor (including, wine, labels.) Once they have found as many as they can and before the deadline date, customers take a picture of the items and post it to the winery’s Facebook page. Or they can email a picture.

There are prizes for finding all 15 items that Marjim lists and customers are given a “Fan Club Membership” (good for free tastings and other specials). If players find 5 or more items, they are entered in a drawing for a gift certificate.

Margo also sent me a copy of a Marjim Manor Word Search puzzle that integrates names of wines and other things associated with Marjim Manor into a page of random letters. These are some great ways to pass the time and can be enjoyed with all family members. I am sure Margo has a lot more ideas, too.

So, start thinking about “out of the box” ideas to keep your customers engaged. Consider getting your staff involved in creating these games and puzzles.

Thanks again, Margo!

If you come up with ideas, be sure to let me know.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


707 953 1289

Contact vs. Connection
03 April, 2020

Over the years, I have signed up to receive information from many wineries. As I am at home all the time at present, I am paying more attention to my emails and realizing how many I am getting from wineries.

This is a hard time to sell wine as customers can no longer come to the wineries, so we have to go to the customers. It is not a bad idea every so often to contact customers just to say hello and keep in touch, without actually trying to sell anything.

If you have employees that you would like to keep busy, ask them to make a list of the customers who they have come to consider friends over the years or have a relationship with (even a casual one). Then put them to work, calling those customers, just to see how they are doing. There are lots of customers who would be pleased to receive a phone call, just to check in and see how they are coping. Or, if you have the time, make some of those calls yourself as an owner, manager or winemaker. Pick your best customers, the top one percent or more depending on the size of your list and give them a call. The chance of catching them in these days is really good.

Keep the conversation general. Ask them:

  • What they are up to while they are home
  • How have they been coping with this blip in their routine
  • Tell them a story of what you have been up to

When they ask you what you are up to, you can tell them. Remember though that this is a social call, not a sales call. If they ask what you have available, remind them you just called to say hello this time. However, if they bring it up again, you can give them a rundown of the wines available and how good they are.

Receiving these types of calls strongly enhances the connection the customers have with your winery and they will be even more loyal to you when things get back to what passes for normal.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


707 953 1289

Keeping Customers Connected
27 March, 2020

The general public, including most of your customers, are resigning themselves to being confined to their homes for the next few weeks or so at least. What is novel for a week or so becomes a burden after two or three weeks. As staying at home may well last a while, my next few blogs will focus on what you may do to stay in touch with customers and promote your products.

Create a number of videos showing the different parts of your winery. Each video should be fairly short to hold interest. There are many people who will be quite anxious at this time. Humans, in general, do not adapt well to change, so think about videos that may take their minds off the disruption that we are facing.

Create videos of different aspects of growing grapes, making wine and wine appreciation. Starting with vineyard and cellar tours.

Vineyard Videos:

A series of educational videos on how grapes are grown, trellising, etc. and the different growing practices needed to grow different varietals of grapes.

Also, consider vineyard videos that just show the beauty of the vineyard, and the country around it, backed by relaxing music. Or if you have videos of harvest, create a video with a background of rock music, while you go through a short explanation on what it takes to harvest wine.

Cellar Videos:

The owner, winemaker or someone connected with your winery guides viewers through the cellar, explaining which type of barrels you use and why, the different pieces of equipment and processes used in making the wine.

You may also create a video of cellar workers going about their daily chores in the cellar accompanied by suitable music, with short explanations of what is happening at each step.

Watching a bottling line can be quite mesmerizing, so a short video showing wine being bottled either mechanically or by hand, with suitable music in the background.

You may wish to dig out videos you took during events at the winery, to remind customers of the fun they had. Get your customers involved; ask them for suggestions for videos. Or perhaps they can send you videos they have made featuring your wine.

If you have any ideas for videos, drop me a line and I will post them (with full credit of course.)

Next week:  More ways to create and strengthen connection!

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Elizabeth Slater


Reaching Customers While Your Wineries Are Closed
21 March, 2020

The wineries, like other businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada, in fact throughout the world, will be seeing fewer visitors this year with the continuing spread of the Coronavirus (COVID19).

Potential and current customers will be staying home, limiting contact with others and avoiding crowds, rather than visiting your winery in the coming months or participating in your usual spring and summer events. I know many of you are closing (or have already closed) down your tasting rooms for the foreseeable future. However, you are still selling and shipping wine.

In these early days, it is appropriate to remind your customers that wines are still available for purchase. Keep them informed as to how the wines are tasting and because of the difficult times offer special pricing and encourage them to buy.

While you are doing this, it is important to be creating a virtual visitor program.

Start with a close look at the information you offer through your website, newsletters, emails, etc. How are you creating a connection with the people on your list?

However, as time passes and people are still housebound, it will be a good time to give them a break from their “captivity” by producing a series of informational emails, tweets, and videos reminding them of the winery and what is happening.

This is the time to innovate. Create new informational programs, through different communication channels. Think about sending text, emails, and videos that will help your customers and winery followers get away from their anxieties for a while and remind them of the times they enjoyed before being hit by this pandemic.

Your customers will need time for a virtual getaway, spending short periods of time to take their minds off what is happening and to connect with “their” wineries and the things they enjoyed. After being housebound they will be looking for connection and you can provide that.

In the next few weeks, my blogs will be focused on connecting with your customers throughout this time. Staying connected without an emphasis on sales during these stressful weeks or months will bring you customers back to you as soon as things are “back to normal”.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Elizabeth Slater


Maintaining Sales When No One is Visiting
13 March, 2020

The wineries, like other businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada, in fact throughout the world, will be seeing fewer visitors this year with the continuing spread of the Coronavirus.

Potential and current customers will be staying home, limiting contact with others, and avoiding crowds, rather than possibly visiting your winery in the coming months/year. 

Now is the time to create or improve your virtual visitor program into one that goes beyond just sending an email to let your customers know which wines are available.

Start with a close look at the information you offer through your website, newsletters, emails, etc. Then create a plan as to how you can encourage connection even when people cannot visit the winery in person.  

At present, we are experiencing a threat that we had not expected and has not been experienced since 1918 with the Spanish flu. This is the time to be creative and innovative. Create new experiences and information programs, through the many different communication channels that are available to us.

It is a time to become more innovative when connecting with the people that, for the time being, see in person. Most wineries have been used to their customers coming to them through their tasting room. The tasting room is where we initially find most of our customers. Where we encourage people to experience the wines, buy wine, join the wine club and come back to events.

Fortunately, we have many different avenues to use to find new customers: website, email, texts, YouTube, LinkedIn, videos, Facebook, Instagram, postcards, telephone, and video chat are just a few.

We also have the opportunity to learn and practice more effective ways of connecting with people.

For the next week or two we will delve into the different ways to connect with our customers; ways that create attachment and friendships when customers and casual visitors cannot get into our tasting rooms. In the meantime, start thinking about how you can connect with current and potential customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Are You Doing to Encourage Wine Sales?
28 February, 2020

There has been a lot of talk lately about lower levels of wine consumption. Boomers are drinking less wine. They are actually drinking fewer alcoholic beverages in general. As Boomers have been for many years the backbone of sales and the wine industry’s biggest supporters, we are going to see and feel the slowdown in their wine buying. Millennials have a lot more choices than the generations before and even more than they used to have. For them, there is a whole big world of things to try and a world of new and interesting things that they may consider better for them (less sugar, etc.). For example, one rising beverage for Millennials is hard seltzer.

On a more hopeful front, according to an article by Beverage daily, in 2018 and 2019 Gen X has purchased 13% more wine than any other generation. Gen Xers, aged between 38 and 52 years, could well have the most potential for being the biggest buyers.

In these days of more choice of alcoholic drinks, what can you do to keep your customers interested in drinking wine in general and your wine in particular?

How much of your communication to your customers and other consumers is based upon:

  • The quality of the wine you are selling
  • Discounts or special offers
  • Medals and other awards
  • Wine they have purchased in the past
  • Their connection with the winery
  • Whether they belong to the wine club
  • How often these customers visit and purchase
  • Whether customers recommend your winery and wines to others.

Each customer is different. Some you may only see once in their or your lifetime. However, if they are treated well and learn how your product is going to make their life better, you have no idea how many people they will tell and how many of those who may start buying your wine.

Every person who comes into your winery should be made to feel as though they are welcome and interesting. If they don’t know a lot about wine, they should be given a few short, interesting facts about wine that they can pass along to their friends to impress them

Most importantly, if possible, collect contact information so you may stay in touch. Then even if they don’t get back to see you, they can stay up to date with what you are doing are recommend others or buy themselves.

A tip of the glass from me to you!    

Turning Winery Guests into Converts – Part Two
24 February, 2020

Welcome to Part Two of Turning Guests into Converts. Today, we address Categories Two and Three: Guests who come regularly to see you, and Converts who will tell the world about your winery, wines and why they love to visit and buy from you.

Caution:  If you are a person who does not like people much, whether they are people you already know or those you have only just met, working in a hospitality center in a winery is probably not the job for you. If you do like people, working in the hospitality center is both rewarding and enjoyable. It can also be an interesting job for anyone training to be a psychologist as you meet all sorts of people.

Category TwoRegular visitors to your winery hospitality center, who also come to your events and may be members of your wine club at lower levels.

•Greet them by name, if possible.

•If your winery is by appointment only, once they make an appointment look up their customer record so you will know them by sight.

•Ask questions:

  • What have they been up to since their last visit?
  • How did they enjoy the wine they purchased last time?
  • What new wines have they found lately (it helps to know who your competition is.)

•Remind them about the wine club and any offers or events coming up. (Just because they have not joined the wine club in the past does not mean they won’t join now)

Category ThreeConverts: The customers who buy wine from you all the time, belong to the wine club, come to events and promote your wine to others.

•Greet them by name like old friends. If possible, come from behind the bar, shake their hands or hug them, whichever is appropriate.

•Tell them how pleased you are to see them and ask them questions about their lives (using information they have told you in the past or that is in their record).

•If they are wine club members make sure they get the perks that go along with membership.

•Give them something special to taste (other people at the tasting bar will be taking notice.

•Ask them if they have found anything new in the wine world that they like (know our competition).

Turning Winery Guests into Converts – Part One
31 January, 2020

In this week’s and next week’s blogs we are going to take a look into the very different types of people walk into wineries and what kinds of questions you can ask to each of the different categories of customers described in last week’s blog.

Caution:  If you are a person who does not like people much, whether they are people you already know or those you have only just met, working in a hospitality center in a winery is probably not the job for you. If you do like people, working in the hospitality center is both rewarding and enjoyable. It can also be an interesting job for anyone training to work in psychology, as you meet all sorts of people.

Category One: A – Visitors who are not familiar with your winery, wine in general or do not drink wine regularly.

  • Introduce yourself, leave time to introduce themselves.
  • Ask general questions to assess their wine knowledge as you do not yet know if they are new to wine or wine aficionados.
  • Ask them about the wines they drink. If they don’t drink wine, find out what they drink.
  • As people new to wine, they made not know how to pronounce the names. Go through the list with them saying the names of the wines out loud.
  • Recommend wines to them based on the information they have given you.
  • Provide snippets of information that they can impress their friends with.
  • Mention that the wine club is a great way to learn about wines they may not have tried.

Category One: B – First-time visitors who are wine knowledgeable

  • Wine aficionados will usually let you know by using wine jargon or asking about lesser-known varietals. Listen to them and let them talk about the wines they like. It will give you a lot of information as to which of your wines they are most likely to like or buy.
  • Ask them questions about wine:
  • What varietals do they prefer?
  • Do they have a favorite wine and what is it?
  • What was the first wine they fell in love with?
  • What was the most unusual wine they ever had?                                      

Next week will we address Categories Two and Three: Guests who come regularly to see you, and Converts who will tell the world about your winery, wines and why they love to visit and buy from you.

Acquiring Customer Information – Part Two
24 January, 2020

Your winery guests will usually fall into one of three categories: 

  • Category One: First time or occasional visitors who may or may not know much about wine and may or may not buy your wines.
  • Category Two: Regular customers (every couple of months visitors) – they know about your wines and possibly about other wineries’ wines.
  • Category Three: Those who have a lot of knowledge about wine and may be converts to your brand.

An important point: Regardless of the amount of wine knowledge they have, you have to ascertain whether they are looking to acquire knowledge about wine. They may know more than you. In which case, let them do talking if that is what they want to do.

  • Category One: Don’t overwhelm your guests with facts unless they want you to. Give them a small number of interesting facts that they may take with them to impress their friends with when they get home.
  • Category Two: Check their customer record to find out what they know and add to their information on each visit. If they have made reservations prior to the visit and have been to the winery before, make sure you know all about them before they walk in the door.  Start with a catch up then ask them what brought them in today.
  • Category Three: These guests will usually let you know that they are wine aficionados.  So, instead of presenting information about wine, ask them questions about their wine likes, dislikes, and knowledge.

Next week we will delve into the kinds of questions you can ask each of these three categories of visitors and the importance of varying your presentations so you have two or three for each category. Also, different ways to keep it interesting not only for you and your guests.

If you have any great ideas you would like to share with others, drop me an email with the ideas, information or sample questions by Monday of next week to

Let me know your name (and winery, if you wish) and you will get full credit for your ideas.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Acquiring Customer Information – Part One
17 January, 2020

One of the best ways to gain information about your customers’ appreciation of wine, wine drinking habits, the types of wine they enjoy and how often they buy is in person. Whether it is at the winery or an outside tasting, you have the opportunity to learn a lot about your customers that will help you create a relationship.

In many businesses other than wine, people who visit are there for a specific reason. In wineries, this isn’t always the case.

  • Guests may wish to learn more about wine in general.
  • Someone may have told them about your wine and winery.
  • They are regular customers.
  • They had never been to a winery before and wanted to see what “the wine thing” was all about.
  • They were passing by and needed to use the bathroom.

Rather than starting the interaction by handing them a tasting sheet and telling them what is to taste, introduce yourself and ask them why they came to visit your winery.

Once you know why they came to the winery, you can follow up with a couple of questions about their relationship towards and knowledge of wine. Listen carefully to their answers, taking the time to jot down some notes as needed.

If It seems appropriate to explain why you are taking notes, tell them in a few sentences that you want to ensure that they have the best experience they can. A big part of that is being able to offer the wines that are best suited to them or make recommendations of what they may like.

Having information about your guests' likes and dislikes gives you a better idea of what you can do to encourage them to buy today, come back or buy again from you.

Remember that it is easier to create a customer if you have already made a friend.

More ideas in next week’s blog.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Old & New Ways to Learn About Your Customers
10 January, 2020

A while ago, at the WIN Expo, a yearly event in Sonoma County, I was moderating a session, The Technology Impact on Wine Sales. The session dealt with the different uses of technology in the area of customer information. Not only does technology help us reach customers, it helps us reach them in the ways they want us to reach them, with the information they want, as well as the information we believe is important to them.

In short, it brings the right products to the right people. That is, of course, if we know the wants, needs, likes, and dislikes of our customers as well as all the basic customer information.

There are lots of ways we can discover what our customers want and need and how and acquire the information through technology.  We can check their customer records to see what wines they have purchased when they usually purchase and in what quantities. We can send out email surveys and much more. You can use technology to access what individual customers respond to and what they don’t. It really is amazing what technology can do to improve our service and sales.

However, while employing technology to help you with your customer connections and building individual customer programs, there are other ways (some might say old-fashioned ways) to acquire information.

Your hospitality staff (the people who see your customers every day) are the recipients of more personal information about these customers whether they are first-time visitors, regular customers or converts.

If your hospitality staff can make friends with the majority of the guests, they can strengthen the bonds of friendship through return visits, emails, etc.  They can form long-lasting relationships making these customers part of the winery family.

Create incentive programs so your hospitality staff not only elicit this information from guests, they add what they learn to the customer record. The more you know about your customers to more you can individualize your contact with them.

More on this subject next week.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Importance of Your Winery’s Value Proposition
20 December, 2019

All wineries should have a clearly defined value proposition. If by any chance, your winery doesn’t have a written value proposition, it is time to start writing. There is plenty of information online to help you along.

A value proposition is “an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers.”

Your value proposition should tell guests the reasons why it is better to buy your products and the benefits of doing so. Some of the things that provide value to your clients are:

  • How your grapes are grown and how your wine is made.

Where the wines are grown,

The singular way that the grapes ripen,

The equipment used for growing the grapes and making the wine,

The unique experience of your vineyard managers and workers,

The unique focus of your winemaker and winemaking staff.

  • What makes your wines different from those sold by many other wineries.

Specific or unusual winemaking methods and equipment,

Interesting or unusual varietals or flavors.

  • Commitment to hospitality & customer service.

It is also important to let our customers know what they can expect when they visit your winery. Not only do you let them know that they are treated well, but you also want them to know why they are important to you. So add that to your value proposition.

Once that is done, we move to step two, which is an individual value proposition crafted around not what you do (in whatever position you hold in the winery) but why you do it.

If you are dealing with the public in any way and especially those of you who interact with guests in your winery hospitality center, your own value proposition is a must-have. Obviously, it is important to know the winery’s value proposition in order to pass the information along to the guests. Though many of your guests are also interested in the people they meet in the winery as well as the wine.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Good Customer Service: It’s All About the Small Things
13 December, 2019

As we get closer to the upcoming holidays, you are going to see more winery visitors in the hospitality center. Wineries also experience more over the phone wine orders and more online orders.

However, as busy as it gets, visitors and callers should still get the best service you can give them. Those who are busy working with in-person guests, answering phone calls or confirming online orders should keep in mind that buyers remember the small things you do.

Winery Greeter: A greeter at the front door is helpful during holiday weekends. She/he can explain the ropes and make visitors feel welcome. If there is no greeter, regularly look beyond the bar to smile at newcomers.

Three Second Pause: Before you move from one set on guests to another or pick up another phone call, take three seconds to take a couple of deep breaths and recalibrate to be ready for the next interaction.

Introduce Yourself: Even when the room is full of guests and you are feeling a little overwhelmed, always remember to introduce yourself. This prompts your guests to introduce themselves, which will greatly enhance the engagement and strengthen the connection the guests feel towards you and the winery.

Vary Your Presentation:  Guests who have just walked up to the tasting bar may be listening to conversations you are having with guests you are currently serving. Repeating the same information will make your interaction seem canned rather than personal. A rote interaction will not make your guests or callers feel special or encourage them to listen.

Show Interest in Your Guests/Callers: Ask how you can help your guests (said with enthusiasm). Encourage a connection between you and the guests or callers. If you have spoken with them before, remind them of something you have talked about with them. Or if you have talked about something more personal and it is appropriate to ask how things are going, do so. Establishing a connection leads to higher sales.

Make Guests Feel Special

While you are knee-deep in guests at the tasting bar be sure to scan the crowds to spot any wine club members or regular customers. Make sure they see you acknowledge that you have seen them. Show them you are pleased to see them with a smile, a nod or a wave if you can manage it.

So, during the next couple of weeks, keep in mind the small things that will make customers feel welcome, take lots of deep breaths, and if you are behind the tasting bar bring an extra pair of shoes with you. We are much more cheerful when we are comfortable.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What's In A Name?
06 December, 2019

If you want to sell something, the first step is to introduce yourself, and not just by saying, “Do you need help?” but by giving them your name, “Hello, I’m Susan, may I help you?”

The second step is discovering the name of the person to whom you are speaking and using it occasionally during the discussion.

I am sure that you have heard this before. It is one of those things we learn when we first start selling. Unfortunately, it is not something that many salespeople remember.

Last Friday was Black Friday, so I a large number of my emails that day and the day before was information on the Black Friday offers from wineries. Out of the twenty or twenty-five emails I received offering me great deals on wine, only one of them actually included the names of any of their employees in the email.

Some of the emails I received included a phone number with an option to call in for personal service. The idea that the customer could interact one on one with a real person would be much stronger if customers were encouraged to, “Call our concierge line to speak to Anne, Michael or Catherine.”

Increase connections with customers by adding a small card in each customer shipment, thanking them for their purchase and have it signed by the owner(s), winemaker or both.

The more we can personalize the service we offer, the more likely consumers are to return to our winery and/or purchase over the phone or online.

Research has confirmed that more than 70% of customers expect a personalized service from the company they are engaging with.” For younger generations also personalized service is expected.  According to an article in Forbes “…poor customer service is costing businesses more than $75 billion a year.” A number that is growing.

Showing your customers that they are important to you is the best way to keep them engaged and encourage them to continue to do business with you.

While we would sometimes like to believe that it is all about the wine, there are too many other wineries out there not to make sure your customer service is as good as your wine.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Setting Sales Goals
22 November, 2019

Sometimes, goal setting is measured on what management would like to see, rather than what is a reasonable increase, or numbers that your sales staff can accomplish.

Start with checking what the sales goals are for the current and for past years.

  • Have you consistently been able to meet your goals?
  • In the year/years you didn’t meet your goals, were there extenuating circumstances like:
    • Terrible weather (the California fires greatly affected wine sales)
    • A shortage of wine
    • New sales personnel
    • Do you have more competition than you had last year?

There are many reasons for not meeting goals, some you may have forgotten about since then.

Also, look to the future. Is there anything in the coming year which would stop you from meeting those goals, for example:

  • You are going to be closed for construction during the year.
  • The harvest did not produce as many grapes this year so you will have less wine.
  • You lost some of your high sellers in the tasting room.

Additionally, every year there are more wineries opening their doors. This phenomenon is not going to change. Making wine and having it jump off the shelves into the arms of waiting customers who are willing to pay full price is not as easy as many new wineries think it will be.

Setting achievable goals is important as your sales staff will get discouraged if you are asking for higher sales than they think they can achieve. It is important to discuss sales goals with your sales staff.

  • Why you set those particular goals?
  • Why do you believe that you can reach those goals?

No one likes to believe that they have failed, so make sure your sales team is on board with your numbers.

Quoting the Harvard Business Review:

“When 10%–20% of salespeople miss goals, the problem might be the salespeople. But when most salespeople miss, the problem is their goals.”

Know that the goals you are setting makes sense based on research, and let your salespeople be a part of the process.

When salespeople are a part of the process, they are much more likely to achieve what you want them to change.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Connecting with Guests
15 November, 2019

Think of connection with your guests as the most valuable tool in your sales toolbox.

Once you have created a connection with the people who come to your winery, the sale will be much easier and your overall sales and sales per customer should increase.

The simplest way to sell your wines and the value of your wines in their lives is to make guests feel that:

1.      They are important to you.

2.      You are looking forward to a long-term relationship with them.

3.      They are interesting and knowledgeable (everyone is knowledgeable about something; find out what they are knowledgeable about).

4.       You have enjoyed spending time with them.

Most customers know when a salesperson appreciates them as an individual, rather than thinking about them as just a sale (or a commission). If you want to be highly successful in sales, it helps if you have a genuine interest in people. Each interaction may be the start of a new, long-term friendship for you personally and for the company.

When working in a winery, we meet people who know a lot about wine, people who have some wine knowledge and those who know absolutely nothing about wine. If we, as salespeople, learn from our guests about their interest in and knowledge of wine, before we start selling. We will discard our “one size fits all” approach to sales and instead ask questions of our guests and listen to their answers. Both general questions and wine specific questions are appropriate.

I was recently in a winery that I had not been to before. While the person behind the counter was very pleasant, I was not asked one question about myself or my interest in wine. I did buy a couple of bottles because I liked the wines, but I could easily have been talked into buying much more. The person behind the counter did tell me a lot about the grapes, the vineyards, how the wine was made; but I knew no more about me when I left the winery than when I arrived. If the salesperson knew my name it was only because I paid by credit card which had my name on it.

The key to stales is forming a relationship, so ask more questions, listen to responses and create your pitch around the answers you get from your guests.

 A tip of the glass from me to you!

PS: If you would like a list of questions that will help create the connection drop me an email: and will send one along.

The Art of Premium Pricing
08 November, 2019

Premium (higher) pricing of wine is one way to display the quality associated with the wine. Before you decide to enter the premium pricing arena, get some opinions on what others think about your wine. Don’t go to your friends or family who may have a bias towards your wines and (for the most part) don’t like to tell you anything negative about those wines.

Taste other wines already at the premium price level and see if your wines meet those standards. You may also enter your wines in competition or ask people in the wine industry you know are good at discerning the quality of wine to taste the wines. Before you start promoting premium wines:

  • Identify what you need to be successful at a higher price; it could be packaging, your marketing, the decor of your hospitality center, superior customer service and hospitality, and the appearance of your employees.
  • Regularly remind your hospitality employees to convey the value of the wine to your customers. Hospitality employees should remind regular customers about why the wine deserves to be sold at a premium price as well as telling new customers. Just because customers have purchased wine before doesn’t mean they remember. 
  • Give your long-time customers new reasons to continue to buy wine these premium wines.
  • Explain the value to the customer and demonstrate why the wine is worth the extra money.
  • When selling premium wines, be ready to offer customers small, additional incentives to make the wine even more attractive. For instance, offer regular customers and those who buy in large quantities the opportunity to buy at a better price occasionally (not too often) if they buy in quantities (6 bottles or more). It is hard to be considered a premium or high-end wine if you discount too much.

Spend the time you have with customers presenting the value of your wine and promoting the quality of your wines. When people internalize the quality, they are more likely to buy the wines regardless of price.

Thanks to an article by James Woodruff for some of these ideas.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Is Customer Service?
25 October, 2019

After having some customer service problems with large and small companies of late, I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog on this topic. Rather than start the piece by complaining about a company I have been unsuccessfully dealing with for the past six months to resolve a problem, I thought I would start with a definition of customer service and typed into Google: “What Is Customer Service?”

The definition that appeared surprised me. Here is the definition:

“Customer service is the direct one-on-one interaction between a consumer making a purchase and a representative of the company that is selling it.”

The part that surprised me was the specification of a customer “making a purchase…” rather than “any interaction between every member of the public visiting your place of business.”

When a first-time guest comes into your winery, you have no idea whether they will buy something from you or not. If you wait to create a rapport with them until you find out that they are going to purchase wine from you towards the end of the visit, you may not have the time to create the atmosphere that will make them want to purchase.

There are many times that people out wine tasting will go into a winery with no intention of making a purchase. They may have just been to a winery down the road and decided to stop into your winery because it is close.

When they come to your winery and meet cheerful and receptive employees, they are more likely to listen to what they have to say and purchase from them. The sooner you can make people feel welcome, the more chance you have of making them regular customers, entice them to purchase wine or join your wine club.

Take time to listen to these guests and discover what type of relationship they want with you and your winery.

  • Are they looking for great wines that their friends don’t know about?
  • Are they people who know a lot about wine and want to tell you what they know?
  • Are they new to tasting wine and need information?
  • Do they feel comfortable coming into wineries or are they intimidated?

Customer service starts the second they drive onto the property or walk into the tasting room. Make it easy for them to relax and feel welcome, immediately. You don’t know who will become your next “best customer” so treat everyone as if they already are.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Don’t Believe Everything You Think
18 October, 2019

It’s easy to get stuck into ruts mentally. Many times, when we come up against something new or different, we may try to fit it into the structure for similar information that already exists in our brain. By doing so we may miss something different and important about this information.

I have a friend, who I work with occasionally, who talks a lot about the beginner’s mind and how to utilize that beginner’s mind on a regular basis. When we utilize our beginner’s mind, we see things as new and different, rather than immediately putting it into a category in which it may or may not belong.

As children, we would try something again and again until we mastered it. It wasn’t as if we tried to walk, stood up, fell down and thought, “Well that’s that done.”

When you activate your beginner’s mind, you are more open to whatever comes up. You may hear something from an employee, colleague, or guest, that you might easily dismiss if your mind is only open to one structure or one way of thinking. However, if you take the time to open your mind, you may find that this different idea or concept has a great deal of merit that will help in business or your personal life.

This quote says it all:

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

– Shunryu Suzuki

Taking time to examine the different concepts we may hold and see if the concept we hold is the only answer to a question. Perhaps it is one of many answers to the same question. Open your mind to a myriad of ways of looking at the world, your business, your job and everything else in your life.

If you disagree with someone, take a moment to examine their point of view and see if perhaps rather than their point of view being wrong, it is your unwillingness to reassess what you believe. After all, the world is full of right answers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Focus on How to Sell Rather Than What to Sell
11 October, 2019


  • What your customers are looking for;
  • What has stopped them from buying (from you or others) in the past?

According to the Harvard Business Review:

“More than 50% of customer loyalty is based on the sales experience.”

When prospective customers come into your winery it is probable that you don’t know them.

Before you start talking about the wines (the varietals, taste, how the grapes are grown, and the wines are made, etc.) it is important to know more about the people standing in from of you.

  •             What are the visitors’ interests in wine?
  •             Are they regular wine drinkers?
  •             Are they wine aficionados, or is this their first trip to a winery?
  •             Do they regularly drink wine, and if so, what kind of wine?
  •             Do they have a price point they are most comfortable with?

By spending a little time with each of your customers, asking questions and listening to responses, you will have a much better idea of whether or not they will buy and how much they buy.

Before we go any further, let me just mention that there will be times when you are busy and will not get a chance to spend this amount of time with guests. I understand that, however, if not having time to talk to guests is a regular occurrence, then consider hiring more people in your hospitality center.  Creating a personal experience between you and your guests is the most important thing you can do.

Additionally, if your guests have viewed your social media sites before they come to the winery, or have signed up for emails, etc. they may already feel that they know you. If the information you have online talks about your friendliness and interest in your customers, you need to live up to that when these people come to visit. If you do not present what they come to expect, they will be disappointed, not only in the way they were treated but also in your wines.

Connection is the way, not only to sell but to make long term customers who will be back to visit again and again and will bring their friends.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Working with Your Local Tourism Board (Part Two)
04 October, 2019

Continuing the theme from last week’s blog, here are more tips on working with your local tourism programs (and others) to promote your winery and increase sales. 

Thanks to Thomas Salley, Director of the Wilkesboro, NC Tourism Development Authority for this great information. This week, Thomas’s tips are on working with others, in addition to your local tourism office.

It’s good business and good for business to network with other attractions in your community: It’s hard to get out and about when you’re minding the store, wines and grapes, but successful destinations always keep their Tourism director in the loop. One of my favorite things is connecting people with other people that I think complement their skillset to ignite collaboration within our district. B2B collaborations, especially online, are great ways to leverage credibility and add value to your marketing campaigns. Tourism people love to network with other tourism people, and we’ll promote what’s top of mind (ie. the last thing someone told us), grand openings, anniversaries, milestones and events.

Other Organizations: There are many local and national organizations who can help promote your business. WineAmerica is a great resource for wineries big and small. Or band together with similar wineries to form a niche group (Rhone Rangers, etc.) or a trail. Our winery trail was able to pay for most of its marketing efforts by hosting ticketed events that generated revenue. You may also consider affiliate memberships for other local businesses with winery ties. Look for state or regional organizations that are complementary to the wine industry to affiliate with e.g. local restaurant and lodging association or the National Restaurant Association. If you are a winery owner and you are established in your field, find ways to introduce your wine to your others. Sponsor corporate events, speaking engagements, seminars. For example, Jay Raffaldini (Raffaldini Winery) gave a Ted Talk at a local event in Raleigh, NC. The talk encouraged people to visit and established the winery as both credible and relevant.

Don’t forget Universities and Nonprofits: Partnering with nonprofits may open doors to your desired client base,  expose you to influential members of the community and get your name out. Universities thrive from public/private partnerships. They can provide you with sound advice from other industries that they work with. Students may be willing to work on your projects as their projects for free or for a reduced fee. Students are also a good source for part-time employees. You may have the opportunity to talk to a class or two. These students will be loyal to your winery and visit when they are old enough.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Working with Your Local Tourism Board (Part One)
27 September, 2019

Your local tourism board can be a great help to your winery. Not only do they promote the city, town or county, including your winery, they also have information that can help you put your own plans together. Invariably the local tourism board has information on who is coming to the area and why. They can usually tell you, generally, the numbers of people, their age, the average of what they spend, etc.

Not only can they help you, but you can help them by providing information on your guests to the tourism board. To find out more I turned to Thomas Salley, a friend of mine from the wine industry who is now the Director of the Wilkesboro, NC Tourism Development Authority. As Thomas has expertise in both wine and tourism, he is the perfect person to give benefits of working with your local tourism council.

Speaking as a tourism director, Thomas said:

It is our full-time job to attract tourists to the area and attention to our attractions. While you’re harvesting, paying taxes, handling HR/payroll, pouring wine. We’re focused on putting heads in beds and promoting your winery. We are constantly interacting with journalists, writers, influencers. Remember that one media article for your winery is worth thousands of dollars of advertising. So spending a few minutes updating your local tourism council on what’s going on is well worth your time and can pay huge dividends. You may spend 30 minutes describing your wines to a potential customer. Spare 5 minutes and give tourism professionals a call to tell them about a new release, event, weather, etc.”

Are you hosting an overnight event? Then you may be entitled to compensation. Many TDA’s or DMO’s, etc., have marketing dollars available for organizations who host events. IF you can tie hotel room stays back to these specific events then they may be able to help you promote them.

This week, take a look at the website for your local tourism council and see what they are involved in. They may be sponsoring or involved with projects you are not familiar with. If you already know and work with your tourism council, give them a call just to say hello. Then you will be top of mind if something comes up that your business can be a part of.

Check out the website for you may get some great ideas.

Next week more tourism tips from Thomas Salley.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Asking for Testimonials
22 September, 2019

Providing a good experience to guests takes time and attention and may not be easy on busy days.

However, when you have the opportunity to connect personally with guests – which you should endeavor to do as many times as possible – it’s a great time to ask for an endorsement or testimonial.

If the guests agree to do so, ask them if they have the time to do it before they leave and you will post it, or you can offer to send them an email reminder if they wish to write the endorsement later.

Asking for the endorsement also gives you a reason for you to collect their email address and, more importantly, it gives them a reason to give you their email address.

They may wish to provide the testimonial online through a post on Yelp, Facebook, a picture on Instagram or video on YouTube.

If you can get a short testimonial while they are there, however, you have a better chance of it happening.

Some guests may be intimidated by the idea of writing a testimonial. If this is so, give them ideas on the topic or topics they may wish to touch on.  It may be something as simple as: “We had a great time.” Or…

  • The excellence of the wine

What they most liked about the wine?

Which wine was their favorite and why they liked it so much?

  • The excellence of the service

How they were treated?

What made an impression on them?

Did they feel that the hospitality staff were pleased to see them?

  • The winery and hospitality center itself

Were they comfortable in the winery?

Were staff members friendly and helpful?

Was the information they received easy to understand?

Did they receive all the information they needed?

Endorsements from your guests that you can promote on your website, on social media pages, and in the tasting room will help your sales grow.

  • Keep a page or book of endorsements available for guests to read when they visit the winery.

Continually add new testimonials to your social media and website if the guests have not already posted their comments. New information will bring people back to your page.

If guests have posted to one social media platform, put it on the others and add it to the list you keep in the tasting room.

Thank guests and customers who provide testimonials on social media pages. For example: “Sue & Bob, Glad you enjoyed your visit to the winery. Looking forward to seeing you again, soon.” If the person who served them believes they made a connection, you can also add, “Linda says hi!”

Thanking them publicly makes the guests feel more connected to your winery and your wines.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Should Tasting Fees Be Waived with Purchase?
13 September, 2019

I was discussing with my friend Karyn Howard Smith from Bryn Mawr Winery in Oregon whether tasting fees should be waived with a purchase and it started us thinking. If a winery charges a tasting fee of $20 per person and their wine prices range from $25 on up, they are quite likely to sell one bottle of the least expensive wine.

Guests will usually buy to have the tasting fee waived. However, if most of your guests buy one bottle of wine per person when each tasting fee is waived, it may well be a break even or worse, a loss, for the winery, and even worse, it encourages a one bottle buy for many of your guests.

Before you decide whether or not you wish to waive the tasting fee for any guest who buys, you might want to do a cost analysis to discover how much a tasting actually costs.

– How much time on average do guests spend at the winery when they come to taste?

– How much is it costing the winery in wages for the hospitality person who works with those guests?

– How many wines and how much wine do you pour for each guest?

– How much does it cost (overall) to run your hospitality center?

– How much is it costing you to make your wine?

Deduct that from the retail price of the wine to discover what your profit is on the wine. Then look at the waiving of the tasting fee, to see.

– Are you giving your guests the wrong impression of the value of the wine?

These are just some of the questions to ask when you decide on the amount charged for tasting and whether you will or will not waive tasting fees with a purchase.

Another thing to consider is how the guests perceive the value of the tasting and your wines, if tasting fees are waived. The tasting should be an experience to be remembered.

Consider waiving tasting fees on the purchase of a 3 pack or more. Naturally, you will waive tasting fees for wine club members and regular buyer; who, while they may not be a member of the wine club, regularly buy wine from you.

Lastly, if you do waive tasting fees with purchase, make sure your guests know the value of your wine and this gesture to them.

Let me know what thoughts you have on this topic.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Why Should Customers Buy Your Wine?
06 September, 2019

  • If you can’t answer that question, selling becomes much harder

While reading through lots of journals, articles and online information about sales and customers service I came across this article by Ken Dooley. He posed this question.

The premise is that many salespeople have mistaken beliefs about what customers want. If the salesperson does not ask customers about their needs and wants, they are less likely to sell their products, as they may be presenting the wrong information.

According to Mr. Dooley:

“A recent survey shows salespeople rated price and relationships as critical, while buyers listed both well down their priority list.

Many buyers placed more emphasis on quality, on-time deliveries and customer service.”

If you were asked about what your customers were looking for, what would your answers be?

  • What do you believe are the most popular reasons why people buy?
  • What do you think is of least important to your customers?

Send out a short survey to your customers asking them what the most important things to them are, when purchasing wine. Then compare the answers from your sales staff and managers and see how closely they match. Without a match it is going to be tougher to make the sale.

Additionally, it is important to remember that people’s needs and wants change. Keeping up with the changes allows you to focus your messages on what is important to your customers.

  • Don’t make assumptions.
  • Give the customers time to tell you want they want.

Many salespeople tend to talk too much.

  • While the customers are talking, let them know that you are listening and understanding their wants and needs.
  • Use body language, nod your head or use phrases such as “I understand,” “I see” or say a few words to confirm you are interested.

In the wine business I believe things are a little different. Wineries will have a percentage of customers who are looking to have a personal relationship with the winery owners, managers and staff. However, this relationship is built up over time. Once customers start coming back regularly, make sure the relationship is steadily deepening. Discover their wants and needs, and add them into the conversation, 

“I know you enjoy less (or more) fruit forward wines.”

A tip of the glass from me to you!

It’s Not Enough to Be Good Enough
29 August, 2019

Some years ago, I came across a one-page document entitled, “If 99% Were Good Enough….”

It made a big impression on me. 99% seems to be a reasonable goal to strive for, though when you read the list, you realize how much damage can be done when people are working at 99%. The original list is at least 20 years old and so many of the examples are no longer as relevant. However, I found another list on Linked In from 2015/2016 that had some terrific examples of the chaos that could occur when people are happy with 99% competency:


  • Four planes landing at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago would be unsafe every day.
  • One million tax documents would be lost.
  • There would be a major plane crash every 2 days.
  • There would be 47,000 ATM errors every hour.
  • 880,000 credit cards in circulation would turn out to have incorrect card holder information on their magnetic strips.
  • 285 malfunctioning automatic teller machines would be installed in the next 12 months.
  • 15,517,200 cases of soft drinks produced in the next 12 months would be FLAT.
  • 415 entries in Webster’s New International English Dictionary would be misspelled.
  • 591 pacemaker operations would be performed incorrectly this year.
  • 3,468,500 defective tires would be shipped this year.
  • 262,000 incorrect drug prescriptions would be written in the next 12 months.
  • 3,488,200 books would be shipped in the next 12 months with the wrong cover.
  • 38,322 pieces of mail would be mishandled in the next hour.
  • 42 babies will be given to the wrong parents each day.
  • 307 incorrect medical procedures would be performed by the end of the day today.
  • 303,260 income tax returns would be processed incorrectly this year.
  • 4,314 phone calls would be misplaced by telecommunication services every minute.
  • $5,761,900 would be spent in the next 12 months on DVDs and CDs that won’t play.
  • Your bank cards would be compromised 30 times more yearly than they already are.
  • 18,322 pieces of mail mishandled in the next hour (the US Postal Service Rating is only 73). 
  • 20,00 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written in the next 12 months.
  • 22,000 checks deducted from the wrong bank account every 60 minutes. 
  • 2 new-born babies dropped by doctors each day!

It is easy to let our minds wander when we are in the middle of a tasks or interactions at home or at work.

We are human; mistakes happen, it’s unavoidable. However, if we make a concerted effort to stay focused on our tasks or interactions, there will be a lot fewer small and big mistakes.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Too Many Discounts Lessen the Worth of Your Wine
23 August, 2019

I get emails from lots of wineries every day. Most of them are sales emails but the sales tactics that are being used are almost always those that discount the wines, rather than those that make the wines more valuable to customers. I understand that there are times when providing lower prices can be beneficial, however regularly offering lower prices, free shipping and other incentives that focus on discounts is not likely to encourage customers to appreciate why your wine is worth what you usually charge for it.

Certainly, most people like a bargain, though if your customers have been educated as to why your wines are worth the price you normally charge, they should be willing to pay that price most of the time.

The number of wineries in the United States, Canada and in the rest of the world is growing yearly. Unless your customers believe in your winery and the quality of your products, they are likely to choose something else regardless of the price.

I am not saying that there is not a time and place for “specially” prices wines, there is. I am saying that discounting should not be used as your go to sales tool every time you send out an email. Certainly, you can discount your wines when customers wish to make larger purchases, for example your customer wants to buy one, two or three cases. You can also use them advantageously a couple of times each year (especially at the holidays). Or create some winery-centric reasons to give your best customers a special reason to buy.


  • It is the anniversary of when you opened the winery.
  • You have been in business for ten years.

You can also use reasons to sell at full price:

  • The wine won a prestigious award.
  • The wine is almost sold out and sales are limited to three bottles per customer. Buyers are incentivized by scarcity.

Of course, we all know that people dislike paying for shipping, so for special customers (those who buy regularly) shipping can be waived.

I know you want to sell the wine, but you also want to build a brand that is important to your customers. Brand building is better done when you let people know that you believe in your wine and what it is worth.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Personalize Your Customer Outreach
19 August, 2019

How do you reach your customers or broaden your audience to create new customers? It all starts with your marketing. To reach the people you want and need to reach may take both thought and research. So, though it is only August, this is a good time to start thinking about and planning your outreach for next year.

While we may know a lot about the type of people we are trying to attract to our business, usually there is still more to learn. Most businesses do not know as much as they could or should about their customers.

Your customers may have similar traits, but they don’t think of themselves as being part of the crowd. They think of themselves as individuals and therefore are more amenable to a personalized experience.

Remember to treat every customer as a unique individual. Just as you believe that your business is unique. Take advantage of opportunities to create a unique experience for each one of your customers. In many companies, the ability to provide a unique experience is dependent upon the employees. Train them well to treat each customer as an individual.

According to SmartHQ:

“80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a company that provides a personalized experience.”

Creating a personal experience is easier if you are seeing customers in person or dealing with them over the phone, however, it’s important to make mail, email or social media messages personal. Keep in mind that many of your customers are going to have similarities, so using the information in your customer files, pick out the traits that many of them have in common and talk about the traits they share in the message.

For example: 

“We know you love to entertain, and we have what you need to make entertaining easy.”

“As a savvy wine drinker, you may be on the lookout for something a little unusual. We have just the thing.” 

The information you need to create these more personalized messages should be all there in your CRM system. If it not it is important to start collecting this information.

“72% of consumers in 2019 only engage with marketing messages that are customized to their specific interests” (SmartHQ)

Continuing to collect the information you need to better serve your customers will increase sales, customer return rate and your overall success as a business.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Do the Rules That You Learned and Follow Still Apply?
09 August, 2019

I was glancing through tweets over the weekend and came across this one by British wine writer Jamie Goode ( (@jamiegoode, “We become attached to the rules we have learned – and this can be a problem.” That led me to his blog, on the same subject though from the winemaking side.

It also got me thinking that it is easy to continue to follow rules that may no longer apply when it comes to sales and customer service as well as winemaking.

For example: Are you still spending too much time talking about the wine, rather than making lasting connections with the people who come into your hospitality center?

The fact that this is still a common practice was reinforced for me this weekend when I was talking to a friend (also in the wine business) who had relatives in town. She mentioned that she had taken her relatives wine tasting. These are people who are knowledgeable about wine, drink wine and definitely have the money to buy it.

They went to one winery, where, while they liked the wines, they did not buy any. The reason: they were overwhelmed with information about the wine. More information than they needed or wanted. Yet no attempt was made by the person serving them to create a connection.

I experience the same thing when I visit wineries. Many times, I am presented with a list of facts about the wine and winery, but not asked about my tastes or what I am looking for.

The rules for presenting wines to possible buyers have changed for a number of reasons. The most important is that the number of wineries that consumers may choose to visit. If they come to you, you must connect with them in personal ways that will make them want to buy and to return. Tell them about your wines, of course, but do it in ways that are relevant to their life and lifestyle.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Meeting Customer Expectations – Part Two
02 August, 2019

Many human beings pride themselves on being unique, even though most people fall into one category or another; they like to think that they are different from others. In order to make your guests, customers, and converts feel unique, it is important that we treat them as individuals.

Does The Interaction Seem Personal?

Fortunately, in this age of computers, it is relatively simple to create some personalization with the people who are interested, buy or recommend your products, through your newsletters, correspondence and in person.

Customers are willing to order through your website as long as they can find quick answers to their questions. If the information on your website does not provide the answers people need, they are much more likely to abandon their purchases.

If you can add a personal touch by providing a customer service email and phone number then you are much more likely to retain the sale. Smaller businesses may wish to add the name, email, phone number and hours of service of the person (people) who help customers in a prominent place on their website.

There are also people who prefer to buy in person or on the phone. Ensure that those options are available to them. Especially as having a person they can talk to often bonds customers with employees and your company.

Solve Problem Quickly

Resolving problems is another important part of customer service. I have had a problem with American Airlines for three months now. They have apologized and made some small restitution but no one has been able to tell me why the problem occurred and assure me that it will not happen again. I am still waiting.

When people have problems with a company, they will tell others.


Your customers have options as to how they interact with you. Each avenue your customers have to reach you (social media, email, voice mail, online chat, and in-person) should deliver a personal experience. Interestingly enough, the phone is still the most popular though other channels are catching up.

Let your customers know that you appreciate them and you like them. A hand-written card or email to thank them for buying for the first time or being great long-time customers is always appropriate.

Know As Much As You Can About Them

Stay in regular contact with your customers. If you make friends with your customers it is easier to collect information, their likes and dislikes, habits, interests and buying patterns, etc. Listen to what customers have to say and use the information to improve your connection with them and your service to them.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Meeting Expectations – Part One
29 July, 2019

Most businesses are focused on their products and wineries are no exception. Making and offering the very best products you can, should always be at the top of the list. However, right underneath making the best products you can should be meeting your guests’ and customers’ expectations.

Meeting expectations is a tricky thing as much of the time you don’t know what consumers are going to expect when they walk into your winery. Nor do individual sets of consumers want the same thing.

Additionally, not all hospitality employees take the time or have the time to ask visitors questions about what they want. Yet, if you want to satisfy people’s wants, needs and expectations it’s important that a little time is spent finding out who they are.

The Value of Communication

Communication at all levels is important in any business. What any company wants and expects from all its employees should be clearly defined in writing and given as part of the package when anyone is employed. This is especially important in the case of those people who are regularly interacting with guests.

  • Have a one-page sheet of basic information for staff members working with the public that focuses on connection and meeting expectations.
  • Remind them to first focus on the wants and needs of the customers rather than the product.

A training budget to regularly present more information to hospitality staff is also helpful.

  • Regular training once or twice per year
  • Mystery shop to assess customer interaction
  • Opportunity for staff to visit competitive wineries and assess their procedures
  • Tasting fees paid upon staff member presenting a report.

Know Whom You Are Dealing With

Be aware that the needs and wants of the first time visitor may be very different from those of long-term customers. First-time guests may need more guidance and more encouragement to rely on their own judgment; whereas, long-term customers want to be treated as friends and valued for their loyalty.

Next week’s blog will present more ideas on how to meet expectations.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

It is Hard to Shine in a Sky Full of Stars
19 July, 2019

Good wines, even great wines, are not always enough to draw guests and customers back your winery. People are attracted to your wines and your winery for many different reasons.

Naturally, your products have to suit the people who visit your winery. Regardless of how great your wines are, you will eventually come across a customer who is not suited to your style of wines. They may like sweet wines and you make dry wines, they may prefer whites and you make only reds. However, if there are other things about your company that they like, they will find something they like and will buy it.

In order to draw customers back to your winery, your wines must be partnered with an atmosphere of captivating and uncommon guest engagement and a staff with an appreciating of people.

Part of anyone’s job when they work for a winery is to make people who visit, or who they talk to on the phone or connect with feel good.

Think of strangers as friends you haven’t met. Your job, in addition to giving them the wine information they want, is to discover what you have in common with them. Take the first few minutes to get to know them. As you get to know them accept them for whom they are. It may be that the wines you produce are not the style they like. However you may be able to find something on your list that has the potential of appealing to their taste buds. If you encourage them to take a little taste it could become one of those “aha” moments where they realize that they do like it this type of wine after all.

Additionally, they may have friends who like the types of wines that you produce and buy some wine for these friends.

The keys to selling are:

  • Be friendly to all your visitors
  • Be interested in them
  • Accept their individuality without passing judgment
  • Don’t take umbrage when no offense is meant
  • Encourage your guests to try something different
  • Try to make a friend

The ultimate goal is not to create customers but to create converts. Guests who have enjoyed their experience will send others to your winery whether or not your wines are to their taste.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Consumer Experience Is Your Winery Providing?
12 July, 2019

In most small and large businesses it is important to the company that the guests are satisfied with the service they receive when they visit and (hopefully) purchase.

We all know that the experience should be carefully crafted and orchestrated, though not overly orchestrated, however. We want guests to take away the impressions that they are unique and appreciated.

How often are you examining the experience that guests receive? You may have an employee manual that explains in detail what the experience should be, but is it being adhered in the hospitality center?

Before you assess the experience in the hospitality center, make a list of how you visualize the process. Or, if you have a manual of service, use that as your guide.

Some of the things to look for:

Guest comfort and convenience

  • Is everything easy to find? Is it simple for guests to understand what is expected of them?
  • Are the guests made welcome and being given personal attention? 
  • Do the guests have the opportunity to ask questions?
  • Are questions asked of the guests?
  • Does the wine tasting experience include a two-way conversation?

General appraisal of wine servers’ performance

  • Are the staff members cheerful and smiling when guests approach?
  • Are they able to create a relationship with most guests in a relatively short amount of time?
  • How are their sales abilities?
  • Are the picking up on buying signs from guests?
  • Have they asked the questions which will allow them to understand what it is particular guests may be interested in?

It is easy to forget some of the small steps that go into providing a great experience for guests. Regular training and keeping track of how people are being treated in all situations keeps everything on track.

Connections and relationships are keys.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Promoting Your Events
08 July, 2019

Have you noticed that your life seems to be getting busier?

Most of us have. And the most of us includes your customers.

When you are promoting your events, create a flyer or email that not only tells your customers about your products, but also tells them how they will benefit from coming to your event.

It is important that in our promotional pieces, (whether they are sent via mail, text, email or via pony express) you let your customers know that you are doing this event because you appreciate them, not just to sell wine.

Before you start writing your press releases or promotion pieces, think about how your event benefits your attendees? You know why you are putting on the event, however, do your guests know what is in it for them?

  • Will they get to taste wines that are not usually available to them?
  • Will they be given information about the company, wines or people? Or little known facts with which they can impress their friends.
  • Is it a chance for guests to talk to the winemaker or other cellar staff?
  • Is it an opportunity for them to bring some of their friends with them?

Your customers have lots of things they could do rather than come to your winery for an event. Reminding your guests of what they should expect from the event, most times results in more attendees, and, if you interact with your guests and make them feel welcome and special, it will result in more sales.

In addition to making your guests feel special (because after all, they are special), make it easy for them to buy your wine. 

Create procedures that make the purchasing process easy and quick.

  • Print out order forms and present them to the guests with any event information. 
  • The guests complete the order before they get to the cash register, which saves a lot of time and the lines to buy stay shorter.
  • The cashier hands back the order form that has been stamped paid along with a receipt.
  • The guests hand the order form to the people packing the wines.
  • After the wine is packed the customers take the wine and their receipt, while the order form stays with the packers.

Not only does this save time; it also gives you a printed record of everything you have sold in case there is a problem.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Getting The Most Out of Your Events
01 July, 2019

As event season is already upon us, it’s important that we are ready to ensure the success of the events we work hard to produce. Here are a few tips when hosting events.

Create An Atmosphere

You want your guests to associate your winery with good wine, pleasant people and a great atmosphere. Guests attend your events to taste wine in a comfortable atmosphere.

Owners and staff – to create atmosphere:

  • Keep smiling
  • Be real
  • If you don’t like people, stay in the cellar.

Think About Your Attitude

  • If you are in a bad mood or impatient with guests, even if you try to hide it, your guests will feel it.
  • It’s okay to have an attitude as long as it is a good one.
  • Practice being patient for three weeks before the event.

Sales Tips

  • Spend 18 seconds with each guest (or group) giving them your full attention. It may not seem like a long time, but it is longer than you think.
  • Tell guests you are glad they came to the event.
  • Give each guest or group a snippet of information that gives them reasons to buy the wine.
  • Have plenty of staff on hand. Waiting makes people irritable…
  • Irritable people usually don’t buy wine.

Things to Remember

  • Smile constantly even if you think no one is looking.
  • Keep the bathrooms clean.
  • If there is a problem with a guest handle it quickly.
  • Keep the grounds and winery tidy.
  • Don’t put the food next to the bathrooms and don’t put the wine tasting next to the band.

Other tips

  • Consider giving each attendee an order form. It saves time at the cash register. Your guests can decide what they want and complete the form (with their name and phone number before they get to the cash register. They give the cashier the form to ring up the wine they have ordered.
  • The guests then take the form marked paid and their receipt to where the wine is being distributed. The packer packs the wine and keeps the order form (they keep their receipt.) If there are any problems you have a record of their order.

Have great events and sell lots of wine.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Selling to Different Generations (Part Two)
24 June, 2019

Last week I presented tips on selling to the Silent Generation and Boomers. Today we examine selling to the younger generations – Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z.

Gen X

Gen X sometimes seems to get lost between Baby Boomers and Millennials. However, it is time to start paying attention as according to American Express, “Gen X controls 31% of the total income dollar in the U.S. economy.”

With this generation, it is important to be authentic as they can easily spot when you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes or charging more than they think your products are worth.

Gen X also is looking for security for themselves and their families as they cruise into middle age. When they buy, they want to be reassured that they are making a sensible purchase. They don’t mind paying the price, as long as they are convinced that the product is worth it.


The Millennials are ‘the why generation.’ They want to know why they should buy the product and how it will benefit them. The story that you tell them about your products and company is as important (if not more important) than the product itself.

Telling them why you choose to do what you do is an important part of the sales process. To quote Simon Sinek, who wrote the book, “Starting With Why,” when you tell someone What and How, you educate them; when you tell them Why, you inspire them.

When someone is inspired, they are much more likely to buy.

Millennials are on the phone much of time, so encourage them to give you their cell number so you may text them (not too often). They will also respond to emails, if (and it’s a big if) you have a strong subject line. Additionally, blogging is a great way to keep up with Millennials.

Gen Z

The leading edge of Gen Z is now old enough to drink and buy wine. This is a different generation as they are more ethnically diverse. By 2020, Gen Z will account for 40% of all consumers. This generation is more cost conscious and they like to feel and see what they are buying in person, rather than do all their buying online. They are willing to spend money on products but want to know that they are worth what they are paying. They also are concerned with ecology. This generation also likes to multi-task and their attention span is about 7 seconds. When speaking to this generation, present your main points to them quickly.

While every generation is different, we all have one thing in common: We want to be treated well and appreciated. Do that, and you won’t go wrong.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Selling to Different Generations (Part One)
17 June, 2019

One of the most important aspects of creating converts (those customers who spread the word of your winery far and wide) is creating a connection with them during their first visit. When you do, they will return and end up as converts to your winery and your brand.

Just as people are different, so are the generations. Today’s blog delves into what the different generations want and gives some general ideas of how to connect with them.

Starting with the oldest generation, known as the Silent Generation. While the youngest of this generation is in its mid 70’s, they still consider themselves interesting and interested in what you have to say (if you show interest in them). 

•  They look to you for information presented simply and directly

•  Use language that is more professional than casual

•  Take some time to get to know them so they can connect with you

•  They may seem old to you, but that is not how they feel about themselves.

Next up are the Baby Boomers. This is the generation born after WWII. The oldest of them are 73 and the youngest in their late 50s. While they may not be buying as much as they used to, they are still a very viable market.

As with every generation, Baby Boomers are different from one another. However, there are things you can do or say that will resonate and create a relationship.

•  Most Boomers use digital devices frequently. They are interested in modern products, services, and means of communication. Tell them about your latest innovation in winemaking or your wine club.

•  Consider email as a primary form of communication as 95% of Boomers use email regularly. They find it an easy way to communicate and receive communication.

•  Boomers not only want to know about the products, they also want to know who you are (personally and/or the winery) and what you stand for. A personal relationship is all part of the journey to the sale for Boomers.

Next week we follow up with Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Brand Ambassadors
30 May, 2019

No winery can have too many brand ambassadors. People who will tell the world about your wine. Usually, we think of brand ambassadors as customers who are connected to your winery and love your wines. However, all your winery employees should be brand ambassadors for your company, for the wines, and for the service you provide.

To create effective brand ambassadors it’s important to train your employees in how they can be effective in this role. After all, your employees know the business, they know their jobs and if their friends and neighbors are looking for ideas for what wines to buy, or where to take visiting guests wine tasting, who better to ask than someone who works in the industry and lives on the same street.

With the right information and training your employees can be a great addition to your marketing and public relations efforts. It is up to management to train employees in the arts of brand ambassadorship.


Does everyone who works for you – from the cellar crew and office staff to the hospitality staff and part time workers (either tasting room or crush) who work occasionally – have all the information they need to become a brand ambassador? In training sessions ask the staff members to write down the mission and vision of the company. Or ask the staff to answer two questions:

  • Who are we?
  • What do we do?

Collect the statements they have written and read them out loud (without identifying the writers).

This will give you a good idea of everyone’s interpretation of your mission and vision statements.

Encourage a Social Presence

Hold a social media training session with guidelines that provide the information on what may or may not be shared on social media. Encourage your employees, in their role as brand ambassadors, to post information about exciting, interesting or funny things that have happened at the winery.

  • Share information
  • Put out one email each week (or more if needed) keeping everyone up to date on what is happening in the company (photos, news, videos, etc.) Employees can share this information with their followers.

If you have a blog or other content you post to your customers, feature information about individual employees as they are more likely to share this information with friends and family.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Reading Body Language
24 May, 2019

I found an interesting article from Entrepreneur online this week. Written by Travis Bradberry, the article discusses how we learn more through body language than we can through what people tell us verbally.

There is lots of useful information for all of us who have any dealings with people. For instance, according to research conducted through UCLA “… only 7% of communication is based on the words we say. 38% comes from tone of voice and the remaining 55% comes from body language.”

Here are some of the things that you should be looking for when you are interacting with guests, co-workers, friends, and family:

Crossed Arms & Legs: Suggest the person is resistant to your ideas. Psychologically, crossed legs or arms signal that the person is emotionally or physically blocked from what is in front of them. According to the researchers, this is not intentional, which is why it is so revealing.

Look for Genuine Smiles: A genuine smile reaches the eyes and causes the skin around the eyes to crinkle. If those crinkles aren’t there, the person may just be being polite, but not really engaged or agreeing.

Eye Contact: Too little eye contact can mean that you have lost people’s interest. If they are busy looking around when you are talking, you may be giving them too much information and they are getting bored. If so ask them a question.

On the other hand, because many of us were told to look our parents in the eye when we were young (they told us they could tell when we were lying), people may hold eye contact longer than it is comfortable in an attempt to cover up the fact that they are not being completely honest with you.

When you are interacting with people (especially customers), hone your observation skills and look for signals that might mean that they are uncomfortable, bored or otherwise disengaged. It may be time to ask questions and let them talk for a while to get a better idea of how the interaction is going.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

D.A.R.E. To Sell, Part Two: Tips to Increase Sales through the Tasting Room
17 May, 2019

The major focus in wineries is the process of making wine. You put a lot of time and energy into producing the best wines possible and doing a good job of that.

This week’s blog is a follow on from last week’s, which presented the first two parts of the D.A.R.E. acronym (Don’t Assume, and Ask Questions). We talked about the importance of not making assumptions about what brings your guests into your winery, what they know about wine and what will make them buy.

Today I am following up with Reach for the Sale, and Explain Benefits.

Many people who visit wineries may not have the knowledge or the confidence to know how good a wine really is. By going a little further to get the sale we can raise sales considerably. And in these days of an abundance of competition, it is important that you remind guests of how good your wine is.

Reach For The Sale…

By reaching for the sale I mean ensuring that you have given your guests all the reasons why they should buy your wines by reminding them of the things that they may have forgotten or not paid attention to, the first time you said them.

•Review buying reasons and are meaningful to your guests. If something you have said resonated, then be sure to remind them of these things. It could be that it is a varietal that they particularly like, or a wine that fits the meals they enjoy.

• Summarize the value. Remind guests of what is important to them (medals & reviews), wine that ages well or is ready to drink now. A varietal not readily available at other wineries.

Explain Benefits   

There are lots of benefits to your guests for buying your wines. Make sure they know the benefits that are most important to them.

• If price is important to your guests remind them that you have special pricing on six bottles or case purchases or if they join the wine club.

Note: Talk in terms of special or preferential pricing rather than discounts. Discounts tend to lower the value in the minds of consumers, whereas special pricing is more of a bonus for them.

• Let guests know if the wine is only available at the winery or in short supply.

Have a great selling season this year and make every interaction count.*

A tip of the glass from me to you!

*If you are interested in scheduling sales or customer service training for your sales staff, drop me an email at

D.A.R.E. To Sell: Tips to Increase Sales through the Tasting Room
10 May, 2019

As it is already May and wineries throughout North America are getting busier and busier, it seems like a good time to remind you of methods of interacting with guests that can and will increase sales in your hospitality center.

Many people who work in wineries do so because of their own interests in wine, their desire to be in the industry and of course the advantage of being able to buy wine at less than full price. Conversely, many of your guests may not know a lot or anything about wine so their level of interest in wine may not be as deep. This disparity between what guests want to experience and what we think they want to experience can, many times, lead to a disconnect, which it turn leads to guests leaving without buying anything.

Over the years I have created many handouts to use in my winery training seminars. This handout, D.A.R.E. To Sell is one of my most popular with winery staff. 

D.A.R.E. is an acronym for:

     ● Don’t Assume • Ask Questions • Reach for the Sale • Explain Benefits ●

Don’t Assume … 

   •       …Your guests remember everything you have told them during their visit, even before they leave.

   •       …Guests know a lot about wine in general or your wine in particular.

   •       …Your guests feel comfortable asking questions about the wines or prices of wine.

   •       …Every guest has read the tasting notes or wine club information.

   •       …Guests have faith in their abilities to judge that your wines are worth the price you are charging.

Ask Questions…

•       Questions should be asked of your guests as their visit proceeds. Long before the end of the visit, you should know their interest in and relationship with wine.

•   Establish a rapport with guests along the way by creating a personal relationship. People connect first with people, then with the product or company.

   •       Discover what is important to your guests; what they like and what they know.

People come to wineries for all different reasons. Some may be very wine-savvy while others have never stepped inside a winery before.

   •       Allow for a two-way conversation.

   •       Use the information you have collected from your guests to help them create a    closer relationship with wine and your winery.

Next week, part two of D.A.R.E. To Sell: 

Reaching for the Sale

Explain Benefits

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Hiring the Right Staff
03 May, 2019

As it comes into the selling season, I thought a quick blog on some of the things to look for when you are hiring new hospitality employees might be helpful. I go into lots and lots of wineries and other businesses and am fascinated by the range of customer service I receive.

When your company is looking for hospitality and/or sales employees it is important that you choose people who not only have good sales skills but also have great people skills. In fact, people skills should be number one on the list of attributes. Someone with good people skills usually is a good salesperson.

Good people skills include a genuine interest in the guests: Many people who get into hospitality at wineries are much more interested in wine than they are in the guests.

Well-developed communication skills

These are people who can easily strike up a conversation so that the points they get across are the ones that are of interest to the guests. This means they listen at least as much as they talk.


Applicants should have the ability to quickly assess individual guests through what they say, how they say it, facial expressions and body language. The host can treat them in the way they (the guess) want to be treated. If the guest wants to tell you about their interaction with wine, let them. Then give them the information that is relative to their interests.


Being flexible should be a well-honed trait. The employee has to be able to relate to lots of different types of people, some gregarious, some nervous, some wine experts, some who have never had a glass of wine. Each one needs to be dealt with differently. The employee should be adaptable to provide the individual experience that most guests want.

Gentle Persuasion

The employee should be able to convince the guest of the value of the product (remember that value does not necessarily mean price) based on an understanding of the guests’ wants and needs. I say gentle persuasion because even if the guests do not buy (this time) we want them to come back or to tell their friends.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Be A Great Manager (part two)
29 April, 2019

This week we continue on the topic of managing employees. Last week’s blog discussed giving credit where credit is due, which is the first rule of good management in my mind. I also wrote about breaking bad news to employees (do it early so they have time to accustom themselves to the changes) and being clear about expectations (employees are happier when they know what is expected of them).

Be A Part Of The Team

As well as managing a team, you should want to have a good relationship with your team. Have the same standards for your work as you have for the work of your employees. Help your employees to increase their strengths and work on their weaknesses. It is easier for most of us to see weaknesses in others, so be sure to look inside (or ask your boss) for your weaknesses and how you can be stronger in those areas.

Help Your Team Excel

As a manager you are the leader and the cheerleader. Spend as much time telling your team what they are doing well as you spend telling them how they can improve. Start each staff meeting with a few minutes for everyone to talk about what they think the team is doing well and what they believe the team could improve upon. When the ideas for improvement come from them, they are more likely to follow through with change.

Also encourage them to improve their skills. Provide information or bring in speakers to help them improve. If they are given the opportunity to grow and learn in the job, they will be happier and more productive.

Workplaces Can Be Fraught With Conflict

It is common for managers to be more compatible with some employees than they are with others. However, try not to let your personal feelings get in the way and judge each employee on how well they do their job and their value to the company. Also help employees to resolve conflict with each other.

Life Is Not Always Perfect

You and your employees have personal lives and sometimes things go wrong. Be aware of what is going on in your employees’ personal lives. Cut them some slack when you know that the problems they are experiencing are temporary and may not be of their own making. Do the same for yourself, when you are going through a rough patch.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Be A Great Manager (part one)
19 April, 2019

Being a boss, at any level, is rarely easy. There are times when you wish your employees would just do what you want them to do and there are times that your employees wished that you understood the problems that implementing new rules and regulations may result in. As a middle manager there can also be times that you have to implement procedures that you do not agree with, as the requests for change come from higher up the chain.

Managing people sometimes has its drawbacks, though, when done well, it also has its rewards. From an article on the Insperity website, here are a few tips on managing staff. Even if you are not working as a manager but as part of a group, these ideas on how to manage may help your working relationships with your fellow employees. If you cannot find anything positive then that employee may not be right for you.

Credit Where It Is Due

If employees are doing a good job, let them know that you have noticed. You may also tell them that you have passed the information on their performance up the chain. Complimenting employees on their work motivates them to work harder and will make them happier in their jobs. Find positive things to say about all employees. Happy employees make for happy customers.

Breaking Bad News

Sometimes managers have to institute procedures that they know the employees won’t like. In these cases, how you break the news is just as, if not more important, than what you say. Be clear when you present the information and do it in person. Take the time to meet with your staff to let them know what is going on.

Additionally, giving your team the time to air their views on the subject and giving credence and feedback to their opinions, at least makes employees feel that they are being heard.

Be Clear About Expectations

If employees know what you expect, these expectations are more likely to be met. When you implement new procedures, ensure that you do so well before the new procedures are put into action. That way your staff has the opportunity to think through what it means to them and how they can best handle the changes. With everyone thinking about the new procedures they may come up with some ideas to improve on them.

Next week’s blog will present more tips and ideas on managing people and systems.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Perking Up Your Email Subject Lines
12 April, 2019

I received an email from a winery, the other day. As I receive lots of emails from wineries, I don’t always read them right away. However, the subject line caught my attention.

Email subject lines are not always designed to make you open them. Here are a few from wineries that have popped up in my Inbox lately:

• Spring Release Weekend • Need To Restock Your Wine Supply? • Have You Tried Our Selections? • Easter Wine Release • It’s Spring, Save 15%… • “Spring Release • One Day Sale • April Events 

If I were a follower of any of these wineries I may well check out the offering (if I had the time). However, if it was not a winery I was particularly familiar with or did not usually buy from, I may not bother to even look.

However, I did get an email from a winery that caught my attention and I opened it to read the post. What I saw was, “We Climbed 1,400 Feet…” which was all that would fit into the size of my Inbox. However it was enough to make me want to find out what the people had climbed 1400 feet for. The whole subject line was: “We Climbed 1,400 Feet for the Best Pinot…” The post was about a vineyard that the winery in questions bought grapes from. The vineyard was at a 1,400 feet elevation. The post went on to describe the family who own the vineyard as well as the location (the facing, cool temps, bright light, etc.). Good job on the subject line and the post! It made me more interested in your winery. 

An interesting subject line may bring (should bring) more guests to your site and possibly to your winery. Think about what you can say that is different. Some of the ideas for subject lines that encourage people to open the email include:

  • Make readers curious: See what we have in store for you
  • Alliteration: Catch a compelling Cab
  • Mystery: It’s all over on June 5th
  • Retarget: You missed a great wine (this is for people who abandon their cart).

Start thinking about email subject lines that can improve your sales and increase the connections between you and your customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Makes Guests Buy – Part Two
05 April, 2019

Last week’s blog (March 27) talked about three of the six most important things that guests are looking for when they buy your products. In that article, I covered Identity (how your products relate to how guests see themselves), Quality (know what quality means to your guests before you start to sell), and Experience (guests remember a good experience).

Part two follows up with three additional things that guests want. The first is Connectivity / Community. As a winery, you want to encourage people to connect with your products, your employees and your business. One of the reasons why wine clubs are popular is because it gives people who enjoy wine the chance to meet other people who enjoy wine. These days it may be harder to create a community; we don’t all know our neighbors, we don’t necessarily go to church on Sunday and we don’t always live close to our family. Wine clubs and wine events give people a community they can connect with.

Connectivity is also the reason you have a Facebook page for the business, post on Instagram and Twitter, just to name a few options for social media connections. Keep connecting in every way you can and create communities of customers.

What Need does your wine fill for your guests? You have a lot of guests. These people buy your wine for many different reasons and to fill many different needs. Find out what their needs are and add the information to their customer record. The more you know about them, the more you will be able to meet their needs.

To finish off, think about Value and what it means to your customers. The idea of value varies from one customer to another. To some, price is value, to others scarcity is value and others may value service. Ask everyone working in the winery what is of value to them in working for the company. You will get many different answers and the same is true for your customers. Don’t assume that someone else’s definition of value matches yours or the last customer you served. 

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Makes Guests Buy?
29 March, 2019

If you want to be good at hospitality and/or sales, it helps to have a genuine interest in people, rather than having an interest only in the product you are selling. Otherwise, it is likely you will focus on the product, rather than focusing on what is really important… the people who walk into your business.

There are countless reasons why people choose to buy. Your job is to find out the reasons that are most important to the people to whom you are selling. On your part, Assumptions play a big role in whether you believe that someone will or will not buy. These assumptions, unconsciously transmitted to your guests, may encourage them not to buy; thereby confirming your assumptions. Congratulations, you were right but unfortunately, you lost the sale.

In short… What you Think influences what your guests Do. If you have to assume, you might as well assume that your guests will buy, that works out better for both of you.

According to an article in INC magazine by Kaitlin Smith, there are six major reasons why guests want to buy your product.

The first one, Identity, talks about how your products relate to how the guests see themselves or who they aspire to be. If your guests are new to buying wine, give them information that will teach them about certain wines and increase their confidence in their choices. They can also use these interesting facts to impress their friends.

Quality is another reason to buy. However, before you can sell the product’s quality you need to know what quality means to the guests you are interacting with.

Quality is what makes your product worth the price that you charge.  Wine comes at all different price points and all different levels of quality. Discover what your guests consider quality and promote your wines in ways that meet their standards.

The third reason for this week’s blog is the Experience. You are not only presenting a product you are (or should be) creating and presenting a memorable experience. Promote the experience that will make your guests return, and talk about your wines and winery to others. Think about where you like to shop and why. How have those companies laid out their experience to make you want to come back?

Next week’s blog week will talk about the importance of Connectivity, Value, and Need.  In the meantime start practicing the lessons of identifying guests opinions of themselves, how your present quality and create the experience.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Motivation Starts with You
22 March, 2019

There was an interesting article a while back in INC Magazine on motivating employees. The article contained a lot of sound advice. However, an owner or manager is not always around to motivate staff or they may not always have time. Also… who is going to motivate management so they can motivate the employees?

While motivation from managers and owners always helps, if you want to perform well, you need to motive yourself; no matter what position you may hold in the company. So here are some ideas on how to stay motivated, rather than waiting for someone else to come along and help with that.

Rewards: You can reward yourself when you do something well or finish a task. As I work for myself, I have a reward system in place for when I complete a project. It may be something small, such as reading a chapter of a book or talking a short walk. If it is a big project I may take myself out to lunch.

You can give yourself points that can be accumulated until you reach a pre-decided goal.

Create A Goal: Most people work better when they are working towards their own goals rather than someone else’s. Decide what goals you want to accomplish today, this week or this year. Goals can be big or small. You may create a personal goal for the month as well as a daily goal. Your goal may be to start or finish a task that you don’t particularly want to do, or have been putting off. There is always a certain satisfaction when something gets done.

Think Beyond Your Job: Ask questions about the overall goals of the company. Find out what part you can play in making these goals a reality. Talk to your manager about your work goals and how they can benefit the company.

When motivation comes from the inside it is more rewarding and you will be happier for it. You know when you have done a good job and so do your customers.

I encourage managers and owners to notice when staff members stay motivated, especially in times that are frustrating or disappointing.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Creating Unique Interactions
17 March, 2019

The best thing about working in hospitality is that we get to interact with different people all the time. If you don’t find that to be a positive, perhaps hospitality is not for you.

We can, however, fall into patterns of behavior that are not always easy to break. We get used to presenting our products, talking about the company and giving people information about the area. However, it is important that we remember that each of our guests is different, including the ones who visit together, especially if it is a man and a woman.

Men and women are different and the rapport we build with each of them is built in different ways. Treating people respectfully is always important. It does not matter how much they know or do not know about our product or even about the type of product we sell. If they are treated well they will come back or recommend us to others.

Most women prefer to create relationships and are more likely to buy if they feel they have been able to form that relationship. While men, overall, are more interested in knowing facts. Additionally, men are more mission and task-oriented, whereas women are more discovery-oriented. The man may have come in with certain wines in mind and stick to those, whereas the woman may taste wines that she has never tasted before and broaden her interest. This means we may be able to sell them wines, they hadn’t known about prior to their visit.

Let’s say a couple visited your winery and the man does most of the talking. However, that does not mean he is, necessarily, the decision maker. It is not always easy to discern who the decision maker is and we don’t do ourselves any favors if we make assumptions.

Keep an open mind and try to meet the different wants and needs of all your guests. It will pay off in increased sales and more loyal customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Words of Wisdom
08 March, 2019

I recently read a Facebook post from Tina Caputo. For many years, Tina was the editor for Vineyard & Winery Management and she is a great writer. Tina had a really important point for any business looking to interest the media in their company or products, regardless of the type of media. Her post read:

This isn’t a rant just for wineries, but for any type of business that cares about being included in media features. Please, please, for the LOVE OF GOD, do not list info@ as your only email contact, or make people fill in one of those horrible online forms to get in touch with you. They make us feel like our messages are going into a black hole, because they usually are. OK, I’m done now.”

I wholehearted agree with Tina. In addition, it is not only the media that should be subjected to messages going into a black hole; it is also customers and prospective customers. While you may ask them to complete a form, make sure that, for those who don’t want to do that, there are other ways of getting in touch with you.

Lately, I was doing some research on a winery that wants my help in marketing their wine. The first thing I do when I am approached by a winery is to check out their website. After doing so, I went to “Contact Us.” There was the dreaded form for me to fill out. I completed the form and pushed the submit button. At that time, a message came up saying that the page was not available. There was an info at email option so I sent an email saying that I was unable to sign up for their list on their website. I did not hear from them, so after a week I tried again, still the page was not working. I then sent another email. It has been over two weeks now and I am still waiting.

At least I know why they are not selling any wine! No matter how good the wines, customers have choices and they will choose the wineries that treat them well and follow up.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Searching For The Lost
01 March, 2019

If cases of wine were missing from your winery, would YOU start a search to find out what happened to them? Of course, you would. The idea of cases of wine disappearing without a trace is not good. After all, you have a lot of money tied up in the product.

So… what do you do when customers are missing (i.e. no longer buying from you)? Do you go searching for them to find out why? Customers may stop buying from you for many reasons. It may be that they have been busy and just haven’t had time. It could be that they were not treated well on their last visit or they may have been ill. There are many reasons for customers to stop buying, though if you don’t follow up to find out why you won’t get them back.

Fortunately, with CRM systems it is easier to research who is buying what, when and how. Use your CRM system to regularly check your customers and see who has stopped buying, lately.

If they are regular customers, pick up the phone and call them. You may say that you hadn’t seen or heard from them lately and wanted to check that everything was well. Your customers will appreciate the call and tell their friends that you called. One of the reasons that your regular customers are regular customers is that they like you. They will be gratified that you called.

If you don’t like the idea of picking up the phone, send an email or contact them through social media; you can private message them through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

You might even want to send a personal note. As hardly anyone does that anymore, it certainly will be memorable.

Once you find out why they no longer visit or buy from you (perhaps they have moved and cannot get wine shipped to that state or country), you have the option to offer an incentive to come back.

Whatever you decide to do, do something to re-engage with these customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Lessons To Be Learned
22 February, 2019

We visited the Department of Motor Vehicles last week. We had made an appointment as there are almost 500,000 people in the county in which we live and two DMV offices, so they tend to be busy.

We arrived, twenty-five minutes early and got into the appointment check-in line. By the time we got to the person whose job it was to check us in we were already ten minutes past our scheduled appointment time.

Spending as much time as we did in line gave me lots of time to observe the person working reception. A couple was at the counter while I was standing in line that was having difficulty understanding what the DMV employee was trying to explain.

Lesson One:  Vary your language

If you are talking to people who are having a hard time understanding what you are saying, do not keep repeating the same phrase over and over again. It may be that English was not their first language or that the terms used were not familiar to them. Telling them in the same words is not going to help.

The next person to go up to counter said something to the employee at the desk about why it was taking so long as they were worried about missing their appointment. The clerk’s snappish and loud reply, which could be heard by everyone in the long line was, “Because no one wants to work here… we have nine vacancies.”

Lesson Two: Need to know

As a customer, I don’t need to know that employees do not like their jobs. Truly, I did not want to be there either. If we could have taken care of everything online we would have.

After twenty minutes in line, we approached the counter and explained that we wanted to register a vehicle. We were given a number and told to wait until called. We also said we would like to change our address (which involves completing a form and getting a little card that we wrote the new address on). We were curtly informed that changing the address was not stated as part of the reason for our appointment and that we would have to wait in another line to get the form.

Lesson Three: Streamline systems so they work for the customers

If you can simplify your procedures to the advantage of your customers, do so. It would not have been difficult to have a stack of the change of address forms at the check-in desk to hand to the customer, letting them know at the same time where to return them.

I understand that it cannot be easy to work at the DMV and hope that if I have to make another visit that they have managed to hire more and lessened the stress level of their employees.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

If You Have To Assume… Make Positive Assumptions
15 February, 2019

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesperson – not the attitude of the prospect.”- W. Clement Stone

I am not sure that there is anything more frustrating than entering a business of any kind wanting to buy products and realizing that the salesperson has already decided that you are not a viable customer.

This happens more often than we might think. Many salespeople judge prospective customers as buyers or non-buyers on any number of factors that are not reliable gauges.

Here are some questions for you? As a salesperson, what is your attitude towards your guests? 

  • Do you judge guests as buyers or non-buyers when they walk in the door?
  • Does your attitude to the guests change based on your assumption that they will or will not purchase?
  • If you answered “no”… are you sure?

Most of us judge people automatically. We have made assumptions more than once in our lives. At one time or another, we have been proved wrong and had to revise our ideas or points of view.

Making assumptions about whether your guests will buy or not when they visit your winery cannot only prove you wrong; it can also cost you and your employer money. If commissions are part of your overall earning and you want to make an assumption about your guests, assume that they are going to buy.

When someone you have never met walks into your winery, you don’t have the information you need to decide the likelihood of their buying or not, regardless of how they are dressed or how they sound. Even when you have asked them a couple of questions, such as:

  • Have they been wine tasting before?
  • Do they regularly drink wine?

If they answer no to both questions, it is still difficult to know whether or not they will buy. While they may not drink wine themselves, they may have twin daughters who are getting married at the same time and have invited 300 people to the wedding. All of the wedding guests are wine drinkers (or certainly could be if someone else was paying for the wine).

If you have to make assumptions, make positive ones. Assume your guests are going to buy and treat them well. If you do, they are much more likely to buy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Keeping Front of Mind Awareness
08 February, 2019

In today’s world, people are inundated with information, advertising, and promotion of products. Without regular reminders of the benefits of your products or services, you may not have the top of mind awareness you need.

There are many ways to promote your wines, events, etc. Some of these methods are costly, while others can have little or no cost to you. However, regardless of the price of the promotional piece, it boils down to effectiveness. Are the promotions you are presenting effectively working for you and are they cost effective?

One of the most cost-effective and powerful ways to encourage customers to purchase more and potential customers to become buyers is through testimonials, reviews or comments from others about your wines. The people who have purchased and liked your wines and are willing to put in writing their opinions or experiences with your wines or events can and will bring you new customers.

How often are you asking your regular customers for their thoughts on a product they purchased from you? How many times, when a customer makes a comment (either in person or over the phone) do you ask them if you can use their comment in an advertising or promotional piece? My guess is, not as often as you should.

Any positive testimonial or comment can, with the agreement of the person who made the comment or wrote the testimonial, be used in your newsletters, advertising, promotion, social media, etc. to encourage new customers.

The people you ask for and use to endorse your wines don’t have to be celebrities. Your regular customers’ opinions are compelling in encouraging others to take a chance on your wines.

Start collecting these powerful and inexpensive testimonials today. Send emails to your best customers asking them for a quote about what part your wines play in their lives or how they like them. Ask contributors if you can use their names or initials with the contributions. Then start using these reviews or comments in all your marketing and promotional pieces.  Keep track of what works and use them again.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Importance of Your Logo
01 February, 2019

Is your logo aging well? A good logo is a visual representation of your company’s identity.  It provides information for potential customers: makes them feel comfortable doing business with you and appeals to their senses. A good logo can create many different emotions in your customers.

One logo I particularly like is the Amazon logo. The type is clear and easy to read but my favorite part is the curved line underneath the word Amazon that appeals to me. It reminds me of a smile (purposely I am sure), which in turn makes me feel that my dealings with Amazon will be satisfactory.

The Amazon logo is not elaborate though it does that job it is supposed to do. It makes me feel more comfortable buying from them.


When judging a logo option, the first thing to keep in mind is how memorable the logo is. You want it to be instantly recognizable in the long term. If consumers see it out of context it may take them a while, but they will remember.

It doesn’t have to be fancy to be memorable. Think of the Apple logo, a namesake logo, it is just an apple with a bite taken out of it. Could it be simpler or easier to remember?


A good logo will somehow connect the consumer to what is important to your company and your customers. When designing a logo, think about what you want it to tell your customers about the company, products, people, etc. 

Simple & Adaptable

You want to be able to use your logo everywhere and anywhere. You should be able to size it up or down, even change the color if necessary.

Up to Date

Every so often a logo may be in need of an update. Just a little tweak if it has become dated. Google “images of Betty Crocker” and you will see that Betty has changed considerably over the years, though there are certain things that remain the same. Betty always has dark hair, shorter than shoulder length, a white blouse or shirt under a red blazer or sweater. Betty is always recognizable as Betty, though she has changed considerably since 1936.

Think about your logo and what it should signify to your customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Most Important Elements of Sales
25 January, 2019

In many wineries, sales training is sketchy at best, so this week’s blog covers some of the basics of sales training that are more often than not overlooked.

1.  If we want to sell, we should listen more than we talk.

Some sales trainers say customers should do 80% of the talking and some say 60%.

This leaves either 20% or 40% of the talking to the salesperson.

Stick within either of these percentages to allow ample time for customers to say what they want or need to say.

2.         Customers may already know a great deal about your business.

There are many ways for consumers to amass both good and bad information about your company. Before employees launch into a pitch for the business, they should discover what the guests already know. That way sales personnel can affirm or correct their perceptions.

4.         First, ask questions then, provide information

If you don’t know what the potential customer wants, it is difficult to provide the reasons to buy that s/he needs. It is a waste of both the guests’ and the salesperson ’s time to present information that is not wanted or needed.      Additionally, the salesperson builds a relationship when s/he take a few minutes to discover the needs of the customer.

5.         Discover the wants and needs of the customer

The salesperson can save time and be more helpful if they do a little digging into what the customer is looking for before making any suggestions. Discover:

  • The reason the guests chose to visit
  • What do they expect from the product they are buying?
  • Their priorities
  • Best product possible?
  • Price range?
  • Additional benefits?
  • How customers make decisions: Do they quickly decide what they want? Is thorough research important to them? Have they been shopping for the product at other places?
  • If there is more than one person participating in the discussion: Who is the primary decision maker?

6.         Know your products

You now have enough information from the guest to know whether or not you can help them. This is the time to show them the products you have that will fit their wants, needs, and budget as well as their personality and self-image.

7.         Congratulate the customer(s) on her/his choice

Let them know that they have made an excellent decision and that they will be happy with their product.

Of course, there is a lot more to sales. However, starting with these simple techniques will increase sales and create long term, return customers. Happy selling!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Your Guests Want From You?
18 January, 2019

The title of this blog, “What Your Guests Want From You” is somewhat disingenuous. All businesses have many different types of customers, though in wineries there are even more variables. Coming through your doors you may have everyone, from people who have never been to a winery before and/or don’t drink wine, to those who study wine and know more about wine generally than you do.

When new people step through the door, you have no idea why they have decided to visit. Your job is to quickly discover what brought them in and what they expect to achieve. They could have walked in the door for any number of reasons that may or may not involve buying wines.

Before you start telling visitors about your business and products, find out about them.  Start by entering into a conversation that combines asking questions about their reasons for visiting and information on how you can meet their needs.

Here are some of the different types of guests you may encounter:

Newbies: Never been to a winery before. Don’t drink wine on a regular basis and don’t know anything about wine. Rather than this being a time to fill their heads with wine facts, discover:

  • What their lives are like
  • Why wine has never become a part of it
  • How can you change that.

It may be a lack of confidence and fear of choosing the wrong wine that is keeping them from drinking wine. Give them the information they need to be more confident.

All About The Money: These are people who may come in looking for a bargain. While you may think your wine is a bargain, the important thing is, what do they think? You need to know:

  • What a bargain means to them
  • When they have bought a wine that is outside of their price range and why.

Once you know what is keeping them in a particular price range, 

you can give them reasons to expand their ideas.

Aficionados: These people may want you to listen rather than talk. When you do talk, it may be to point out how your wines meet their criteria:

  • Medals
  • Reviews with high scores
  • Recommendations

Once you know what they like, congratulate them on their knowledge, the quality of the wines they drink or their choice of varietals. Make them feel good about their choices and put your wines into those categories.

Focused: These are the wine drinkers who know what they like and want to see if you have that type of wine. With them, ask about:

  • How wine is a part of their lives
  • Wines they regularly drink
  • How your wines compare.

With the knowledge you gain you are able to create the room for them to expand their tastes slightly into wines that you have that will fit into their focus.

Next week, more ideas.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Customer Differentiation
11 January, 2019

As human beings, we understand that in many ways we are all very much alike. We have the same basic needs for air, water, food, sunshine, etc. However, we like to think of ourselves as individuals, that we are unlike anyone else.  In a word – “unique.”

While many businesses small and large would prefer that people walk into their business, love the products, buy lots of them, stay connected and continue to buy for years to come… that’s not usually how it works. As customers, we are overloaded with different avenues through which we can buy products and one of the few things that makes one business stand out from another is service. How customers are treated when they choose to do business with us is the important thing to them.

Treating each guest or customer who shows an interest in your products or business as an individual, with distinct differences from others, is the best way to create more long-term customers and increase their dependency on your products.

The level of interaction that customers wish to have with your products or business varies by the type of product you have. If you do not wish to have lots of personal interaction with customers, stick to products that are more utilitarian. For example, if I buy a different dishwashing soap and I don’t particularly don’t like it, I will still probably use it until it is gone and it won’t affect my life too much.

However, if I am having an important dinner party and I buy a wine that does not suit the food I have prepared or I find the wine is corked, the negative consequences may be more pronounced.

Think about the people who buy wine from you the way you think about your wines. If you think your wines are special, remember that your customers are too. It is a rare winery that doesn’t think that the wines they make are a cut above the rest. If you think about your customers the same way you will use the same care and attention when interacting with your customers as you do with your wines.

Next week, the blog will continue to talk about the different consumer categories and how to sell to them.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Small Investment… BIG RETURN
04 January, 2019

The Facts

Is going to be an interesting year for the wine sales in the United States. Reports are saying that wine production is increasing in the U.S. with more wineries opening every year and wine imports to the U.S. are increasing. A May 2018 report from the Wine Institute noted that wine available for sale in the U.S. from all U.S. production sources and wine imported to the U.S. by foreign producers — grew 1% to 403.4 million cases in 2017.

As of 2018, there are 9,654 bonded wineries in the United States. This number does not include the virtual wineries without a brick and mortar winery. These producers make their wine at host facilities (i.e. custom crush facilities) and sell through mailing lists, retail stores, email, and over the phone.

It is also expected that individual wineries will see fewer people as wine consumption slows in the Boomers and Matures’ generations while, at present, Millennials and Gen Xers consume more liquor and beer than they do wine. It is expected that Millennials will be the largest group of fine wine by 2026 (only 7 years to go).

What does this mean to you as a winery? 

It means that the majority of wineries have put more effort into selling wine to the guests and customers who take the time to come to the winery or have signed up for the email list.

The Problems

1. In many wineries I visit, I find that people who are supposedly selling wine were hired because they know a lot about wine and want to have a spotlight to talk about what they know. Owners and/or winemakers, who started a winery or make wine, also got into the business because of their love of wine.

Unfortunately, knowing a lot about wine is not a great recommendation for a hospitality/salesperson. While it is important to know about the wine you are selling; it is more important to know about the people to whom you are selling.

2. Guests are overloaded with jargon that they may not understand and probably won’t remember by the time they have made a left turn out of your driveway.

The Result

Guests leave your winery without buying any wine and without a story to tell their friends about your wine. I doubt that this is what you want.

The Solutions

The solution to the problem is two-pronged:

  1. Change your hiring practices, so you are hiring employees who like people even more than they like wine.
  2. Training your hospitality staff is a small investment with a Big Return.

I guarantee that a staff well trained in customer service and sales will sell more wine and create a loyal following for your brand.

If you want more information on training your staff, drop me an email:

A tip of the glass from me to you!

More Tips to Boost Email Engagement
21 December, 2018

Last week’s blog contained ideas to bolster email engagement. This week’s blog offers more ideas that can help. Before we move forward with more ideas, I want to add a little more information about personal stories and the subject line (the most important line in your email).

Open Up To Customers

In your subject line give customers (especially your most loyal customers) information about your lead story. For example the headline might read:

  • “Four things you don’t know about our winemaker”
  • “Why we opted to build our winery in rural New Mexico”
  • “The hospitality staff, a great group of people”
  • “Meet our winery dog, the most popular person (??) at the winery.” 

When you have customers who are loyal to your winery, they want to get to know you and the winery employees. There are lots of places they can find information on your wine, but even on winery websites personal information about owners and employees is woefully absent. Let your customers take a peek “behind the curtain.” Don’t be afraid to let them know when you have made a small mistake or that something unexpected has happened. Picture yourself talking to an individual customer, one that you like and has been buying from you for a long time. What would you tell them in a one-on-one conversation? 

Email Questionnaires

In addition to sending out emails with offers or upcoming sales/events/etc., send an email questionnaire to your customers asking what you can do to better serve them.

Consider sending out these questionnaire emails once every three months to different groups of customers, asking questions that are relevant to the type of customer they are (those who visit regularly, those who purchase at events or those who purchase online.

You may also sort them by how much money they spend annual, and, of course, whether they are club members.

Keep the questionnaire short – 3 questions at most. Think about what would be helpful to know about these groups.

Call to Action

Finally, every email should include a call to action that will keep customers clicking to the next part of the process. Make it easy for them to buy and remember that most people who purchase online discard their cart when they realize they have to pay for shipping.

Let me know how your emails are working for you.

There will be no blog next week as Wednesday is Boxing Day. Have a great holiday week.  Enjoy family, friends and the strangers that come into your winery. Lift a glass of good wine.  Cheers to one and all!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Creating Emails Customers Want to Read
14 December, 2018

Since the broad acceptance of email as the most efficient way to communicate, the medium has grown exponentially. According to an article written by Sharon Hurley Hall, more than 74 trillion emails are sent every year. The numbers of emails being sent continue to go up year after year.

I remember as far back in the early 2000s, asking people at conferences at which I was speaking, “How many of you don’t receive enough emails?” No one ever raised their hand and emails have become much more pervasive since then.

While emails make it easy to send information to your customers, these same customers are also receiving emails from many of your competitors. In the next couple of blogs, I am going to talk about many of the ways you can make your stand out from the crowd.

Create individual emails for different groups of customers

Segmentation of your email list is one of the most important things that you can do. The top 10 to 20% of your customers who buy the most wine and buy more frequently should receive more emails from you than those who purchase once each year. Sending too many emails to infrequent buyers could cause them to buy less rather than more.

Sort your customers by their buying patterns:

  • How often they buy
  • What products they buy
  • When they buy
  • The process (buy through email, in person, over the phone, at events).

Subscribe To Your Competitors Emails

How many emails for businesses that you in some way compete with do you subscribe to and read? Take your 10-20 closest competitors and make sure that you are on their email list. I subscribe to many winery emails and most of them are very much alike. Create your emails to incorporate subjects that others are not.

Personal Stories Connect

Make the lead story that will further connect your customers to your brand. Many of your customers feel connected with your winery and with the people who own or work for the winery. Feature a different employee once per quarter, or solicit stories from our customers about your wine. Use those topics as the opening story though keep the stories short. You can add information about the grapes and the wines further into the email.

People connect with people more quickly than they connect with grapevines. Once you have secured the connection, then move onto the product and what you want their response to be.

Subject line

As I mentioned in my tip last Friday, “47% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone.” That being the case, create a subject line that will connect with recipients and make them want to read more.

Next week, more insights on creating successful emails.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Thanksgiving – A Plethora of Emails
07 December, 2018

I received what seemed like a boatload of emails from wineries over the Thanksgiving and shopping extravaganza long weekend. Some wineries sent me up to five emails in a three or four-day period. Most were touting special pricing on their wines and/or low priced or free shipping.

Offers included:

  •  20% saving with $10 ground shipping
  • Free shipping plus the standard 10% case discount when $150.00 was spent
  • $10 flat rate shipping for gift sets (up to 12 bottles)
  • 5% off on all wines
  • 20% off all wines plus free shipping on 6+ bottles (Black Friday & Cyber Monday)
  • Save $10 on $40 (spent) online
  •  15% off, shipping included on 3+ bottles
  •  1¢shipping on $50 or more plus $10 off on $99 or more.

I also received Cyber Monday prices and Cyber Monday extensions, with the special pricing running through Tuesday.

One California winery did something different: on Black Friday they donated all tasting fees and $5 from each online purchase going to support victims of the Camp Fire (Paradise).

I understand that the Thanksgiving weekend (all the way through Cyber Monday and sometimes Tuesday) is about shopping. More money is spent during these four days (Friday through Monday)than at any other time of the year. So perhaps creating special pricing and/or free shipping options pays dividends. Though if you want your wine to be taken seriously discounting regularly is not the way to promote the quality or overall value. Value is not based solely on price. It is also based on the quality of the product, your reputation in the industry and what bragging rights go along with the purchase.

While it is not surprising that some people buy because of the price. It is not only the price that keeps them buying from you. You still have to have a quality product that fits their lifestyle.

Focus your emails on your customers and what is important to them, rather than what is important to you. 

Next week we will talk more about selling through emails and what information is needed to make it successful.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Working Through Guests’ Price Objections
30 November, 2018

When a guest objects to the price of one of your products, don’t be discouraged. Many times an objection to the price is the first signal that they really want to buy the product you are selling. If the guests were not interested, they would thank you and leave.

For some people, part of the fun of buying is seeing how much they can get off the retail price. They have every intention of buying while they enjoy the back and forth on price.

For the seller, rule one is: Just because guest quibbles over the price, don’t assume that they will not buy if you don’t give them the price they want.

If guests present objections (and price is the most likely) what they are looking for is you, as the seller, to tell them why they should buy it. They want the reasons why it was a good buy, so when their friends ask them why they bought the product they have a list of reasons why they made a wise buy.

This is particularly prevalent when selling wine. Let’s take Cabernet Sauvignon for example. There are so many different price points that for people who don’t know a lot about wine it is hard to discern why a $100.00 bottle of Cabernet is so much better than a $20.00 bottle of Cabernet.

Here are some of the things that may be prompting guests to object to the price:

What’s in it for me?”

It may be that the guests have not internalized the benefits to them when they buy this wine. Our job as a salesperson is to go over the benefits again, rather than the features. It is the benefit to the guests and their lives that will encourage them to buy the wine.

The emotional process of buying has not been addressed

Buying decisions are made in the emotional part of the brain. We prefer to think we are making intellectual decisions, but mostly they are emotional. So speak to the guests about how they feel about wine rather than how they think about it.

Let them know the wine is worth it

What are the reasons your wine is the price it is?

  • Grapes from a well-known vineyard
  • Amazing winemaker
  • Small production
  • Customer and reviewer accolades
  • Fills your whole palate with flavor
  • Not easy to make wine of this quality

Selling on price alone is never a good idea. Discover from your guests what makes them want to buy and sell those benefits and features that fit with their wants and needs.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Customer Engagement Reminders
18 November, 2018

Black Friday and the December holidays are quickly approaching, which means you are busy, busy, busy for a couple of months. As most people seem to be rather stressed at this time, it helps if you go out of your way to be patient, polite and professional with all your customers. Here are a few tips that may help in the busy times.

The Customer May Be Wrong

However, if you have to tell them so, do it in a pleasant way.

Ask Questions

If you know what your customer wants, you are better able to meet their needs quickly and accurately.

Understand the Customers Make Buying Decisions Emotionally

It is easier to think that buying is an intellectual process, though the actual decision is made through the emotions.

Listen More Than You Speak

Let the customer do most of the talking. Try not to interrupt, as it will take longer to get to the root of the request or concern.

Customers Should Feel Appreciated. 

Customers are happier if they feel, Important… Liked… Right. If you can manage all three that is fantastic, though any one of the three will help.

Saying Yes has great power

When you can say Yes to customers, even when the request is simple, the customer feels as if s/he is important to you. Sometimes you have to say no. At those times, find an alternate solution.

Give More Than Is Expected

When you go that extra mile (or even an inch) you receive in return the appreciation of the customer. This means the customer is more willing to buy your products.

Promise Only What You Can Deliver

Don’t overpromise. Better to let customers know if you can’t meet their expectations. However, promise that you will do everything you can to make it happen.


An apology goes a long way to keeping a customer happy, even if you are not at fault.

“I am so sorry this happened, let me see what I can do.”

“I don’t think we can have it (the requested item)  to you by Monday,

but we will ship it to you as soon as it comes in.”

Don’t Forget To Smile

Your smile helps smooth any transaction. So keep smiling and mean it, even when you don’t feel like it.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are Your Employees Motivated?
09 November, 2018

Business owners may spend a lot of time planning ways to motivate staff and managers. However, it seems that starting with why staff members are not motivated should be the first step in the process. If you know why your staff isn’t motivated, it is much easier to put into play the strategies that will change attitudes and banish apathy.

Interestingly enough a Gallup poll found that 70% of US employees were disengaged. Having that many employees who are not motivated to do the best job they can has to have a great impact on customer satisfaction and profits.

Until you understand the reasons for your employees’ lack of motivation it’s going to be hard to change the behavior, especially if the lack of motivation extends to a number of employees in the same company.

Start with a simple employee survey that asks questions such as:

  1. What rewards do you want for your work?

If you don’t know what motivates your employees to perform at top level, you may well be rewarding them in ways that do not resonate with them.

  1. Does your environment encourage motivation?

There may be things that can be changed with the work environment that will encourage a more positive attitude in employees.

  1. How can the company make your job easier?

Many inspirational ideas for a better work environment come from the employees. They are the ones dealing with all the little things that could be better organized. Plus they may have some good ideas on how things can be changed or streamlined. They may not have said anything because no one thought to ask them.

  1. Are they happy with the management style of the company owners or managers?

Management style should vary from employee to employee. Some employees prefer to be macro-managed rather than micro-managed. Find out which employee prefers which style.  Preference for different management styles may also vary from younger to older employees.

Next week’s blog will be about how to motivate employees.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Holiday Sales
05 November, 2018

The scariest thing about Halloween is that it makes us realize how little time we have left in this year. Which means that if you haven’t already rolled out your holiday selling plans now is the time. For those who are not yet thinking about the holidays, here are a few tips.

While the main focus is on December don’t forget that Thanksgiving is coming up first. Information on which of your wines pair well with traditional or untraditional Thanksgiving feasts should already be on your website, in your emails, and in your hospitality center.

On to December. A significant percentage of shoppers have already started their holiday shopping by the end of October and the majority will have started shopping before the end of November, The good news is that the different articles I have been reading about who starts their holiday shopping when all say that many people start early, they do not say that they all finish early.

As wine is the perfect gift for almost any occasion, the sooner you let them know that you can take care of most of the holiday needs, the better. Many of your customers are already thinking about holiday gifts, holiday parties and what they will need.

Send an email now to your customers reminding them of what you can do for them to make buying for the upcoming holidays easier. Include some tips on holiday dinners or other get-togethers (there are lots of sites on the Internet that offer holiday planning ideas). At the same time, let them know that you can solve their gift giving and holiday planning dilemmas by telling them what you have to offer.

  • Add a page to your website that features different options for gifts, complete with gift boxes, etc.
  • Remind them of the timeline for shipping to get their gifts to their destinations on time.
  • Schedule a one-day event on a weekend in mid-November for gift shopping, with a holiday theme. While Black Friday and the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend are big draws, there are also many shoppers who prefer not to fight the crowds.
  • Offer a special holiday shopping day for wine club members.
  • Offer holiday gifts for businesses to give to clients.
  • As the holidays approach, shoot out short weekly emails with tips on fun and festive entertaining.
  • Have information in your hospitality center about your holiday offerings for guests to take with them.

There are many people who don’t like to shop or don’t know what to buy for others.  Make it simple for them to get most of their holiday shopping done in one place and… make that one place your place.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Ramifications of Bad Customer Service
26 October, 2018

As I was wandering through the Internet, I found some great information on customer service on Help Scout. The article was actually a compilation of quotes, facts and statistics from different companies and individuals focused on the ramifications of bad customer service and the benefits of positive engagement with customers. I thought I would pull some of these out for this week’s blog.

American Express Customer Service Barometer (2017)

“More than half of Americans have scrapped a planned purchase transaction because of bad service.”


“74% of people are likely to switch brands if they find the purchasing process too difficult.”

New Voice Media

“After one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again. “

“U.S. companies lose more than $62 billion annually due to poor customer service.”

Those are some powerful numbers and some amazing findings, showing that the attitude companies have towards the importance of positive engagement with customers can seriously affect the bottom line.

It’s important to spend time accessing your company’s customer service through all lines of communication: in person, via email, phone, mail, on social media and in any other ways that you are in touch with your customers.

Every person who works for the winery, no matter what their job, is responsible for being available to help customers if they come into contact with them. Each and every employee should have some customer service training. Though employees who work in the cellar or in the back office may not encounter many visitors, if they happen to run into a visitor, they should make eye contact, smile and be available to help if needed (even if it is merely directing someone to where they want to go).

How long has it been since you did a customer service review in your business? Are you overseeing at least one customer service training session per year for all your employees and offering more training for those who are on the front lines of customer interaction?

Good customer engagement will raise your sales, according to the 2017 Customer Service Barometer from American Express:

7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers good service.

A simple upgrade to your customer service should mean more wine sold, more return customers and a strong uptick to your bottom line.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Customer or Guest? Customer Service or Customer Engagement?
19 October, 2018

The words you use to describe your clients are important.

Some people may dismiss the use of slightly different words such as customer or guest, service or engagement as just semantics. However the words you use influence the way you think and the way you may act towards the people who visit your winery.

Let’s start with the words, customer and guest. The two definitions for a customer that I found in are:

  • a person who purchases goods or services from another…
  • a person one has to deal with.

The definitions of the word guest in the same dictionary:

  • a person who spends time at another’s home in some social activity, as a visit…
  • a person who receives the hospitality of a club… or the like.

If you were visiting a winery, which would you prefer to be, a customer or a guest? Would you rather be… “A person one has to deal with” or “A person who receives hospitality?”

Many people who come to wineries do so because they want to be a part of something they think of as exciting and fun. How many times in your winery, have you heard guests saying “It must be great to own/work in a winery.” Considering those who make time to visit your winery as guests, may encourage you to be more friendly and may encourage them to buy and return often.

Moving on to the words service vs. engagement:

I have seen many tasting room staff members give good service without being particularly engaging or truly treating the person they are serving as a guest of the winery. These staff members can be helpful without being interested or efficient without being friendly.

Engagement tends more towards creating an affinity with the customer, a lasting connection and providing the best experience possible. While service fills a need to provide a product for the customer but may not go that extra mile to create a feeling that as a guest the person is important to the company and to the staff member who is engaging with them.

Think of these and other words that you may use in your hospitality center that can be revised to create changes in the way you think of the people who visit your winery and how you treat them.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How Is Your Email Response?
12 October, 2018

I found an interesting article by Alexandra Braunstein in this week’s Target Marketing newsletter. The article explains three reasons why your customers may be ignoring your emails.

Ms. Braunstein starts by talking about the importance of the subscriber behavior – if subscribers stop interacting with your emails (opening or taking action) the mailbox provider may filter out the messages because of this behavior. She then gives us some reasons why subscribers disengage.

The main reason, according to a recent 2018 Consumer Email Survey conducted by Adobe, is that the frequency of emails customers receive from companies is too high. 45% of participants in the survey responded with this reason for disengagement. How many emails do you receive that you don’t engage with? My guess is, a heck of a lot.

One way around this is to send more emails to those subscribers who regularly engage with the information you send them. Think about organizing how many emails you send and how frequently the recipients respond to these emails. Also, note the type of emails to which they respond. Know your customers; what emails interest them and what motivates them to buy. For example, if you have customers who usually buy during winery events, make sure they receive all the event emails.

The second thing to think about is the value of the messages you are sending out. Knowing what your customers want from you is critical. If you know that certain customers only buy red wine, limit the number of emails that feature or include white wine to one or two a year. Most people don’t have a lot of time, so the more you can present them with products they want, the more likely they will appreciate and engage with the information sent.

Finally, personalize the communications as much as you can. Your email list should be divided into different groups of customers, based on their wants and needs. Sending generic emails makes them less important to many of your customers.

The key to better email retention and engagement is your understanding of customers’ wants and needs. This means keeping your customer records up to date and noting changes in preferences. The days of one-size fits all emails are over.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Optimizing Staff Meetings
05 October, 2018

I have been attending lots of meetings recently. While staff and management meetings are important, often they can take more time than they should and are not always as effective as you would like.

Meetings should be planned out well before they occur. Start with a clear vision of how the meeting should progress and a list of topics that need to be discussed.

The length of the meeting 

Decide on the amount of time the meeting should take based on the number of items you wish to discuss. Each topic should be allocated a certain amount of time. The meeting times (start and end) should be part of the agenda. Keep to those times.


Prior to the meeting, request information from participants regarding topics they wish to include. Not all topics that are suggested may be suitable for that particular meeting. If these are things that merit the attention deal with them at another time or on an individual basis.


Opt for a meeting space that is comfortable, well ventilated and has plenty of room for all the people invited to the meeting. If everyone is crowded, too warm or too cold the participants will be distracted. Providing a place for people to engage in a positive manner is more likely to lead to favorable outcomes.

Stay On Topic

Certain discussions may bring up other topics that can lead to long and possibly irrelevant conversations. When this happens, bring the group back to the topics at hand. Make a note of the new topic for future discussion.


Cell phones and other devices should be turned off during the meeting. If it is necessary for staff members to add dates to their calendars, phones may be turned on for the last five minutes of the meeting when new dates are being discussed. Provide printed copies of the agenda for all participants.

 Leave Time for Conversation

Allow time for participants to air their views. Allow everyone who wants to speak the opportunity to do so, but have a set amount of time for each person. This helps in a number of ways, it makes sure the meeting run on time and it helps staff focus on the most concise way to get their points across.

If the meetings have been run on a more relaxed timeline, it may take some effort to change attendees assumption of what is or isn’t acceptable. Keep going. Meetings will before more structured and effective.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

A Successful Brand
28 September, 2018

There are brands that stand out in the minds of consumers. How did they get to that place of prominence and how do you get there, too? Some companies make it by putting large amounts of money, time and branding professionals behind their brands, which you may not be able to do. Though it is not only those things that make a successful brand.

Starbucks, for example, has been very successful. Their store designs are good, their products are good, and the staff members in their stores are invariably cheerful. What sets them apart in my mind though is how they handle problems when they crop up.

Starbucks recently went through a problem in one of their Philadelphia stores when an employee asked two black men to leave because they asked to use the restroom though had not bought anything. When they said they were not going to leave, as they were waiting for a friend, the employee called the police who arrested them both. They were later released with no charges filed.

This was a terrible situation that could have caused a lot of problems for Starbucks bottom-line and customer loyalty. However, Starbucks handled the situation extremely well. The CEO immediately apologized profusely and quickly and put the employee on leave pending more information. The event happened on Thursday and by Friday, Starbucks was all over the news with their apologies.

By Monday, the CEO had sat face to face with the gentlemen in question to apologize and by Tuesday Starbucks had announced that they would close all 8,000 of their stores for an afternoon in May to hold racial bias training for their staff.

Starbucks may not have mitigated all the damage that was done by the incident but their strong and hitherto unheard of response was well received by crisis management and diversity experts.

It was a terrible situation but the company stood up to the problem, sought solutions and sorted out the problem, saving their brand from a lot more losses than they sustained from closing all their stores for an afternoon.

My point, if someone complains, whether it is a small or large complaint and whether they complain publicly or privately, take care of the problem. If it is a public complaint, you may wish to resolve it privately, but report the solution to the problem publicly so all your customers who may have seen it on Facebook or Twitter or wherever know that you took care of it.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training


Creating Connected Customers
21 September, 2018

It’s interesting that businesses want customers to be more connected with them, though many businesses are afraid to give the customers what they want, which is connection with the people in the business.

Customer connection is a big part of the wine industry in general, and particularly true for customers who belong to wine clubs especially when the winery is a “small, family-owned winery.” Though even with wine clubs in corporate wineries, the members are still looking for connection.

There are many reasons why people may choose to join wine clubs… yes they like the wine, yes they enjoy the events, and yes they like to bring their friends and be able to taste for free. All these things are definite perks. Though there are two defining reasons: Connection and Access.

The majority, though not all, look for connection with the winery owners, the winemaker, and the staff. They like being recognized when they walk into the tasting room and the staff person knows their name. For those of you who are old enough, think about the TV show Cheers. Having those connections allows them to tell their friends:

“I was just at Bahoula Winery, talking to the winemaker, Susan, do you know her? Lovely person and she said…”

There is a great deal of pleasure to be had by being one up on your friends.

The other reason people like to be a “special” customer at a winery, like one who is in the wine club, is access. They have access to events, to the wine clubroom, if there is one and to other parts of the winery that regular customers may not see.

They also get access to more information about the wines and the option to buy older wines, newer wines before the general release and large format, limited release bottles.  There are a lot of perks to being part of the wine club if wineries understand what it is that their customers are looking for.

Although these perks should not only be for wine club members. They should also be for those people who, while they may not belong to your wine club, spend a lot of money with you or bring others to your winery who spend money.

Make sure that your best customers have access to you and feel connected. Drop them a personal email once in a while to ask them what they thought of a wine they just received from you. Or have pictures of your best customers on their customer record so you recognize them and call them by name. You never know you might make some new friends.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training


Customer Service at Warp Speed
14 September, 2018

I have read that the average attention span is down from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds now, which is less than the nine-second attention span of your average goldfish.

However, according to an article I read on BBC News about experts who study human attention, these experts don’t know where those numbers came from. They believe that the people’s attention spans are not getting shorter.

So perhaps it is not a shorter attention span, as it is that people do not have as much patience as they used to. In the days before telephones, computers, the internet, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc., we actually had to take the time to go the see someone about a customer service problem. Sometimes it could take days just to get there as most of the shops closed at 5 p.m. just as people were getting out of work.

We also could not berate the business or product in question on their lack of service to a large audience because there were no platforms that reached thousands or millions of people in less than 3 seconds. We could tell our neighbors, or write a letter to the newspaper but that was about it.

The nice thing about it taking longer to get a problem solved was that it gave the person with the problem more time to think it through, create some perspective and perhaps get expectations in order.

Nowadays, our ideas of what we can and should expect may sometimes be unrealistic and as much as customer service professionals do their best to meet our every expectation (and will if we give them a little time) we want instant results.

According to information from Forrester research, almost 70% of business leaders want to use the customer service experience as a competitive advantage. Unfortunately, only 37% have a dedicated budget for customer service improvement initiatives.

Most of us, when we have a complaint or problem, are looking for a more personal approach. We want the answer to our question now if we are talking to a person or the information that could provide the answer we expect it to be if we are online.

So perhaps a little more patience would not go amiss. As patience is something I don’t possess a lot of, I am working on it and have found that slowing down life a little, is not necessarily a bad thing. Life is going fast enough without me hurrying it along.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training


Motivating Employees (Or Yourself)
07 September, 2018

I spend much of my time reading business related journals, newsletters and such, subscribing to lots of them and finding other information online. This time I was looking for information on motivating employees and came across a good article in INC. magazine.

One of the things that I know from my own career (I am sure most of you feel it, too) is that I am not always at the same level of motivation. I would be surprised if anyone is. As human beings, we are nothing if not changeable. There are times when you, your managers or employees are going to need motivating to get things done. Here are some ideas terrific ideas from the INC. article:

Let people know that you trust them. A vote of confidence will encourage most people will do a good job.

When you are feeling down, remind yourself of what you have accomplished. Also, remember you can be trusted to get done what you need to get done.

Make the goals for your employees (and yourself) realistic. Reward your employees as they reach smaller goals on the way to larger goals. Smaller rewards given more often will motivate people to work harder more of the time, than offering a big reward that is not going to be achievable until far in the future.

Give your employees a purpose so they feel they can make a difference. Help them understand your vision and goals so they are more engaged in reaching the goals. People are more motivated when they feel that they are part of the big picture.

Be enthusiastic and positive with your staff. You want your staff to work hard. Enthusiasm and energy from their boss or bosses will make employees more energized, too.

Know your employees and learn what is important to them, what motivates them to work hard and what type of encouragement works for them. Many surveys have shown that praise or being recognized for a job well done is more important than more money for the majority of employees.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training


Overcoming Objections to the Price of Your Products, Part Two
31 August, 2018

As I mentioned last week, I downloaded an informational guide with information on overcoming sales objections from Resourceful Selling. This week is part two in the review of the information.

First:  Let’s look at things that can go wrong.

Sometimes the salesperson, if uncomfortable with the price, can transmit that feeling to the customer, perhaps not in words but by how the information is presented. It’s a must that the salesperson is comfortable with the price. If not, they may need more training in sales in general and in your products in particular.

Many winery tasting room salespeople get into the business because they like wine, not because they like to sell. And, as many owners also don’t like to sell (they prefer to create), there is not the emphasis on sales that there should be. Make sales and customer engagement high on the list of the experience you are looking for when interviewing potential salespeople. Or if you are the salesperson, make sure you are applying for jobs for the right reasons and jobs that fit what you want to do with your life.

As a salesperson, are you ready to defend (in a non-combative or judgmental way) the prices that are being asked for the product you sell? Do they think the wine is worth the price?

Price, like any other objection to the sale, is a problem-solving process. If the customer is not ready to pay the price the winery is selling it for, why not?  Find out the reason and you can usually turn the customer around. Sell on the quality or the fact the customer can use this to impress their friends. You can also bring up the idea that if someone wants to pay a lesser price, s/he can always buy a case or half case and receive a special quantity price.

Remember that customers are looking for:

  • What is in it for them – How they benefit from the purchase.
  • It is benefits rather than features that make the sale (buying is done through the emotional part of the brain.)
  • What is the perceived value in relation to price.
  • Value is in the mind of the purchaser rather than the product.
  • If, as a salesperson, you believe that price may be an obstacle, bring it up before the customer does: “You can always find less expensive wine, but nothing at this quality for the price.”
  • Add value to every sale, even when the customer is not objecting. It will bring them back to see you again.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training


Overcoming Objections to the Price of Your Products (Part One)
24 August, 2018

I downloaded a handy informational guide of overcoming sales objections from Resourceful Selling, which I am going to share you over the next couple of blogs.

The information starts with a headline:

“The price objection is the quickest way for a prospect to get rid of a salesperson.

But a price objection shouldn’t mark the end of a discussion.”

Good advice. I have seen too many salespeople give up when a potential customer says that the price is too expensive. But giving up should not be your first option.

First, find out what may be behind the customer telling you that the price is too high or that it is more than they usually pay.

  • You may not have asked enough questions about what the customer is looking for.
  • It may be that you haven’t communicated the value of your product in a way that makes sense to your customer.
  • The customer may not have been fully made aware of the differentiation of your products or service from that of your competitors.
  • The customer may be fishing to see if you are willing to go down on the price, but will buy it anyway if you don’t.

For any of these reasons, the price may become a serious factor in whether the customer buys or not. So your job is to identify the reason for buying your customer will be most susceptible to. In this article I was reading, they quoted a study by Alpha Marketing who ranked the reasons why customers choose to buy:

  1. Credibility
  2. Quality
  3. Company reputation
  4. Level of service
  5. Reliability of salesperson
  6. Responsiveness
  7. Ability to meet deadlines (which may not apply to you)
  8. Price

As you can see, the price is not the first thing on people’s minds. Yes, it is a factor but I believe with the right information, good customer service and a genuine interest in what is best for the customer, the price objection may be easily overcome.

Next week – ways to overcome price objections.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training


This week, WHAT, HOW, WHO, and WHY are we NOT Selling?
17 August, 2018

Last week we looked at what to do and this week we are looking at the opposite side of the What, How, Who and Why of selling, which is:

  1. What are you not offering
  2. How are you not offering it (is our presentation unique)?
  3. To whom are you not selling?
  4. Why are you not doing this?

What are you not offering?

Most people (owners, managers, and staff) have ideas of what they want to do in the business they either own or work in. Many times these ideas have a lot to do with their own interests or motivations, which while reasonable is not necessarily going to get the job done. Because of this, you may not be offering customers the information that will close the sale.

How are you not offering it?

You are not offering the information the customers’ want when you haven’t discovered what it is the customer is looking for. If, for example, I like red wines, fifteen minutes of information on how you grow your Chardonnay grapes and how you make your award-winning Chardonnay is going to cut no ice with me at all. That time could have been much more profitably spent talking about your red wines. Also, many times crucial information is not offered until late in the visit. If it is something that will benefit the customer (such as special case prices or wine club info), let the customer know early in the visit so they have time to weigh the pros and cons and make a decision.

To whom are you not selling it?

Are you judging visitors when they come into your business? If you say no, you are probably wrong. We all judge, it’s part of being human. It is part of what keeps us out of danger. It helps to be wary. It also helps to understand that you have no idea how much someone may buy based on the car they drive, the clothes they wear or how much they know about your product. Many times someone may not buy because you haven’t taken the time to discover his/her likes, dislikes and purchasing triggers.

Why are you not doing this?

Remember that purchases are made through engaging the emotions rather than in the intellectual part of the brain. Buying is a process that is strictly emotional. Instead of facts, inspire your customers. What and How educate your visitors, the WHY inspires them to buy and become long-term customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

WHAT, HOW, WHO, and WHY of Customer Sales & Retention
10 August, 2018

Before we even get on the sales floor, there are a number of questions (and the answers to these questions) that we have to know. If we don’t know the answers there is no way we can be as successful as we would like to be or convert one-time visitors into life-long customers.

Those four questions are:

  1. What are you offering
  2. How are you presenting the information?
  3. Who is buying your products?
  4. Why are you doing this?

What are you offering?

Everyone in the organization should have a clear idea of what is being offered. Not only what the products are but also what is being offered in the way of customer service and general information. All this information (and a lot more) should be available in written form to all employees and talked about in staff meetings.

Employees, even those who do not regularly see the public, may run into a customer who may need information. It is part of everyone’s job to understand customer service and rudimentary selling techniques.

How are you presenting the information?

When someone walks into your winery, are they going to have a unique or, at least, an uncommon experience? Or are they going to walk away without a precise memory of why your company, products or service?

So many visits to wineries are indistinguishable to many customers.

Who is buying your products?

Know your customers, not only what they buy, but who they are and the demographics they fall into. Most wineries, these days, have CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, most of which has a section that allows you to create robust customer records.  Take advantage of this opportunity to record as much information about customers as you can. The most important letter in CRM is the R.  If you don’t have strong relationships with your customers you will eventually lose them.

Why are you doing this?

Let your customers know why you do what you do. It isn’t enough to say you grow grapes, make wine or work in the tasting room; you have to let them know WHY you do it. The WHY will inspire your customers because you telling them about your passion, your spirit and your commitment to what you do. Inspired customers also buy more.

At your next staff meeting, ask your staff and managers these four questions and see what answers they come up with. Once you know where the weak spots are you can start training.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

It’s Prime Selling Time!
03 August, 2018

As we are in the midst of the summer visitor season at present, this week’s blog has some reminders about the importance of selling in the tasting room, at events, and anywhere else it seems appropriate.

It is always good to remember that customers make buying decisions through the emotional rather than the intellectual part of their brains. Most of us like to think that our buying decisions are made based on facts and formulated through our intellect but it is just not true. We buy because we feel. We like to believe it is intellectual because it’s easier to describe intellectual feelings than it is emotional ones.

To get your visitors and customers in the right frame of mind, you need to do three things:

  • Engage Your Customers: Let them know that you are interested in them and not just in how much they are willing to buy.
  • Ask Questions: Ask about their wine drinking habits, which types of wines they like and discover if wine is a big part of their lives.
  • Promote the Buy: Discover why your visitors or customers buy wine. Do they use it when they entertain? Is having a glass of wine something they do each night when they get home or with dinner? Are they interested in learning more about wine?

When you know these things, you can focus your sales pitch on what will appeal to them.

Your successful sales presentation will be made up of a number of different parts and should include:

  • Dialogue rather than a monologue, both the customer and you should share a conversation.
  • Enthusiasm for your customers, your job, and passion for the products you are selling.
  • Messaging: Give the customers the information that they want, rather than the information that you want them to have.
  • Differentiation: Give the customers reasons to buy your wine; even people who don’t drink wine have friends or family who do.
  • Inclusion: Make your customers your friends, even if you believe you are only going to see them once in your lifetime.
  • Reasons to Buy: What is it that makes your wines special and different? What other opportunities will the purchase of your wines afford them and are there any rewards for purchase?

If you can make a friend, you can make a sale.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Dangerous Assumptions That Undermine Profits
27 July, 2018

I was recently asked to do an evaluation of a tasting room experience for a winery at which I had done some training. This meant I actually know the staff. Usually, I would not go myself, but find shoppers they didn’t know and send them. This time I thought I would try something a little different.

I took a look at my list of shoppers I had worked with before and decided upon some friends of mine who were just the type of customers that the winery was trying to reach. The reason my husband and I went along was because I wanted to see if anyone tried to sell to them. Or if, because the staff knew who I was and what I did, they would assume that the others were not going to buy.

Sadly, my thoughts that my shoppers would not get all the information they needed to make buying and joining decisions came true. The shoppers were told about the wines and given information about the vineyards. However, there was so much more that they were not told. As I was sitting at the table I was able to see for myself how the visit progressed.

I was pleased that the staff members were attentive and very nice to us. Unfortunately, there was no mention of the special events that the winery hosts (and they have some great ones) and no one mentioned the wine club (there was no wine club brochure on our table or any mention of the wine club on the tasting information).

This was a pity because my shoppers are a couple who like wine, join clubs, come to events and have the discretionary income to do all of that.  In fact, they are your perfect customers.

They were not asked their names or asked if they would like to be a part of the mailing list. Nor were they asked for any contact information. And even though we bought almost a case of wine, no one asked if we wanted to bump up to a case.

The tasting room staff did a good job making sure the guests had an enjoyable visit and I congratulate them for that. However, so much more could have been done to achieve the goals of the winery management and to take these wine lovers from one-time visitors to lifetime customers.

When people come into your winery, make no assumptions. Give them all the information they will need, rather than what you think they may need.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Selling Luxury
21 July, 2018

In the past couple of blogs, we have talked about the different categories that wines may fall into and the pricing for those categories. Last week I wrote about the four categories of Premium wines. This week the topic is the highest categories, Luxury wines. The three categories are: Luxury – $50-100; Super Luxury – $100-200; and Icon – $200 plus. The basic definition of these wines is that they are great quality, handmade, exceptional in taste, and expensive.

That is the beginning of luxury. If you want people to buy your luxury wines, it is not good enough that the wines are exceptional, it is the whole experience. Start with your website and follow through with the way guests are treated in person, on the phone, via email and at every point of contact by every person in your company. The look of the winery is also important to many visitors, everything needs to be clean, tidy and promote a feeling of luxury.

The guests and customers who buy these wines do so for a lot of different reasons, but much of it has to do with connection and the feeling that they are making a significant purchase that will enhance their lives and possibly their reputation as connoisseurs of wine. The interactions need to be memorable and out of the ordinary.

Some of these customers are looking for wines that may be traditional, with the luxury of the brand easily identifiable in the story of the wine, the winery, the owners, and the winemaker. Others are willing to spend top dollar on wines that are innovative and present new ideas of how quality is perceived. It could be that some of your customers are looking for wines that will signal their sophistication or have relevance to their lives.

We also have to remember that luxury products, especially wines, are not things that buyers actually need (no matter what we would like to think), they are the products that they want. When we are selling wine, we are selling to customers wants because the wine will do something to make their life or view of themselves better in some way. And to get that feeling they are willing to pay for luxury.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Does Selling Premium Wine Mean?
13 July, 2018

Last week’s blog talked about the different categories that wine may fall into both by price and quality. The next few blogs are going to focus on what it takes to produce higher price, higher quality wines.

Today we are going to talk about the Premium wines, which encompasses four categories; Popular Premium, Premium, Super Premium and Ultra Premium. These wines range in price from $10-15 for Popular Premium, up to  $30-40 for Ultra Premium. However, each of these categories uses the word Premium One of the definitions of the word Premium is “of exceptional quality,” so if you talk about selling premium wines, your customers are expecting quality products. Your job is to give them quality.

Within your winery, you may have wines that fall into two or three of the premium price categories, with a lighter white or rosé being less expensive than a more robust, barrel aged red. So differentiation between the wines and the reasons for pricing them as you do is important, as customers may not know why some wines are more expensive or less expensive than others. Be ready to explain those differences.

In this broader category of Premium wines, you may also deal with a variety of customer types. Customers may be looking for very different things. Some may be looking for bargains (a good yet inexpensive wine), others are looking to pay more for something that will impress their friends, while others believe that in order to get a “premium” wine, they have to pay a certain price.  Just like your wines, all your customers are different, so as with all customer interactions it’s important to find out their individual wants, needs and desires. This will help you create a place in their memories for your wines and winery.

Another consideration is (of course) customer service. The higher price your wines, the greater the expectations of your customers for a good experience during their visit, especially if you charge for tasting, as most wineries do these days. Attention to the customer and to the details of the experience should be high on your list when you are selling Premium wines.

Next week we”ll talk about Luxury wines.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Placing Wines by Category and Price
06 July, 2018

It used to be that there were two or three wine price categories. The three were low priced wines, medium priced wines, and high priced wines. That doesn’t seem to be the case these days. I was reading an article by Wine Folly and they show a chart of the different wine categories and their pricing.

  • Extreme Value wines, average cost $4.00, this category is made up of bulk wine.
  • Value wine, average cost, $4-$10, described as “Basic quality bulk wines from large regions and producers.”
  • Popular Premium wines, average cost $10-$15, “Large production, decent varietal wines and blends.
  • Premium, $14-$20, “Good, solid quality wines.
  • Super Premium $20-$30, “Great, handmade wines from medium-large production wineries.”
  • Ultra Premium, $30-$40, “Great quality, handmade, excellent-tasting wines from small to large producers”
  • Luxury, $50-$100, “Excellent wines from wine regions made by near-top producers.”
  • Super Luxury, $100-$200, “Wines from top producers from microsites.”
  • Icon, $200+, “The pinnacle of wines, wineries, and microsites.”

So where do your wines fall on this chart both in the category and in the price? Do you find that your wine belongs in one category but that category is not reflected in the price you charge for it? Or are you charging more for a wine that actually belongs in a lower category? Usually, that is hard to say, as it can be difficult to judge your own wines.

Wine may taste different to a variety of customers depending on what they like, how much they enjoy wine and what they are looking for. Also depending on the customer. More expensive wines may taste better to some people just because they are more expensive and their expectations are that more expensive wines taste better. The location of your winery may also have something to do with the prices you can charge or the categories you fall into.

Over the next few blogs, we are going to look into what it takes to move into the higher categories and prices in the wine world. And what it takes to move up to the Ultra Premium or Luxury categories or even higher. Take some time to think about where your wines are.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

It’s Not Only What But When
29 June, 2018

Engagement with customers is not only about what you tell them, it is also about when. If you want customers’ visits to your winery to be remembered, when you give your customers information is as important as the information you give them.

The other day I had an email from a winery asking me a couple of questions. The first was when a customer asks you, “What is your favorite wine?” what do you tell them. My answer is that it is more important not to tell them too early in their visit. As you want them to make up their own minds.

  1. If you have an absolute favorite wine, they may (if they are not wine savvy) be influenced by what you think.
  2. Telling them too early may stop them from choosing something else that they actually like more because you are “the expert.”
  3. It may stop them from buying other wines on your list because they think they may not be as good.
  4. Their tastes may be quite different from yours.

Before you give a customer any information on your preferred wine, ask them to taste the wines, decide what they like best and tell you their favorite. After they have told you what they liked the best of the wines they have tasted, you can praise their palate, tell them what a great wine it is; then tell them your favorite. Followed quickly by a quick couple of sentences about why the wine they chose is an excellent wine. (Assuming, of course, that the wines you make or sell are excellent).

Knowing what the customer likes allows you to give them more information and recommend food that pairs well with the wine. This gives novice wine drinkers more confidence in their own abilities to understand good wine and seasoned wine drinkers to tell you what they enjoy pairing with that particular wine.

Another question I am asked to answer for clients is what do you do when someone asks which one is your best wine. Again, before you answer the question find out what they like. Sometimes I visit wineries and notice that I am told the most expensive wine on the list. That is fine as long as you have asked some questions and know that your guests would be comfortable paying that price for a bottle of wine. If they are not, you lose the opportunity to present the wines that are closer to their price range and there goes the sale.

Ask questions, get information and then make the recommendations.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

In the "Tasting Room"
22 June, 2018

Most wineries call their customer space the “Tasting Room” for the very good reason that wine tasting does take place there and it’s usually a room. I was giving some thought the other day to all the things that go on (or should go on) in the tasting room. By incorporating the different things you should be doing in the space, you can improve your abilities to tighten your relationship with visitors, which lead to better relationships and long-term sales.

For example, in addition to being a tasting room, consider this area a networking space, a connection location, an education spot or an engagement hub. Tasting is one thing that happens, but by incorporating connection things right you are creating the bonds that will encourage visitors to return, to become regular customers and many times friends.

By thinking of the place as only the “tasting room”, you could be missing the most important elements that turn first-time visitors into long-term customers. Many people who visit your “tasting room” are going to be more excited if they look back on the experience as a small adventure. It should be a place where they gained awareness, information and understanding of wine in general and your wine in particular. And, if they leave believing they have made a connection, they are much more likely to return.

In this multi-purpose visitor center, you can create relationships that may last for half an hour, or may last for years. How you feel about the space and how it can best be put to use will determine which way the relationships go and how long they will last.

So make connections with people, find out the things you have in common and look forward to enjoying the short time you have with each individual guest or group. You may find that your visitors are the most fascinating creatures if you learn a little about them, allow them to learn a little about you, and what you have in common with them.  You never know the people you meet in the “tasting room” may enrich your life too.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What You See May Not Be What You Get
15 June, 2018

I was checking my emails the other day and came across an email from LinkedIn with a request ostensibly from a woman in New York State wanting to connect with me on LinkedIn.

I have a rule about connecting on social media. I never connect with anyone on any site until I have checked his/her profile. The interesting thing, when I checked this profile, the woman said she had been working for a company (local to me in California) since 2017. I am closely associated with this company and know all their employees. I had never heard of her. So I gave the company a call. They had also received connection requests from the same person but no one had heard of her either.

The company had called and emailed LinkedIn and had been told that there was nothing that LinkedIn could do about that. I got a confirmation on that from Kerry Rego, a consultant on social media. She agreed that there is nothing that can be done through LinkedIn, although suggested that I send them an email anyway. Perhaps if they get enough complaints they will consider a change in policy.

Kerry did suggest that if companies are hiring and use social media to check on positions an applicant has held in the past, they call the companies listed to make sure that the information is accurate.

I further checked the name and location of the woman who (supposedly) contacted me and could not find any information on her at all on the internet, except for a Facebook page that has extremely limited information and no followers. So my guess is, she does not exist.

It may be nothing important but it has made me more carefully scrutinize the things that people say on social media pages as it seems that you can put anything on those pages without being responsible for it being accurate. In which case I am thinking about adding to my social media pages that I have an IQ that is 10 points higher than Albert Einstein’s (no, really).

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

A Simple Way to Boost Sales
10 June, 2018

Not everyone who is ever going to purchase from your business will do so the first time they come into contact with you. Yet most of the time, businesses let these possible customers slip through their fingers and into the database of one of their competitors.

So many businesses miss the very simple step that leads to increased sales and loyal customers… ask for contact information when a consumer who is not on your list, comes into your business. Do as much as you can to get not only an email address but a street address and phone number as well.

While it may be easier to get an email address, it is also easier for people who receive your emails to delete them without reading them. When you open your email every day how many emails do you delete without reading them? If your email inbox is anything like mine, the first time I open it each day I can find up to 50 or 60 emails that I go through and delete. This is after I spent an entire day a couple of weeks ago unsubscribing to things I never asked to receive.

Emails are a handy, and inexpensive way of reaching people, but most businesses, when they send emails do not check the open rate, click-through rate or purchase rate that the emails generated.  According to HubSpot the overall average open rate across all industries is 32%. That means if you send out an email to 1,500 people, 480 of those recipients actually opened it.  The average click-through rates are anywhere from 3 -6 (14.4 to 28.8 people) and a small percentage of those will actually buy.

You never know when a postcard or other missive through the post or a phone call combined with an email campaign may bring more interest and more attention to your business and your products.

But whatever you decide to do, start collecting information on everyone who comes into your business. You may not have sold the visitor something the first time s/he comes into your business but if you don’t know how to contact them, you never will.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Creating Brand Loyalty
01 June, 2018

I came across an article in Marketing Profs today by John Miller, the title of which caught my eye, “ Brand Love is Bull****…So Now What Do We do? Five Things.”

While I don’t agree with his premise, I do agree with some of his ideas. I believe that consumers do get to love or be attached to a particular brand. I know because I am attached to brands. I can think of two brands that I have no intention of changing now or in the future.

The first is (not surprisingly) Apple. Every computer I have had has been an Apple, as have my phones, tablets, and music system. If I am looking for anything in that area, I first make sure that Apple does not have a product before I start researching other brands.

The second product that I am not likely to change any time soon is the granola I eat for breakfast most days. “Not Yer Momma’s Granola” is made locally by a group of women who used to make it for their children and decided to create a business around it. It is terrific.

In both cases, I have found the products to be reliable and good value. Even more importantly, when I have had a problem with either product, the companies have helped me in finding solutions. The people on the phone have been helpful and friendly and treat me as if I am important to them.

I don’t believe that every person who walks into your business is going to fall in love with your brand or products. However, there are those that will and they are worth their weight in gold. They may not buy the most from you, but they will talk about your product to others and encourage them to buy. They will provide important word-of-mouth promotion to many others who may not know about you.

Mr. Miller does offer some good advice and tells us to keep promoting always, don’t rely on campaigns that have specific start and finish dates. He also reminds us not to be pushy. It is good to promote your products but easy to turn people off if you make people feel uncomfortable with your techniques.

So, create a great product, treat people well and when they have a problem (whether or not you think it is valid) be helpful and find a solution.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Don’t Believe Everything You Think
25 May, 2018

Lately, as I started some new projects, I have been thinking about whether or not I believe these projects are viable because I want them to be or if I am just deluding myself and they don’t have the merit that I think they have.

It is typical of the human brain to validate the ideas that we have. When we want to start a new endeavor our brains are more likely to direct us to information that will confirm what we believe or want to believe rather than give us the facts.

For example, in a town nearby to where I live there is one corner that has, in the time I have been paying attention, had five different Mexican restaurants in that location. I am not saying that starting a Mexican restaurant may not be a good idea (I love Mexican food). I am just saying that perhaps that particular corner is not where you want to open your restaurant. If it hasn’t worked five times, there is a good chance it won’t work a sixth.

More than likely, a sixth Mexican restaurant will go into that space because we tend to pay less attention to things that do not fit with what we have already decided. We bias our brain towards confirming what we already want to believe.

I was listening to a well-known author speaking the other day and he said that “Ego defends us against new information from the world.” As soon as we get our ego involved and are bought into believing something, it is very difficult for us to understand that whatever we want to do might not be a good idea.

Another reason why this is likely is that we tend to surround ourselves with people who think similarly to the way we do and therefore will also confirm our bias.

Before I go forward with my new ideas I am going to seek out a few people I know who tend to have different opinions to the ones I hold and ask them how they feel about my new projects. Chances are I will still go ahead with them, but I will probably be more aware of possible problems I may encounter.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Make Your Websites More Personal
18 May, 2018

I have lately spent some time going through winery websites. I do this every few months to catch up on what wineries in different regions are up to.

I have been amazed at how many wineries have no information on their owners and staff. I know that tasting room and other staff members may change regularly so continually changing out pictures can be time-consuming. Fair enough, if all your staff members do not have their photos and a short bio on your website. However, there are things that you can do that can be easily changed if needed.

The First Law of Connection

If you want people to buy your products, join your clubs or come to your events give them the opportunity to connect.

When I am reading ABOUT US sections of websites, they usually contain paragraph after paragraph of “We planted vineyards”… ”We made wine”…” This is our passion”…” We want you to come and visit us.” While this is all very nice, I am much more likely to come and visit you if you have told me who you are. I am also more likely to buy what you are selling.

In order to connect with people, you have to start with their emotions. It is hard to connect with an unnamed, unknown entity and relate to him/her as a person.

To quote John Maxwell, “Connection is not about you but it begins with you.”

What is the first thing you usually want to know about someone to start a connection?

That’s right, their name. It is much easier to get people to give you their names if you have told them yours first.

So imagine reading the website for a business that you may be interested in visiting and finding that the company talks about “we, we, we”, but does not introduce the people who own it or work there.

Take a look at your website and see how you can make it more personal so potential customers will have another reason to connect with you. There is a lot of wine out there to choose from but there is only one YOU!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Improve Performance for Loyalty or Rewards Programs
11 May, 2018

Most companies these days have rewards programs for loyal customers. Though how successful these programs are can vary considerably from company to company. In April, I came across an interesting article concerning rewards programs on Marketing Profs by Samir Palnitkar.

One thing that struck me was his assertion that consumers are enrolled in an average of over 30 loyalty or rewards programs but are active in less than half of those programs. Based on my own experience I would say that is true. These days it is easy to sign up for a rewards program, especially if bonus points or rewards are given for signing up. How many rewards programs do you belong to that you seldom use?

The article gives some good ideas about how you can utilize your rewards program members in other ways than just through purchases. You may allow them to earn points towards rewards for talking about your business, products or staff on social media. If they write a review, for example, they get extra points.

Additionally, your rewards members have to feel that they can achieve at least the lowest couple of redemption options otherwise they will get discouraged. Design a program with different tiers and think about how the rewards may be a mix of products and experiences. For example, a reward might be that they may use some of their rewards points to attend an event that you are hosting. If you are doing it right, getting them to the event should result in increased sales. You may also award points for signing up to receive emails from you and give bonus points with the first three months that they are signed up. Consider giving more points, instead of discounts, where the points are redeemable for future purchases.

Make sure that your rewards program is a prominent part of your website as well as prominently displayed in your place of business (put signs among merchandise displays) where customers congregate and at the cash register.

There are many more things you can do to maximize the use of reward points, start thinking about what will work for you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Want to Attract & Retain More Club Members?
07 May, 2018

Are you looking to attract and retain more club members?

If so,  Engage • Extend • Evolve Your Club

•  Engage to:  Attract more members

•  Extend to:    Retain more members 

•  Evolve to:   Differentiate your club

This new seminar from Elizabeth (E) Slater of In Short Direct Marketing, Engage • Extend • Evolve helps you reach your wine club goals, increase member loyalty and profitability.

 E, an experienced sales and wine club coach and trainer, provides staff and management with the three keys to increase the number of club membership sales and to keep those members in the club longer.

 Now is the perfect time to book a seminar to get your club where you want it to be. Email  or call 707.953.1289 to book a seminar or receive more information.


Happy Clients

 “After an interactive training with our team, we saw over a 65% increase in wine club sign-up rates – our best month to date” Dutton Goldfield, Sonoma County

“…Elizabeth Slater’s guidance and training provided the perfect platform, helping us double our Wine Club groups in the last 3 months compared to last year. If you’re serious about improving your business, then give her a call.”  Franciscan Estates, Napa County



Who Is Accessing Your Website?
04 May, 2018

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine. Rebecca, who owns Maximum Value Marketing, and I have known each other for years and we enjoy a good chat about all things marketing. We can talk about marketing the way winemakers can talk about their wines… that is in more detail than most people really want or need to know.

This time we were talking about websites, one of Rebecca’s specialties. What works, what doesn’t and not so much of what we see in company website (especially small companies) but what we don’t see. This led us back to the age-old questions that are pertinent throughout all marketing channels. “Does your website provide information for all the different people who may need it? And if not, how does that affect the profitability and success of your business?”

The gist of the conversation was that all different types of people, consumers, trade, press visit your website. It’s where they go to gather information about you for a number of different purposes. Here are just a few examples of who may be accessing your website and what they may want to know:


  • A customer of yours may have served a friend your wine during a visit. The friend then wants to know more.
  • Customers in stores or supermarkets, may see your wine and use your website to find out more about it before they decide to buy.
  • People planning their next holiday may be looking for wineries they want to visit in the region. What is on your website that will make your business stand out from those around you?

Retailers & Distributors

  • Salespeople who work for a retailer or distributor that carries your wine may need information to promote your products. Make sure that information is easily available on your website.
  • Retailers or distributors who are interested in carrying your products would use your website first to find out if you would be a good fit.


  • Bloggers and media outlets (usually at 10 p.m. or later on the night before their blog or story is due) may be looking for facts on the company and the wines. If they can’t find the facts or your site, they will use another brand in their story.

Your website is available 24 hours each day, so interested people can access it whenever they need or want to. Make sure yours has everything they need to answer their questions.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Tips to Improve Your Online Presence*
27 April, 2018

These days, if you are in business, an online presence is essential to your success. Critical to that success is that you update constantly your online presence to keep up with the changes in online platforms and to maintain your information current.

By making it easy for customers to do connect with you online, find information about products, services, events and operational information, they can make plans to visit or buy products when you are not available to speak with them. For example, if you change your hours during the winter that should be reflected on your website.

Websites should not be static but should be updated regularly with things added or removed. One easy way to do this, without having to change your entire website, is through a “What’s New” page, where new information can be added at a moment’s notice. Imagine that you were voted the “Best Business in North America.” The sooner you can get that up on your website, the better. You can send out emails to let customers know, but what about the people who are looking for you that you don’t have access to your email newsletter? They should know it, too.

Make sure your website loads quickly. The messages should be clearly presented and valuable information should be visible (contact information and address).  If you want people to get in touch with you, make it easy. I have a hard time with websites that tell me to complete a lot of my personal information to contact them but don’t make their phone number easy to find if I just want to give them a call instead.

Mobile device accounted for 49.74% of website views worldwide in 2017 and this percentage is only going to go up. Optimize your website so it shows well on mobile.

Be accessible, allowing your customers and potential customers to access your information through the platform of their phone, whether that is a phone call, email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or the next big thing that comes along. By being easy to find you can have a 24/7 presence to give you a competitive edge.

Your strong online presence will benefit you, your customers and those that are still trying to find you. Make it a priority.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

* Some information from an article in Entrepreneur Daily.

Simple Things to De-stress Yourself
20 April, 2018

For many people life is (or seems to be) more stressful these days. We have more to do, more to think about at work and at home. So when I came across this article by Nina Zipkin on Entrepreneur Daily, I thought it would make a helpful blog. Sit down, relax and take five minutes to read about some techniques that will help relieve the stress you may be feeling.

Deep Breathing

A tip from Harvard Medical School: Find a quiet place, it could be outside or behind your desk (if you have already locked the door) and breathe in slowly through your nose allowing the air to fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth or your nose.


Try and find humor in things and start laughing. The Mayo Clinic says laughter can ease physical pain, boost your immune system and help you connect with others. It can also aid in coping with anxiety and depression.

Be Grateful

A study at the University of California at San Diego showed that people who were grateful had healthy hearts. When it comes right down to it, most of us have a lot to be grateful for. People who are grateful feel less fatigue and sleep better.


Singing does make you feel better. Partly, I think because of the breathing, but it also takes you out of yourself. I remember my mother singing “Whistle a Happy Tune” from the King And I. The lyrics: “Whenever I feel afraid. I hold my head erect. And whistle a happy tune. So no one will suspect I’m afraid.” I now sing that and other songs myself when I am stressed and it works well for me.

Count to Ten (or twenty if you wish)

Counting refocuses your mind on something other than the stress, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.

Hugs are a great stress reliever and drinking water can help. Having an apple, berries or walnuts, which contain antioxidants, may also work. Lastly, get some exercise, even if it’s just a five-minute walk around the building.

Whether you are at work or at home be aware of when you are becoming stressed, deal with it in a quick and easy way to get things back on track.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Creating Good Relationships at Work
13 April, 2018

An article in Mind Tools reported that Gallup published a study about the value of having good friends (or at least one good friend) at work. The poll showed that people who have a friend in the workplace are more likely to be satisfied with their job, be more positive and work harder. As humans, we want friendships and positive interactions with co-workers. If we are happy we are also going to be more productive.

That being the case, it’s important for businesses to foster good relationships between workers. Managers should be aware of employee differences and make every effort to understand and deal any situations with the employees involved. If not, minor disagreements can blow up out of proportion, affecting more employees than those originally involved, making the workplace uncomfortable for larger groups.

As employees or managers, it’s important that you look at all sides of the problem.  Sometimes people who have to work together are not drawn to each other’s personalities or managers may prefer one employee over another for any number of reasons. At these times, it is easy to criticize the person you don’t see eye to eye with rather than trying to find the positive things that this person brings to the group or department. Granted there can be co-workers that you just don’t get along with. It’s rather like an AM/FM radio; the AM stations can’t play on the FM channels and vice versa. It doesn’t mean that either AM or FM is wrong, it just means they are different.

If you are working with or managing someone who you are not in sync with, try getting to know the person a little better. Find out more about them before making your final decision. If you still don’t care for them, be polite, professional and offer them the same courtesies you would offer to anyone else. Conversely, if you are a manager and realize you have one person who is upsetting the whole team and have talked to them once or twice with no result, don’t sacrifice your whole team to one person. Remember the one dysfunctional person can easily drag the rest of the team into being dysfunctional. It is very rare that a functional team is able to bring a dysfunctional person up.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Be Different And Make It Count
06 April, 2018

Before we talk about what can make your brand and products stand out in the crowd, let’s start with why they need to. According to an article by Samuel Edwards originally published on, “…there are almost 28 million small businesses in the U.S…”  And while roughly 90% of startups fail, 543,000 new businesses are launched each month. That’s a lot of competition.

Look at your industry and see how many new businesses have popped up since you started yours. Nothing is static and as industries expand, you need to make sure your brand is noticed by the people you want to attract.

There are different things that make your brand stand out, though before you start it’s important to know whom you are trying to attract. If you don’t know your audience you cannot create the differences that are important to them. First, create a list of the people you want to attract to your business. When I ask businesses the question of what type of customer they want to attract, say “Everybody.” This is not a good answer (although amusing). List the demographics of your perfect customers and then broaden your search from there.

You can look at brand differentiation from a number of angles. You may start with where you want to be in the market. Are you striving for the high-end customers, medium or everyday? Once you know where you want to be from a price standpoint that helps you, create marketing and sales programs to differentiate yourself from other similar businesses.

Another way to differentiate is through your customer service. There are companies who have become very successful by offering the best customer service and quality (Nordstrom for example). Customers will pay a higher price to receive the best customer service as part of the package.

You may also consider creating strategic alliances with businesses that are looking to attract the same clientele. A cross-industry partnership can be beneficial to both businesses in many different ways (referrals, joint events, etc.). Find other businesses in your area that would attract the people.

Keep thinking about what makes your business different and how you can make those differences count.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Why Employees Leave Jobs
30 March, 2018

Of course, there are many reasons why people decide to leave their jobs. However, according to an article by Brigette Hyacinth, published late last year,

A Gallup poll of more than 1 million employed U.S. workers concluded that the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor. 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses, not the position itself.

This interesting information, which should make us pause.  As a manager how do you treat your employees or, as an employee how do you feel you are being treated by your manager and, just as importantly, how do you treat your manager?

Many times people are promoted from within. Someone who, for example, has been on the sales floor and been successful may be promoted to sales manager. However, while s/he may want the promotion, it may not be the best thing for the company or for other employees.

When someone is promoted to management (even at that first rung of management) they need the know-how how to do their new job properly. Being a great salesperson does not necessarily mean you are automatically a great sales manager. Training should be readily available for the employees being promoted. This is also true further up the line. An owner who started a small business because s/he was passionate about the product may have put all his/her time into production and be a terrible manager. Not because s/he is a terrible person but because managing is not within their skill set.

To be a great manager you need to know what your employees want and need to be successful. Feeling a part of the bigger picture is one thing that makes employees feel as if they are contributing to the success of the business. If the employees and managers feel successful then the business will be successful.

I leave you with a quote from Richard Branson (who has been amazingly successful):

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Creating Value
23 March, 2018

What is it about your products that make consumers want to buy them?

The answer is value.

Many times when we think of value we think of price. However, value does not necessarily mean price. Consumers want to know they are getting value for their money, but value means different things to different people. There are people to whom exclusivity, scarcity uniqueness, timeliness or good service are much more important than price.

Value is one of the primary emotional triggers that make people want to buy. When consumers purchase your products they do so because they consider the product has value to them. The idea of what that value is differs from customer to customer and differs according to the situation. For example:

  • If my water pipe springs a leak, the value to me is that the plumber can be there in 20 minutes.
  • Or I may be trying to find the perfect gift and finding something that will have value to the person who is receiving the gift also has value to me.

In those instances, price is not the foremost thing on my mind.

When determining if you have created value you should be asking yourself the following questions:

    • WHY should consumers buy my products or services?
    • WHY should the media promote my products or services?
    • WHAT is the story that will drive interest?
    • HOW is the value of the product or service perceived in the minds of potential buyers and the media?

And if your answer to the question of why potential buyers should buy your product is, “We are a family business that sells high-quality products,” you are already in deep trouble.

Why should consumers value your product? Because you have:

    • Clearly and concisely provided the information they need to recognize the value of your product and form a perception of value.
    • The products and services are packaged and promoted well.
    • The staff transfers the perception of quality and value of the product or service to the customer.

Knowing the audience you are targeting is also important when creating value. If you know what customers want you can deliver the information that is important to them.

Write down three things you want consumers to know about your products.

Put them in order of importance and ask yourself:

  • Do the points adequately convey a sense of value?
  • Does this information provide a benefit to the customer?
  • Are the points easy to read and absorb in a short amount of time?
  • Is the meaning clear, even to people who do not know anything about your product?

Then ensure that everyone who works in the business knows these value propositions.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What You Should Know About Wine Customers
16 March, 2018

Interesting article in Wine last week by Cyril Penn about how big data can unlock direct-to-consumer (DTC) potential and boost sales. There was a lot of good information in the article, some of which I will go into at a later date. Today I am focusing on some of the statistics about wine consumers that were discussed in the article.

1. Wine consumers are dramatically more affluent than the average U.S. consumers.

  • 57% of wine consumers have a net worth of over 1 million dollars, compared to 12% of the average U.S. consumer.

2. 71% of DTC revenue comes from 30% of the customers.

  • …Every customer matters but a lot of money is coming from the very top segment.

3. Younger women gain parity with men in wine purchasing.

  • This information should get you thinking about who your marketing and how your promotional materials are geared to. Historically wineries focused their marketing on male customers.

4. 42% of DTC customers live less than 150 miles away from the winery, most live farther away.

  • Are you analyzing your customer base by zip code to find out where most of your customers live? Do you have concentrations of customers in certain areas or zip codes? Will this analysis affect your marketing and event planning? It is a great tool for planning more successful and profitable events, promotion and advertising.

5. Discover the other interests of your customers.

  • Wine consumers are more likely to be skiers, play tennis, support the arts and they tend to subscribe to financial newsletters. This should also affect your marketing and events.

These few statistics can lead you to many more questions, generate analysis and marketing ideas that can make your winery grow. Whether you are a large or small winery there are things you can put into play that will make your business more successful and your customers feel more connected to your winery.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

09 March, 2018

I have been reading a lot of winery newsletters recently and have noticed that many of them are very similar to each other. Taking into consideration that most wineries have the same goals and are interested in the same things (primarily growing grapes, making wine and selling wine) it is hard to stand out and be different. How do you differentiate yourself from others in your industry? There are ways to differentiate your business; you might differentiate by price (at either the low or high end), or create a niche for your company through innovation (wine available in disposal, sealed, individual, plastic glasses). There is differentiation through by convenience (think of Amazon’s one-click purchase) or through service, which should be one that most companies could work on and do well.

If a consumer came up to you and asked you why s/he should choose to do business with you rather than your competitors, what would you tell her/him? I suggest this as a great question to ask each one of the employees and then listen to their answers. I would then go on and ask the same question to your customers. There are reasons that people do business with you and you may not know what they are. Another good question to ask your customers would be what they value about your company, products, and services. In short, what brings them back.

As the number of wineries continues to increase (according to the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau there were 11,496 wineries in the United States in 2016 ­- a 7.6% increase from 2015), I believe we will see the same growth for 2017. This doesn’t take into account the wine coming into the U.S. from the rest of the world.

As Entrepreneur magazines states, The majority of businesses in crowded industries fail to stand out because they don’t do anything to differentiate their brands. They simply do what everyone else does, content with scraping by and ignoring the scary proposition of taking a risk.”

The easiest way to differentiate your business is to focus on customer service. According to an article in Entrepreneur magazine, “Long-term loyalty of a customer base is the best way to guarantee profitability for years to come.” Stand out from the crowd by focusing on what your customers want. That means, asking questions, listening to the answers and putting into play the procedures the processes that will make your customers feel important to your company.

Be daring… be different.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Creating A Recognizable Business Culture
02 March, 2018

With the great number of brands these days, it is getting harder and harder to differentiate your brand from those of your competitors. A lot of that has to do with the fact that many who start businesses do so because they are passionate about the product, not because they are passionate about marketing, branding or creating the culture of the company. This is very evident in the wine business. Most winery owners are passionate about growing grapes and making wine, they are not, necessarily passionate about the culture of the company.

As you are developing your business, the grapes you shall grow, the wines you shall make, also ask yourself, “What culture do I want to create for my business?” Creating the culture will give you a template for many of your other decisions. For example, what are the traits and qualifications you want in your employees, how will you create your customer service guide and your plans for advertising, marketing, and public relations?

When developing some of your cultural items, consider the things that make your business recognizable, such as your logo, the colors you use and your tagline. Think long and hard before you choose those, as they are the things that define your company in the mind of many consumers and you don’t want to change them too often. It’s fine to tweak things to keep them current but wholesale changes make it difficult for consumers to remember you. For example, look up online the portraits of Betty Crocker, a brand that has been in existence since 1921. While Betty has changed over the years, she has always been a brunette, she is always wearing a red jacket or sweater with something white underneath, mostly a blouse, one time pearls and now a tee shirt and the drawing is always just head and shoulders. If you look at all the Bettys together you can see how much they have changed, but you would recognize every one of them as Betty Crocker. That’s the point.

Try and create a culture through everything that you do from in-person communication, visuals, and written communications, to how you deal with customers on the phone. You want to stand out from your competitors. This is a way to do it.

Finally, be patient. Creating the culture is not a sprint it’s a long distance race where you keep reinforcing the same lessons and methods.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Creating an Employee Handbook
23 February, 2018

An employee handbook is an important part of your training schedule. The handbook provides employees with a written guide to follow and refer to when they may have forgotten.

Creating an employee handbook can be a lot of work, which is why many businesses do not have a comprehensive handbook. My suggestion is that you write the handbook in small pieces. For example, a winery would write a one or two page summary of the vineyards and how the grapes are grown; another one or two pages can be dedicated to the information on how the wines are made, focusing on the information that will give customers facts they can take home with them. I start with these two things as most owners find these pages easy to write and you might as well start off with things that can be done quickly.

Next on the list, write a one-page mission, vision, and an overview of the company if you don’t already have that.

After that, a one-two page basic job description detailing the duties of each the position in the company. For example, sales and hospitality staff should be given information on the ins and outs of opening and closing, how to run the cash register, etc. You should also cover compensation, commissions, and how sales discounts work for customers.

General employee policies differ from state to state but information should be readily available on government websites. Consider employee policies such as attendance, benefits, vacation time, confidentiality, dress code, expectations, expense reporting (if applicable) work performance, discipline and termination factors.

One of the most important parts of an employee handbook is the information about the Customer Experience you expect each of your employees to provide to your guests and customers. This information should be available to everyone in the company whether they regularly come into contact with the public or not.

When you ensure that your employees understand what your expectations are, you are more likely to have your expectation met. For an outline of a suggested table of contents for an employee handbook, drop me an email at and I will send one over to you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Making the Sale
17 February, 2018

Most of the wineries I know would like to increase their sales, though many of them are not sure how to go about it. Selling is not hard, it just takes some practice and an understanding of the basics.

Occasionally (very occasionally) someone comes in specifically to buy because they have seen something or the product has been recommended to them. Those people are not numerous enough to push through all your stock. You will have to take the rest of your customers through the four phases of the sale.

  1. Opening 

Introduce yourself to the guests before beginning the interaction. Follow the introduction with a few questions about what brought the guests to the winery, the weather, how they like the area. Be sure to give the guests time to answer. This portion of the interaction should not last too long.

  1. Information Gathering

Before you give guests the tasting sheet or start pouring, discover some things that are important to the guests about wine. Ask what wines they drink at home, if they enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, etc. It is important to let them know that you are first interested in them, rather than what they will buy. Additionally, asking questions about why they chose to visit gives the server the information needed to direct the conversation and the experience.

  1. Sell Benefits

How does buying and drinking the wine benefit the guests? Show the guests how their lives will be better or more interesting by drinking your wine. Offer a solution to a problem (for example, they want a wine they can drink regularly). As you are doing this, ask the guests if they have any particular points of concern or questions they would like to ask.

  1. Close the Sale

Ask a few closing questions that will elicit yes answers based on information you already have elicited: “ You prefer white wines, is that correct?” “I believe you said you enjoy dry wines?” “When you were tasting you preferred the Frontenac.” Then summarize the benefits: “You will always be comfortable serving this wine to guests.” “We have a special price on the Chardonnay right now.” (Do not use the word discount – saying special price makes it more… well, special) “How many bottles would you like?”

Selling is simple if you focus on the guest. There are some buyers who want to know all the facts, but they are few and far between. Give guests information they can pass along to their friends about when they get home.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Do You Know Your Employees?
09 February, 2018

With the workloads that many managers and owners have these days, it is easy to lose touch with what your employees are doing, how they are treating customers and how they feel about the treatment they receive from management.

Even with all the work that has to be done, one of the most important parts of a manager’s job is keeping in touch with employees both as a group and individually, especially those who interface directly with customers. I am surprised when I see employees treat customers with indifference, and wonder whether it’s because they are treated the same way. That’s not always the case but it can add to the lack of customer service in a company.

One thing to remember is that positive interaction with employees usually takes some thought and attention. Think about the words you use when speaking with employees, your tone of voice and your body language. Make eye contact with employees. Work on your soft skills (see my blog from 12.12.17 for more information on soft skills) and your ability to connect with employees.

When you are looking for information from your employees, be aware of how you ask the questions and be specific about what you want to know. It is easy to misinterpret what people want of you, whether it is manger to employee or employee to manager.

When talking about policy changes, present your case in a positive and persuasive manner. Ask for feedback, listen carefully and receive it openly. Take your time when considering suggestions before you make any decisions on whether the ideas should be implemented or not. If you can test an employee’s suggestions, do so. Keep in mind, too, the tone of your online and distributed information and the effect it may have on employees.

Work on ways to relate to your employees, take the time to make small talk with them.

Show an interest in their lives and family and look for common ground. You may find that you have more in common with your staff that your thought.

The way you treat your employees is the same way your employees will treat your customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Customer Service in the Airline Industry
02 February, 2018

The airlines have not been getting kudos lately as far as their customer service towards passengers goes. For a while, it has been one thing after another.

I have been traveling quite a bit and been spending a fair amount of time in airports and on planes. In November, I was scheduled to fly from Spokane to Seattle and then home to Sonoma County, after being away for two weeks. On day one, the flight to Seattle was late due to a mechanical problem, so late that there was no chance that I would make my connection. So the airline booked me on a flight for the next day. The bag I had checked was retrieved from the airline and, after five hours in the airport, I headed for the hotel.

The next morning, I was up at 6 a.m. to catch the 7 a.m. shuttle from the hotel back to the airport for a 9 a.m. flight. Unfortunately, the flight was coming from Seattle, which was in the midst of a winter storm and low visibility. This was causing delays in planes being able to take off (337 planes delayed and 41 canceled) so, again, everything was late. This put me back in the queue, with a long line of other disgruntled travelers. To add to the travails, it was also Friday, which meant that the airport was very busy with people heading home, and heading out for the weekend or longer.

So what does this have to do with my blog? The answer is customer service. The airline representatives for Alaska Airlines that I spoke to were absolutely terrific. They had long lines of frustrated customers, who were handled with patience and courtesy. Never once did the young woman I dealt with ever respond to the frustration of customers (including me). She got on her computer and moved travelers to other flights, and other airlines, bumping people up to better seats and generally doing everything she could to make it work. After retrieving my bags once more from Alaska (the check-in people knew me by name by that time) I was assigned to United Airlines (first class, woohoo!) coming to San Francisco rather than Sonoma County, but at least I was close to home. I also got a credit from the airline to use on my next flight.

I have to congratulate the airport personnel at Alaska Airlines in Spokane, who did a great job in sorting out hundreds of travelers in difficult circumstances.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Art of Public Speaking
28 January, 2018

As it is coming up to conference time again, I was reading an article about public speaking so I could remind myself of the things I should be doing. When I started thinking about it I realized that whether you talking to two people across a tasting bar or in any other retail establishment or whether you are talking to 100 people in a seminar it’s still public speaking. So here are a few tips that I always try to keep in mind when I am speaking.

People remember how they felt when someone is speaking to them. They probably won’t remember the words you used but they will remember how they felt. You can create emotions by telling stories or by putting yourself in their shoes. Let them know there was a time when you were not the expert and how you felt at that time.

Rather than giving your audience a lot of facts (unless, of course, that is what they want – in which case they will usually keep asking you questions), find out what your audience is looking for and help them to understand how you can deliver what it is they want.

Never underestimate people’s willingness to buy so they can impress their friends. What I mean by that is give them a story they can take home with them. Something in the stories they tell may encourage their friends to visit you or use your products. It doesn’t help if they are using your products when they are telling the story.

Give your audience some tips that will make their experience with your products even more special. Present the guests with information related to your topic that is of benefit to them.

Return to the main points of your presentation so that the audience will retain the important things you are telling them. If you present a lot of information it’s hard to remember so key points should be mentioned three times while you are speaking.

Relax when you are talking to strangers. If you are comfortable, they will be too.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Reviewing Your Customer Service
19 January, 2018

The beginning of the year is a good time to review your customer service and your customer retention. How did you do at holding on to customers in the past year? Who has dropped off the radar and why? Most managers know how many customers they gained over the past year, though less of them know how many customers they lost or why they lost these customers.

If your business has a slow time, those involved in customer service can spend this slower season going through customer records, finding out who has gone AWOL and picking up the phone to find out why. There are lots of reasons for customers to stop buying and not all of them have anything to do with your business or products. If customers have dropped away for personal reasons (illness, a lost job or a move for example) a phone call to tell them that you haven’t seen them for a while and hope everything is okay will make them feel appreciated and missed. That way, when their lives are back to normal, they will be back.

If the reason they have left you is because of a bad experience, the sooner you find out about it the better. Especially as 95% of consumers talk about poor customer service experiences with other people, though they probably won’t tell you.

The winter is also a good time to make changes that might be necessary or improve the experience you provide to guests and customers. Get together with key staff and define the ideal experience that you would like to deliver to your customers and guests. Give your employees the opportunity to present their ideas of how things can be improved. When employees have a hand in shaping the experience they are much more likely to follow the template that is created for the experience.

Once you have a new template for the customer experience, put in place processes that will promote the change. Train some of your employees to be mentors so that when you hire new staff in the spring, there is someone they can turn to for help and guidance if you are not available.

This work during the winter will pay off in increased sales and greater customer satisfaction come the busy season.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Making the Most of Instagram
12 January, 2018

Instagram has been around since October 2010 and in only seven years it has increased its users to 700 million, which is more than twice the size of Twitter. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and judging from the pictures I have found on Instagram I would say that is definitely true, especially for wineries. Seeing a great bottle of wine, beautiful vineyard or a winery tasting room can increase the desire to visit. Just a quick note: when you take a picture of your tasting room, make sure there are people in it. I see many pictures of tasting rooms that are completely empty, which makes me wonder how popular the winery is.

It’s simple to add pictures to Instagram, though remember that if you can create unique or uncommon pictures and make the description of your post different from that of other companies in your industry, viewers are much more likely to pay attention to your business. There are people involved in every business and viewers are interested in the people behind the brand. Pictures of people tend to attract attention, whether they are customers or employees. A quick reminder: ask permission before using pictures of individuals.

Use different types of posts. You can go from serious to comic, depending on the situation. Use an emoji or a cartoon on occasion, if it fits in with what you want to get across to viewers. People like to laugh. It’s a serious world a lot of the time and giving people the opportunity to laugh can create a bond between them and the company.

Certainly, you can promote buying through Instagram in different ways, some subtle and some not so subtle. Continually pitching may push people away from the posts, so break up the sales pitches with interesting, personal, or funny posts.

Instagram is a great tool and used properly can be a boon to your business.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Engaging Customers
05 January, 2018

I have been doing research lately on how to genuinely charm and engage customers. For those of us who serve the public, being charming to our customers should be at the top of the list. Shown below are some of the ideas.

Interest in People:  During the time the customer is with you put them in the spotlight by showing an interest in what they are saying, why they came into your business, and what you can do to help them.

The first thing when dealing with a customer is to introduce yourself and ask for their names. By giving someone your name, you have shown a willingness to have a more personal relationship with these customers, even if it is only for twenty minutes. When people give you information, follow up with an open-ended question to find out more.

Authenticity:  It’s usually easy to tell when someone is not being authentic. If you have no interest in your customers they will recognize it on some level. Even if you are pretending that you do. If you love what you do it will come through to the customers. If you don’t love what you do, it may be a good idea to find something that you enjoy more.

Individual Experiences: Vary your interaction with each customer and focus on things that are most important to them. To achieve that, it’s vital that you start the engagement by finding out his/her wants and needs. You should be looking not only to make a customer but also to make a friend.

Body Language: Your body language is just as important as the words you speak. A smile makes a difference, especially if you smile at a customer s/he will usually smile back at you. That makes them feel good and should make you feel good too. Be open in your body language, arms should not be crossed and your hands should be open. Make eye contact with the person to whom you are speaking.

Belief in the Product: If you can speak with and exude confidence about the products or services that you sell, you are much more likely to make the sale. This does not necessarily mean overwhelming people with facts, but letting customers know the things that are most likely to interest and influence them.

All these things will lead to a better experience for your customers and a better experience for you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

New Year’s Resolutions
29 December, 2017

Another year is almost upon us. By next week it will be 2018. Hard to believe but here it’s time again for your New Year’s resolutions. This year make it a little easier on yourself by putting in at least one resolution that you absolutely know that you can accomplish.

One way to accomplish your goals is to give yourself some wiggle room. For instance, instead of saying I am going to completely stop doing something that is an ingrained habit, I plan on doing it less.

Here are a few resolutions that are on my list that you might also want to consider:

Allow 10 Minutes Each Day to Organize

My desk seems to have a mind of its own and, before I know, it the desk is full of miscellaneous pieces of paper. My resolution is to take 10 minutes each day to clean up the papers that are all over my desk from the day before.

Allow yourself the choice of when you are going to clean up your desk. I find it easier to clean up my desk first thing in the morning rather than in the evening. Choosing the time when I will do it makes it easier for me.

Cut Down on Procrastination

There are things that we have to do that we put off for days and then end up doing at the last minute. If my deadline is two weeks away, what I find helpful is to split big tasks into smaller sections.

Allow yourself the time to do one section, shelve the project until the next day then finish section two. I make sure I have a day at the end to double-check my work before the project is considered finished.

Reward Yourself

Allow yourself some small rewards when you accomplish a goal. I love to read so when I have finished something I allow myself to read an article I am interested in. Or I take a five or ten-minute walk. Both these things give me the break I need to put one thing behind me before I move on to the next.

When we are creating our New Year’s resolutions it’s important to take into consideration how likely we are to be able to keep them. Choose resolutions and structure them so you have a good chance of succeeding. This way, by March you can feel proud of what you have accomplished.


A tip of the glass from me to you!

Creative Content Marketing
22 December, 2017

These days it is important to business to have new and interesting marketing content, telling customers and potential customers about the products and services they can expect. It’s not always easy to come up with the amount of type of content that consumers are looking for. We can easily get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing. I read many, many emails from wineries presenting their products and in most of the missives I receive there is a sameness to the content.

One of the ways you can make your content different is to have the people who buy your wine and love your brand contribute by creating some of the content for you. Consumers tend to be more interested in hearing what other consumers think about products. According to Bazaar Voice, which specializes in user-generated content marketing, “64% of millennials and 53% of boomers want more options to share their opinions about brands.” Additional studies show that consumers are more likely to believe user-generated content more than other media.

Ask for information and testimonials from your customers and display the information on your website, in emails or through social media. Let potential customers know how your customers feel by using their own words through your marketing avenues.

Sign up for a monitoring service so you know when and where your products, company or key personnel in the company are mentioned. Then respond to the consumers who mentioned you.

Be ready to answer questions or complaints and keep track of all your social media so you know what is being said.

Use more pictures in your messaging to customers. Show pictures of your customers using your products and couple that with a blurb from the customer saying why they buy and use it. Visual content encourages consumers to purchase and brings them to the buying process much faster.

It’s important, too, that you are seen through different channels. According to Bazaar Voice “Consumers increasingly are moving back and forth among mobile, PC, tablet, and in-store experiences seamlessly during their shopping process. 73% used multiple channels during their shopping journey.”

Keep current and potential customers interested in your company and your products by keeping them involved in active as well as passive ways.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Importance of Soft Skills
15 December, 2017

I am hearing more talk these days about the importance of soft skills in the workplace, especially for those in supervisory capacities or those employees who deal with customers.

Hard skills are those that we are trained to perform. An example of a hard skill would be an accountant or a winemaker.

Soft sills tend to be harder to quantify. These are the skills that make individuals good at jobs in customer service, sales or in staff supervision. While it is important that owners and managers have soft skills it isn’t always the case.

Employees and managers with well-developed soft skills are adaptable and able to relate to different employees or customers with ease. These people will also be good communicators. They can vary their style of speech and tone of voice to suit the person to whom they are speaking. They are also intuitive, being able to understand people and being aware of facial expressions, tone of voice and stance that allows them to understand what the people they are speaking to may be thinking or feeling.

These types of personal qualities are a must for anyone who is dealing with the public or managing a staff. Being able to understand how the other person may be feeling or see a problem from the other side is a great help to those who work with customers, are part of a team or just want to get ahead in their chosen profession.

According to an article from Realityworks,

  • 77% of employers think personality skills are just as important as hard skills.
  • 44% think that Americans lack soft skills (500 executives surveyed)
  • 46% of manager said young workers would do well to home their communication skills
  • 35% reported lower-than-needed interpersonal and teamwork skills

In today’s world with the emphasis on customer service, the competition for sales and customer expectations honing our soft skills will make us more effective, efficient and more valuable in the workplace.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Keeping Up With Research
08 December, 2017

Research is an important part of any business, marketing or customer relations plan. Even when a plan has been completed for a while, it doesn’t hurt to do more research to find out what has changed and how to update your plans. Marketing, for instance, has changed dramatically over the last few years with the advent of email, social media and the like. Who knows what is coming next.

Know What You Want To Know

Before you start your research into a business, marketing strategy or customer wants and needs, make a list of questions that you want to find answers to. For example:

The knowledge you gain from marketing research could be:

  • To attract more customers
  • To increase sales to Millennials (or Gen X or Boomers)
  • To present products to a broader audience
  • To discover what my customers want
  • Who are my competitors (and how are they attracting customers)
  • There are many reasons and these are just a few.

Know What You Want to Achieve

Again, make a list of how you want to use this information in your business. Will it drive:

  • The sales direction for the next year or two
  • How you go about attracting new customers
  • How it will influence your product mix
  • Whether you are focused on the right target market(s).

It’s important to focus on the market segment that would be most interested in your products. I speak to many companies who answer the question of, “Who are your customers?” with the answer, “Everyone.”  Try to be more specific by looking at the mix of customer you have now and discovering how you can increase the numbers. Focus particularly on your best customers and see if what the similarities are possibly in age, location, buying habits, etc.

Different Avenues of Research

Primary market research:

  • Observation of customers, yours and your competitors
  • Focus groups: Ask current customers why they do business with you
  • Surveys:  Keep surveys fairly short  (3-20 questions) and offer an incentive for completing and returning the survey

Secondary market research.

  • If you belong to a trade association, ask for any research they may have on the subject you are researching.
  • Trade publications can be a big help to your research.

Analyze Results

When analyzing results objectivity is key. Accept what people have to say whether you like it or not. Also, consider how the responses apply to your marketing and what you can use from the data to bring in more customers.

Research can be time-consuming but it also is well worth the time you spend.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Making the Most of Email Marketing
01 December, 2017

Ah, the ubiquitous email.  Let me ask you a question: How many of you don’t get enough email? Okay, I know the answer, none of you. Everyone gets more emails than they know what to do with. Well, we do really know what to do and we do it, we send many of them directly to the trash without ever opening them.

It’s important for your business that the emails that you send do not head straight for the trash, so today’s blog includes some tips on how to get people to look at your emails.

Even in emails, one size does not fit all. The first step is to segment your customer list. Break down the list into your best customers (those who are emotionally connected to you and will always open your emails), those who like to purchase when there is a special offer, customers who buy at the holidays and new customers who may not have received many of your emails. These are just a few of the ways to segment your list, I am sure you can think of others. The more you can meet the needs of the individual groups, the larger your open, click through and transaction rates will be. Here are a few ideas.

Of course, personalization makes customers feel like you have a stake in making them happy, so using first names in the emails is always a good idea.

Consider sending the same email more than once. You don’t know who is overwhelmed with emails that day, or who is ignoring their email and ending up with a boxful of emails. By sending it twice you have a better chance of a customer or prospect seeing it. Alter the subject line and resend to those who didn’t open the email the first time.

Make the content relevant to the audience you are targeting. For example, don’t send information about red wine to people who only drink white. The segmentation will help with that as you can further delve into which of your customers is opening which of your emails.

If customers trust that what you have to say is something they will want to hear, they will open your emails to see what you have for them this time. You are looking to build relationships with these people and two of the main building blocks are trust and the knowledge that you are interested in what they want and need.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Engaging Your Customers in Ways That Suit Them
25 November, 2017

I have been teaching a Wine Business class at my local Junior College in Sonoma County. This eight-week class, which has students ranging in age from 20 to 60 is about wine clubs. A couple of weeks ago we were talking about different ways of connecting with people and one of the ways was direct mail. The youngest member of my class raised her hand and asked, “What is direct mail?” It started me thinking that so many people don’t correspond by mail anymore, they text, email, Facebook or YouTube, which moved me on to how we make sure that we are effectively corresponding with our audience, no matter how we choose to reach them.

In business, what you say and how you say it is important to sales, to customer engagement and to keeping your business profitable. Knowing who will be reading or listening to what you have to say as well as what and how they want/need to hear from you is of the utmost importance.

It’s also important that you consider the age ranges of the people you are talking to. They may want information in different ways. How is the message being read by your audience? Is it going out in a blog, through email, text, tweet, or on a postcard? Write for the avenue you choose to use. Also, understand that most of your audience is going to be just as busy as you are. There are those in your audience who don’t have much time and even less patience. If you have something important to tell them, get to it quickly.

Once you have given them the core of what you have to say, you can then expand on your topic for those who want to learn more about your subject. Even then, try not to go into more detail than most of your audience can soak in. Encourage those who want more to let you know so you may send them more information.

Engage and connect with the readers or viewers, using words or pictures that are entertaining and interesting. Leave them wanting a little bit so they will come back for more.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Happy Holiday Selling!
18 November, 2017

Are you ready for holiday sales? There are only a few days until Thanksgiving (where does the time go?) so Black Friday is almost upon us. After that, December is looming. So far, in my email inbox I have received a number of winery mailers offering me Thanksgiving wines though only one has even alluded to the December holidays. The holidays are all coming up: Hanukah from December 12 – 20, Christmas – December 25 – January 1, and Kwanzaa – December 26 – January 1.

While researching I found an interesting article by Laura Forer of MarketingProfs, who said that holiday-related sales in the United State are expected to surpass 923 billion dollars, a 3% increase from last season. That is a lot of sales and you want to make sure that you get your share.

Another point, according to the article, is that 35% of shoppers have finished their holiday shopping by Cyber Monday, which this year is on November 27th.

The avenues that people use to research and shop for gifts differ. Most people use more than one source. 24% of shoppers go over emails and newsletters, while 47% frequent brick and mortar stores. Television (43%) and asking for hints from family and friends (44%) are other ways people decide what to buy. For younger customers, such as Millennials or Gen Z use Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

The more specific you are about the holiday gifts you are advertising, the better chance you have of getting people to look at your advertising. Of course, you will also get more eyes on your information if you personalize, which is especially important during the holidays. Using the customer’s name in the subject line will get more people to open your emails. According to MarketingProfs, personalization of holiday emails leads to a unique open rate of 17% higher, a unique click rate of 30% higher and a transaction rate of 70% higher, bringing up revenues per email by 43%. Mobile commerce is expected to jump 38% this season.

Finally, make it easy for customers to purchase from you. Amazon has gained so much ground by making buying easy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Keep Customers Coming Back
10 November, 2017

This week, I gave a talk at the Wine Tourism Conference taking place in Sonoma County.

The subject of the talk was Keep Customers Coming Back, which should be the goal of most businesses. However, I have noticed that many businesses do not have the processes or procedures in place to ensure that when someone visits they have a desire to return.

Research shows that keeping customers coming back is important:

  • A 5% increase in customer retention can improve company profitability by 7.5%
  • Engaged customers buy more frequently and spend more per transaction
  • Your business benefits from more word-of-mouth promotion
  • Regular customers bring their friends to meet you
  • A loyal customer is less likely to be lured away to other companies by discounts
  • It gives you an edge over competitors.

How do you keep customers coming back?

By providing an individual experience for each person who visits. For that, you need to create a plan, which will be your blueprint to design, deliver, manage and measure the results.  To make your plan successful:

  • Understand that your customers need to be more than satisfied
  • Put processes in place
  • Hire people who value customer service (remember that they are your ambassadors on and off the job)
  • Create an employee handbook with an in-depth section on customer service standards and guidelines
  • Implement customer interactions that will meet and exceed expectations
  • Review the people, products, services interface and interactions with customers.

Create the kind of atmosphere that results in individual experiences for all your guests. This means that procedures need to be customer-centric:

  • Processes around sales and returns need to be set up to focus on the needs of the customer
  • Conduct regular and interactive customer service training sessions with staff
  • All employees should be genuinely interested in customers as individuals
  • Create memories for customers.

Finally, I am going to say something that you have heard many times, though I think it is worth saying again: Attracting new customers cost more than retaining the customers you have.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Terrible Week
13 October, 2017

Nature has a way shaking us up when we least expect it. Strong winds whipped up huge fires in Napa and Sonoma counties on Sunday night, which led to unthinkable devastation in the early hours of Monday morning and on through the week.

Many people were evacuated (I was just outside the evacuation area), So many lost houses (whole subdivisions were destroyed) and businesses. The north end of Santa Rosa has suffered amazing damage.

We are grateful to the police and fire departments that did such a good job of getting everyone out of harm’s way.

The fires are still out of control, but the winds, which were up to 45 miles an hour on Sunday night, have calmed down. We have fire departments from all over California helping out, so I believe they will get a handle on the fires soon. In the meantime, those of us still in homes are packed and ready to evacuate if needed

There have been so many different types of natural disasters this year that at times it’s hard to keep it in perspective. The way I see it we are only renting this planet and sometimes it has a mind of its own. So I will finish by saying the words I have been saying and hearing so much the last couple of days: Stay safe.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How well are you tracking your social media?
06 October, 2017

While distributing information to your customers and potential customers through social media is important, it’s also important to know how the people that you are reaching are reacting to what you have to say. Are they paying attention to your posts or tweets and passing them along to others or do the posts just disappear?

Know why you regularly posting on social media: to become more engaged with your customers, to gain more publicity for your brand, to attract more customers, to sell product or to present your customers with reasons to buy from you. Keep a list of goals handy, to keep you on track.

To discover whether or not you are successful, track your social media posts to see where they go after they reach your audience. This can be accomplished through tracking keywords that relate to your company or products.

Track your brand or company name. Know who is talking about your company or products and why. Whether it is a complaint or a compliment, a response to the person who responded to the post will positively affect how they feel about you. It is easier than you think to turn around a complaint by paying attention and doing everything you can to sort out the problem either on- or offline. Tracking your brand or company may also give you more information about questions that customers are asking each other, or whether there is talk about your products.

It doesn’t hurt to track your main competitors also. It helps to know what they are doing and how they are being perceived on social media.

Track key employees through their own sites and through what people are saying about them. In the wine industry, you know how important the winemaker, the owners and even the people in the tasting room are to many of your best customers. They feel connected to these people and will be loyal to the brand because of them.

Track industry keywords to see if your brand, company or products are being mentioned in the broader industry by consumers who may be looking for the type of product you produce.

Social media may not cost a lot when compared to print or electronic advertising but if you are going to be successful it does take time to do it right.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Preparing for the Future
29 September, 2017

A few weeks ago, Rob McMillan, an EVP with Silicon Valley Bank and founder of their wine division, wrote as part of his blog about his prediction for the slowdown of growth in wine sales starting around mid-2018 and into 2019. He continues to say that while sales probably won’t decline, he expects zero growth at that time.

His predictions are well researched, based on Nielsen data of wine sold through wholesale. It doesn’t include DTC sales, which is good news for the smaller wineries who sell mostly through direct to consumer channels, tasting rooms, wine clubs, etc. That means, however, that more time and effort needs to be put into marketing.

The other good thing about getting this information early is that you have time to plan for the next couple of years, to keep your sales rolling along at a fair pace, with increased sales and profit.

It also gives you the chance to start thinking about what wines are selling and what are lagging so you can focus more on the wines that your customers prefer. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make some less well-known varietals. Though before you commit to a large planning for these varietals, know how much of those wines are being sold and whether the sales are increasing year to year.

Start planning now for robust sales and marketing methods. Branch out to include things you may not have tried before or put more attention on the content, frequency and customer inclusion of your social media, emails and other ways to contact your customers and potential customers.

Preparing for less or no growth over the next couple of years works to your advantage even if the forecast turns out to be wrong. The promotion you do will not be wasted and you may find that you have the best year ever.

Thanks, for the heads up Rob… By looking at what may be coming up for 2018 and 2019, you will be in better shape to weather whatever comes your way.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Easy Ways to Increase Sales
22 September, 2017

If you want to increase your sales quickly and simply, good customer service is your biggest asset. It will increase customer goodwill willingness to buy, and return visits. We talk a lot about sales skills, but if customer service is not the major part of sales, the sales skills are not going to help much.

I have been into many businesses where sales people try to push me, bully me and sometimes even shame me into buying. I don’t buy. If you provide me with good customer service, show you are interested in me and engage me, I will willingly and happily buy from you and come back to buy more.

Customer service is a compilation of different skills that help you, the sales person, focus on the customer, find out what s/he wants, and meet their expectations with not only your service but your products.

  1. Introductions: Welcome your customers to your business and immediately introduce yourself. Usually, if you introduce yourself the customer will introduce him/herself. If you don’t have a good memory, silently repeat the customers’ names three times and say to them: “John/Julie it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
  2. Ask A Question: Any number of questions can be asked:
  • Are you enjoying the lovely weather?
  • Is this your first visit?
  • Did you have anything special in mind today?
  • Are you visiting the area (if you are in a tourist area.)
  • You look familiar (if you think they may have been in before.

3. Listen to the Answers: It may be information you can refer back to that will help close a sale. People respond to people who pay attention, it makes them feel important. Don’t present a new query until your customers have finished answering the one before.

4. Be Patient: We all work at different speeds. Allow the customer the time to formulate an answer to your question or to make a decision. Count slowly and silently to five.  Use the same 5-second rule when you ask customers if they have any questions. A lot goes through people’s heads before they ask a question. They may have trouble formulating the question or don’t want to ask a silly question or appear ignorant in front of others.

5. Relax when you are around customers. You know that you have fifty things you need to get done by the end of the day, but your customers don’t. It’s not appropriate to make customers uncomfortable because they are taking up your time.

6. Don’t Assume: You don’t know whether a stranger who walks into your business is going to buy or not. You might think you do, but truly you don’t. It is very human to judge people, we do it all the time. So, if you find that you are judging, tell yourself that you may not be right. Then go about helping them to the buying decision.

Look for more customer service ideas next week.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Take the Time to Do Some Research
15 September, 2017

One of the things I like most about the work I do is that it involves a fair amount of research on different topics. I use the information I find to create handouts at seminars and for my weekly blogs. While the Internet has certainly simplified research, it also means that there is much, much more information available. The trouble is, once you get started it is hard to stop. I can easily spend half a day as one thing leads to another.

Market research is important in any business, though with the demands of business it is sometimes hard to get around to it in a formal way. Market research sounds so formal, although it can be done through informal ways that will give you the information you really need. When you talk to people who can give you insight, you are conducting market research.

Start by making a list of questions to ask your subjects and keep the questions short. There may be a couple of things you want to know or a list of twenty. However, don’t overwhelm your subjects with too many questions. Once you have your list of questions put them in order of the least to most important.

Choose different audiences, for example:

  • Employees (those who work in the areas in which you are trying to find answers.) You may want to give employees the questions and allow them to answer anonymously on the off chance that they feel their answers may offend you.
  • Customers are a wonderful wellspring of information. They will tell you what they like about your business, products, service, etc. or what they don’t like (usually in great detail.)
  • People who don’t buy your products but are part of your target audience. They can be another good avenue as they may not buy your product because they have never heard of you. While you think you are advertising and promoting to the right people, you may be missing a large group.
  • Competitors are another group. Send someone that they don’t know to visit their premises and ask the questions.
  • Suppliers or sales reps are a good source of information as they deal with many people in the same business you are in.
  • Professional organization to which you belong may have information that could be helpful to you.

When conducting market research be open to the answers you receive. Think about each of them seriously, rather than dismiss them because they don’t suit your mindset.

Enjoy your research.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Tips for Keeping Your Brain in Top Form
08 September, 2017

I have been catching up on my reading lately and have come across some great articles. Today’s blog is all about “Why the Modern World Is Bad for Your Brain,” which is an article by a neuroscientist, Dr. Gabija Toleikyte.

In this day and age, many of us are continually jumping from one task to another, both at work and at home, as we try to finish everything on our To Do lists. When we jump back and forth too much, according to Dr. Toleikyte, the brain’s attention systems will find it harder to focus, which has an impact on productivity. Dr. Toleikyte has a number of things you can do to help your brain be more productive. Here are some of her thoughts:

Take Regular Breaks

Okay, hands up how many of you do that? I thought so… not many. Dr. Toleikyte tells us that when we are tired and stressed the nutrients that are usually delivered to the brain shift to the most vital organs. “This leaves out more sophistic brain networks, such as the ones involved in creative ideas, sound decisions making or learning new information… and means our performance declines.”

Take frequent breaks (10 minutes for every hour.) While taking a 10-minute break every hour seems foreign to most people, you will be more effective. Also, work the most difficult tasks in the morning when your brain is most energetic.

Stop Multitasking

There is more information emerging that our brains are not made for multitasking. In actual fact, when we think we are multitasking we are merely quickly switching from one task to another. According to Dr. Toleikyte, “That has three consequences, we waste a lot of time, we are more likely to make mistakes, and we become stressed more easily.” So, the time we think we are saving by multitasking we lose when we have to do the work over again because it is not as good as it should be. If you do insist on multitasking, find yourselves a good editor or proofreader before you submit the project.

Break Tasks into Small Steps

Large tasks can be overwhelming, so split up the different elements of the task and attack them one at a time. Work for 15 or 20 minutes without interruption. Don’t take any phone calls or be available to other staff during this time. Yes, this can be hard in many jobs, so put a note on your office door or tell others that you are not available for the next few minutes and switch off the phone (including your cell). You may find that you are more productive once you get into the habit.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Warmth, an Important Skill for Leaders
01 September, 2017

I found a great article in the Guardian online with information from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. The article is all about how showing warmth to co-workers, employees, etc. is an important part of being a boss. This article led me to another article by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman entitled “I’m The Boss! Why Should I Care If You Like Me?” that was originally published in the Harvard Business Review.

The article reminds us that emotions are contagious. “If a leader is angry or frustrated, those feeling will spread to others. Conversely, if a leader is positive and optimistic, those emotions also spread.” Anyone can have an off day or two. Life is full of twists and turns, so being in a good mood at all times is not realistic. However, if customers and your employees see you usually in a bad mood, short tempered or generally not an easy person to be around, neither the customers nor the employees will stay with you. An ability to connect with others will bring positive results on all fronts.

Your integrity is also important. The article asked the question, “Do others trust you to keep your commitments and promises? Are others confident that you will be fair and do the right thing?” The interesting thing is while your company may be making exceptional products if customers do not believe that you can be trusted they may well choose to take their business somewhere else.

In addition to what your customers should expect, if you wish to keep your employees, ask the question, “How can I help them excel in their jobs and expand their skills?” The article suggests being a coach, a mentor, and teacher. Your employees will remember you because you helped them further their careers. I still remember when I was in my early twenties (quite a while ago) and first got into marketing. I worked for an older woman who said to me, “I will teach you everything I can and if you can do the job better than I can, it’s yours.” I have never forgotten that or her and have adopted the same outlook.

Think about what you are doing for your customers and employees. Sometimes we have to make decisions that are not going to be popular, though when you do try to look at them from the other person’s or people’s point of view. It may be very different from your own.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Seeing Things Differently
25 August, 2017

Today was a red-letter day for me. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I fractured my femur condyle on June 6th of this year (a day that will live in infamy). I have spent almost three months in a wheelchair without being able to put any weight on my left leg. I have to tell you it has not been a fun summer.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been allowed to put 30% of my weight on my left leg. So I have been able (somewhat nervously) to stand up, as it is hard to judge what 30% of your weight feels like on a leg that has not been used for months.

Today the physical therapist told me I can now put 50% weight on my left leg. Then he said, that at 50% I can now walk with a walker. So up I got, taking my first tentative steps with my walker.

I am sure that most people have seen films of a brand new baby deer struggling to its feet to walk for the first time. That was me! Doing something that I know so well in a completely different way, learning to balance my weight differently so while I am lifting my right foot off the ground I am still only keeping 50% of my weight on my left leg, using the walker.

It started me thinking about how many other things we do, simple things that we have been doing for so long that we don’t remember when we learned them. We just do them automatically without thinking about them.

In the meantime so much has changed in the world around us that there may be much better ways to do some of these things. For example, are we making the best use of new avenues of technology, or are we doing things we have always done?

Or what about the look for your business – is it time for a refresh, a coat of paint in colors that are more up to date, or new accessories to bring everything to life?

Time passes so quickly and we don’t realize that our way of doing things, or our business can remind customers of times gone by. Look around your retail room, your procedures and how you conduct your business. Are their updates or upgrades you can make that will make your business more profitable and more appealing to customers? Find them and make the changes as you can.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Update Your Competitive Analysis
18 August, 2017

We all know that part of a good business survival plan is a well-researched competitive analysis. Before you start a business, investigating your competition, their products, prices, marketing and public relations plans, customer service, and more is paramount.

For many businesses, once the original competitive analysis is completed, the demands of creating and running a business take over and the time to stop to take notice of what your competitors (who may also be friends and colleagues) are doing and how the competition has grown changed can be overlooked. In the wine industry, the number of tasting rooms has grown exponentially throughout the US and Canada over the last few years and shows no signs of slowing down. This uptick in the number of competitors is going to affect your business.

Dig out your original marketing plan and look at the competitive analysis. If you don’t have a competitive analysis, now is a good time to start. Discover what your competitors are doing in the areas of:

  • Products (What are they making, how well and how much?)
  • Pricing (How much do the products cost?)
  • Sales (How are sales made: directly, through distributors, via the internet, etc.?)
  • Customer Service (How well do they treat their customers?)
  • Promotion/Advertising (How are they promoting their products? Explore all avenues.)
  • Strengths & Weaknesses (What are they doing well and what could they improve on?)

Start with the competitive businesses that are most like your own. Then branch out to similar businesses with the same target audience that may be making/selling different products in the same industry) or be in different price categories. Once you have the information delve into how successful they are, the number of customers you estimate they have and how your business compares. Try to put subjectivity to one side, for example thinking your product is better when it may just be somewhat different. Whether your product is better or not is for customers to decide. Remember that customer service makes a big difference in how customers perceive products.

Finally, take the time to visit your competitors. Much can be learned from going in as a customer. Or if you are well known to your competition send someone else in to do the assessment.

Knowing how well your competitors are doing is crucial to a successful business.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How Effective Is Your Interaction With Customers?
11 August, 2017

Important points that many businesses fail to consider when they are sending out information to customers, whether that information is through social media, emails, text or even through the mail:

  • Will customers be interested in this?
  • How much spare time do recipients have to focus on my interactions with them?
  • Are they being overrun with messaging from other companies that is very similar to mine?

Here are some ideas of how to get your customers more engaged with your emails, social media posts, etc.

  1. Know your customers: If you are keeping up-to-date records of your customers likes and dislikes (including how they want to be contacted), tailor these interactions to their needs, wants and desires.
  2. Segmentation: You will need to segment your customer records by the interests of your customers, what they buy and what resonates with them. You will also have to put some time into getting this information from your customers. Though the time you spend will pay dividends. This is especially true of your best customers. Start with the top ten customers. Once you have got all the information for these customers move on to the next ten until you have at least 100 (depending on the size of the customer list).
  3. Perseverance: It may take time, though once your customers realize that you only send them information that will make a difference to them and their lives, they are more likely to read it and respond.
  4. Response: Quickly respond to all comments and questions that come to you through social media posts, emails or by phone. Whether the responses are positive or negative it’s important that you show your customers that they are important to you. In the case of social media respond to all positive and negative comments online, though you may wish to take additional response to negative comments offline if the problem is not one that can be ironed out easily. Once the problem is successfully handled, ask the customer to go back on social media to say that everything was taken care of.
  5. Know Your Competition: Select similar businesses to yours and sign up for their mailing/social media or email list. You need to know what they are sending to their customers so you can differentiate your business from theirs.

By making your customers as important to you and to your business as you are to them, your business will grow and become more successful.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Makes Your Business Different?
04 August, 2017

To be successful, your customers and prospective customers have to know (and be constantly reminded of) how your business is different from other businesses in your area that are selling similar products.

Without differentiation, consumers will have a hard time remembering your business. I work with a number of wineries and regularly talk to wine consumers about their experiences when they go wine tasting. After consumers have been to six or seven wineries during a day of tasting, they have a hard time recalling all the wineries they went to or what they tasted where. They will, however, remember a winery dog, a beautiful garden, a particularly friendly and helpful staff member or a wine varietal they particularly liked, especially if the wine was made from an unusual grape. These are some of the differences that make a business stand out from the crowd.

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the book Neuromarketing:

“In a sales context, the absence of contrast – especially when a prospect has difficulty understanding the differences between your product and others – will bring the prospect’s decision-making ability to a halt.”

There are many types of differentiation: products, service, price (either high or low), quality, location, are just a few. The important thing is to choose a concept, word or phrase you want consumers to think of when they think of your business. Though if you want the customer to buy it has to be something that differentiates your business from everyone else’s in the mind of these consumers.

If you are interested in delving further into how to differentiate your business in the minds of consumers, I suggest you read, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, which made a great impression on me when I first read it, many years ago. I have read it many times since then and it’s as relevant now (or perhaps even more so) that it was then.

If you have not differentiated your business, now is a good time to begin. Start by asking your managers and staff, what they think makes your business stand out from the crowd and then ask some of your regular customers what it is that keeps them coming back. That will give you a good start.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Stop Before You Start
28 July, 2017

Julie Pedroncelli St. John from Pedroncelli Winery sent me a great article by Barry Stuckey who has spent much of his career in Hospitality. The article was about a waitress he encountered in an eatery at Heathrow Airport. I have pulled out some of the key points, as the article was too long for this blog. The article really encapsulated a lot of the finer point of excellent service, whether you work in a retail business or are selling B2B.

The first point, which to me is the most important, is to be conscious of what you are doing before you begin speaking to a customer. Before you approach the customer or pick up the phone to call them, STOP… Clear your mind of what you have been working on or thinking about and focus your attention on the person to whom you are speaking. As you are approaching the customer or waiting for them to answer the phone, put yourself into listening mode (you are probably already in talking mode). Once you have approached the customer smile, and tell them your name. You should also be smiling if you are on the phone, people can tell.

This small act of separation from what you were doing, or from the last customer allows you to move on to a new customer. Your focus on them will transmit itself to the customer. You will appear engaged and ready to help them. The customer will also become engaged as they realize that your attention is directed to them. Because you are more engaged you will be more apt to listen and really hear what your customer is saying. You will also be more likely to pick up non-verbal signals such as their tone of voice or the fact that their stance shows you they are or are not interested.

When a customer asks you a question, smile in response and, before you speak, lean in just slightly. This creates an impression that you care what your customer is saying.

These are small things that will make big differences to the comfort of your customers and to their connection with you, the business and the products.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Social Media – External and Internal
21 July, 2017

Are your employees following the company on social media? If not they should be. Social media is a great place for employees to get reminders of the information or offers that you are broadcasting to customers.

In the days before the internet took us to worlds we had never anticipated, it was common in business that employees (especially part time or occasional employees) were not up-to-date on what was going on as far as specials or events were concerned. It was not unusual in the wine business when wineries were doing AVA-wide events and selling tickets for these events that customers would visit a winery asking for tickets and the person at the tasting bar would tell them that they didn’t have tickets for the event. This is just one example of how information is not been disseminated to everyone who needs to have it.

As part of the dissemination of information, encourage your employees to follow the business Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, etc. In fact, you may wish to make following the business social media mandatory, just as it’s mandatory that they read memos and other information relating to their jobs.

If you are an employee, it is going to make your job easier if you know what is going on in the business. In most consumer-oriented companies, customer specials, events, and other customer oriented information can be hard to keep up with, so being aware of what customers are seeing on social media will help you remind customers of things they may have forgotten. Not to mention helping you with sales. You can keep up on what customers are thinking, and whether they are happy or not. Also, keep track of any personal mentions you may get. It doesn’t hurt to know how many customers have appreciated your help, especially if you are hoping for promotion or a raise in pay.

Be aware of everything that is happening in your business on social media. It will keep you at the top of your game.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Assessing Customer Experiences
14 July, 2017

Last week this blog delved into statistics regarding customers who may have had a less than stellar experience when they visited your business. We discovered that the percentage of customers that you think were satisfied with their visit was not necessarily in line with the number of customers who actually were satisfied.

Also, we learned that only a small percentage of dissatisfied customers take the time to complain. The rest just don’t return.

After publication of this blog, I received an email from one reader regarding the best ways to contact customers. He was concerned that calling people may be intrusive and they may not be comfortable telling you what they really think. Good point and one that is raised regularly during seminars and conference sessions.

The first thing to do is to ask customers how they would like to be contacted. Would they be open to a phone call or prefer to be contacted via email, text or mail. How customers prefer to be contacted many times has to do with their generation. Text is the favorite for Millennials and younger people, while some Gen X or Boomers may prefer email or even mail. Step one is always to identify the wishes of individual customers.

If you don’t have this information on your individual customer records, procuring the information gives you a reason to call your regular customers and double check. Most of your regular customers are not going to mind an occasional phone call. In fact, in many cases, it is going to strengthen your relationship with these customers as you are initiating a more personal interaction. While you are on the phone and the opportunity presents itself, this is a great time to tell the customer of any exciting opportunities to purchase. Remember that these people are regular customers because they like you and your products.

Once you have the information on how they want to be contacted, make sure you have the address or phone number in order to follow up. Also get their agreement (in writing) with a follow-up email that you ask them to sign and return.

Your consideration for how your customers wish to be contacted will just deepen the relationship you have with them and they will appreciate the courtesy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Wine Club Essentials Course at Santa Rosa Junior College
14 July, 2017

Elizabeth Slater will be teaching a Wine Club Class at SRJC during the Fall Semester

WINE 109 WINE CLUBS - 9 weeks

The class starts on Monday  August 21 6 p.m. - 9:20 pm and runs through October 16th. 

Registration is through SRJC’s website.

Some of the topics:

  • Creating or recreating Your Clubs
  • Creating Infrastructure to Promote Growth
  • Wine Club Management
  • Promoting Your Wine Club
  • Selling the club
  • Growing the club
  • Member Retention
  • Communicating with Members
  • Creating Wine Club Benefits & Events


You May Not Get Many Complaints but That Doesn’t Mean Your Customers Are Happy
07 July, 2017

I have been researching customer service lately and have found some interesting statistics from a number of different sources. The main thing that came through in virtually all the sites I researched was: Only a small, small percentage of customers who are dissatisfied actually register a complaint with the company. The rest of them don’t come back.

Here are some “Customer Service Facts, Quotes & Statistics” from Help Scout:


On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.

Take a look at the average first purchase of your customers and multiply that by 10.


Probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% while the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 -70%.

Engaging and connecting with first time visitors is much more likely to bring them back to buy from you again.


For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.

Create an easy process for customers to give you feedback. Pay attention to the feedback and use the information for staff training.


Any business with customers is in the “people” business.

We tend to define our businesses by the products or services we sell. Though the most important thing to remember is that we are in the business of providing good experiences for customers, no matter what the product.


“Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.” – Kate Zabriskie

I doubt that your main reason for being in business is to make life easier for your competitors, though if you are not focusing on customer service that’s exactly what’s happening.


80% of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service. 8% of people think these same companies deliver “superior” customer service.

In other words: Don’t believe everything your think. Follow up your opinions with real data but ask your customers in person, through surveys or over the phone, how they feel about your company.


There will be more customer service insights in next week’s blog.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Life: A Series of Small Victories
30 June, 2017

As many of you know I am on the injured list at present. Unfortunately, I have two things going on at the same time. A broken femur is keeping me wheelchair bound, probably through September and I am having problems with my one eye that works, so my eyesight is at best, variable.

However, for every misfortune, there is always another side. The good fortune of discovering the true value of friends and family and the kindness of perfect strangers are two of the upsides.

Another upside I have discovered is that of celebrating the small victories in life. These first weeks of not being able to walk has been a number of small victories, at first being able to sit up in bed by myself, then getting from bed to the walker (for me the walker is more of a hopper as I can’t put any weight on my left leg) being able to dress myself and moving from walker to the wheelchair by myself.

In small and large companies, learning to celebrate the small victories in life is a wonderful way to create a stronger company culture, good feelings among employees and management. When employees are happy the customers feel it when they come into the business. They are likely to stay longer, take more interest in your company and products, experience a greater connection with the employees and buy more.

Celebrating small victories doesn’t have to be expensive:

  • When an employee or a department has a good day, week or month, make sure they know that they did well.
  • If an individual employee is particularly effective in handling a customer service problem, congratulate him/her on how well s/he did.
  • If someone is diligent in keeping public areas clean and tidy, thank them for it (even if it is their job).
  • Make the words, “thank you” or “great job” words that employees and managers regularly hear.
  • If you are an employee thank your manager when they do something good or congratulate another employee on a job well done.

Create an atmosphere of celebration around small victories. If there is a downside to this I have not yet thought of it.

Give it a try and see how it works for you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Selling Is Easier In Person
23 June, 2017

I was sent an interesting article from my favorite periodical, Harvard Business Review. The article, entitled, “A face to face request is 34 times more successful than an email” talked about research into email vs in-person responses from customers.

According to the article,

 Despite the reach of email, asking in person is the significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast. Still, most people tend to think the email ask will be more effective.”

It seems that part of the difficulty is in the way those who are sending out these emails or texts view them. Let’s say you are sending out an email to people on your email list, you know that you are trustworthy, have quality products and are trying to sell them something that they will enjoy. However, do all the people you are sending this email to understand the same things of you? Do they automatically think that they can trust your company, what you are trying to sell and the value of the offering?

In order to create more effective email and text campaigns to customers, you must create and continue to nurture the in-person relationship with your customers.

When customers visit your place of business make sure that you interact with them on a personal level. Discover their wants and needs and what is important in their lives. That way you can personalize your on-line correspondence with these customers. Be sure to ask for the sale, while they are visiting. Let customers know that you believe in the products, which may make them more willing to buy again when you send them an email.

Part of your customers’ records should include how often they visit our store, whether they come to events and which ones they attend. Also keep track of how many you times you speak to them on the phone, whether they call you or you called them and the topic of the call. This enables you to know your customers’ buying habits.

Customers are the lifeblood of your business and should always be considered your most important asset.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Best and Less of Customer Service
19 June, 2017

Last week was an interesting week for me. Tuesday, I went for a walk with a friend of mine in the local regional park. While there I tripped over a rock and eventually found out that I had fractured my distal femur condyle (a u-shaped bone just above my knee). A bone that, until this time, I had never heard of. Think of it looking like a goblet with a u-shaped indentation at the top, rather like a wishbone. Take the two parts of a wishbone and pull the two sides apart. Usually, one side shears off. That was my femur condyle.

The orthopedic doc operated that night, putting in a plate and some screws. I spent the rest of the week in the hospital being poked and prodded. They took enough blood out of me that more had to be added. Of course, there was the startling awakening at 4 a.m. each morning for more blood to be taken.

In all my years (and there have been many of them) I have never (not even when I was born) spent a night in a hospital. I had no idea what to expect and so was amazed at the impressive attention to customer service, engagement and the cheerfulness of the nursing, therapy, cleaning, and services staff. They were all amazing.

The doctors seem to have a harder time with customer service, and while no one was rude, it was almost as if they had not been taught to interact with patients. They were good when explaining what was wrong but seemed to have no idea on what terms to use when addressing me. I am not sure that doctors are taught how to put people at ease. So perhaps as a sideline I can start presenting seminars on Customer Service for Medical Professionals.

A tip of the glass (if I can tip it while I am holding onto the walker) from me to you!

Take a Step Back
09 June, 2017

The approach of summer and the good weather during this season bring more customers out of their houses and into your winery, store, restaurant or other retail business.

During the height of the busy season, it is often more of a challenge to provide the levels of customer service that encourage people to buy your products or services and to return. To accomplish your sales and service goals during the busy season it helps if, before it starts, you have a plan. So take a few minutes to create a plan for your sales and service team (if you are an owner or a manager) or for yourself (if you are on the front lines).

How are you going to ensure that each customer is treated well, appreciated and given the attention s/he needs to go away with the opinion that s/he is a valued customer?

Here are a few tips:

Put Your Assumptions on Hold

Unless the person who walks through the door is a regular customer, try not to make assumptions about who they are, what they may or may not know or whether they will buy or not.

Give the Customer a Chance to Talk

Ask the customer questions that will give you the information you need to meet their needs and expectations. When you are giving the customer the answers to their questions, you can also work in how you can fulfill their needs and expectations.

Make the Customer an Insider

What do you know about your product or service, company or owners that your customer might like to know and pass along to their friends? Most of us like to have information our friends don’t have. Also never underestimate people’s willingness to buy to impress their friends.

Let Customers Know You Like Them

  • Give your customers something they weren’t expecting.
  • Let them know you enjoyed their visit.
  • Thank them for coming.
  • If you have the opportunity walk them to the door.

These are simple tips that will make customers buy from you, return to buy more and recommend your business to their friends.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Emotion Sells
03 June, 2017

As salespeople, we tend to think that we are going to sell more through our expertise or having lots of information about the product (obviously product knowledge is important though it cannot stand alone) and by providing top-notch customer service. All these things are important. However, the real key is to appeal to the customers’ emotions.

While scientists used to believe the decision to make a purchase was made from the rational mind, it turns out that emotions are in charge throughout the decision-making process. Throughout our lives we make decisions emotionally. Only after the emotional decision has been made does the customer then justify that decision with rational reasoning.  This is when the good sales person re-affirms the rational reasons why the product or service is a good buy.

According to marketing professor, Raj Raghunathan, even people who believe that emotional decisions are not the main reason they buy, those who consider themselves to be very rational are more prone to fall into this trap.

When you work with customers in any capacity you will sell more when you engage emotions and when you start the interaction with the idea that these people are going to buy from you. The earlier you make the emotional connection the better off you are. Once your customers have made the decision that they like what you have to offer they are less likely to back out of the transaction, according to the researchers.

Be cheerful, complimentary and engage the customers’ emotions. While the facts about the product or service are important, first you have to engage the emotions if you really want to make the sale, as the rational part of the brain will only be used to justify their emotional choices.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

More on Sales
26 May, 2017

When people come into your business do they already know that they are or are not going to buy from you? The answer to that question is no, they don’t. How many times have you walked into a business with no intention of buying anything and bought anyway?

As a salesperson, your job is not to assume that someone is or is not going to buy. Though if you have to make an assumption, assume that the customers in front of you are going to buy. If you assume that your customers are not going to buy, did they then not buy because they weren’t ever going to buy or did they not buy because you treated them differently in some subtle ways that may not be picked up by the conscious mind but will be stored away by the subconscious? Also, the subconscious mind contains information that we are not actively aware of but may nonetheless influence decision-making.

Research has shown that customers will make instinctive decisions with their subconscious mind. As consumers, we are not aware of what’s in our subconscious. Although that we may still be influenced by things we have heard, seen or experienced before stored in the subconscious.

As humans, we prefer things that are familiar to us as well as simple to understand. Make it simple for your customers to understand your products and to make decisions to purchase.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Using Testimonials to Encourage Sales
19 May, 2017

There are lots of ways to encourage customers to buy. When considering various avenues to promote sales, there are a few things you need to think about.

  1. There is always a cost involved with any option to promotion your business. Promotion costs either money or time. If it’s not costing you money, it is costing you time.
  2. Regardless of the methods of promotion you choose to use, it is important to track the results to make sure you are getting the response you want and hope for. For example, if you send out emails regularly to encourage sales, you need to track the percentage of people who open the emails, click through to the offer and how many take the final step and buy.

Shown below is an example of one low-cost way to promote your products.


Research has shown that reviews from other customers are as important to those who are thinking of buying from you as are reviews from “an expert” or someone famous. Using testimonials from the past or current customers can and will encourage new customers to purchase.

Ask your customers to review your products or service or provide a testimonial with the reasons why they buy from you.

Once you have got these testimonials use them in different ways:

  • Ask customers to phone and record their testimonial or review. Use these recorded testimonials on your business phone for callers to hear while they are on hold. These reviews will be a lot more effective than music.
  • Put customer testimonials on your website. Have a tab for Reviews or Testimonials.
  • Ask customers to leave reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other popular review sites.
  • Have a book of customer testimonials in the winery or store that people can browse through while they are waiting.
  • Put customer reviews at the bottom of your outgoing emails in the area of your contact information.
  • If you are doing these things, ask customers if they have seen the reviews or testimonials and if the service, products, etc. have lived up to reviews they read

Remember, peer reviews are important to other customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Makes People Buy?
12 May, 2017

I was looking into buying patterns on the internet, the other day, for a couple of sales seminars that I am putting together and came across some very interesting information, which I will be passing along via my blog and tips.

Consumers buy for a myriad of different reasons; here are some of them and think of what categories your products would be most likely to fall into. According to a number of sites I looked at, including Click Z, people buy for a whole host of reasons:

  1. To fill basic needs such as food and shelter. Though the idea of basic does vary a bit from person to person. Because I love to read, I find books to be a basic need for me.
  2. Something needs to be replaced or we want to replace that is getting old.
  3. Finding something at a bargain price or something that we consider a great value will light up our desire to purchase.
  4. A new or innovative product may also catch our attention. The newest iPhone is released and all the early adopters and lined up outside the Apple store waiting to buy it.
  5. Sometimes we feel we deserve a treat or a reward for something we have accomplished (even if it is just making it through a hard week). It doesn’t have to be anything big even a small reward can perk us up.
  6. Here’s one I really like, “The Girl Scout Cookie Effect.” We know that the reason we buy Girl Scout cookies (especially Thin Mints and my favorite Samoas) is because we are so unselfish. After all, we want to support a good cause.

There are lots of reasons why people buy and we will be delving into many of them over the next few blogs. We will also be looking at why people don’t buy and what we can do to help them get over that.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Get In The May Mood
05 May, 2017

There is a lot going on in the month of May.

Mother’s Day is coming up fast.

Think of different ways to wish a happy Mother’s Day to mothers and others. For example, if you are a winery that produces and sells Cabernet Sauvignon, wish happy Mother’s Day to Sauvignon Blanc, the wine that is the mother of Cabernet Sauvignon. Do the same on Father’s Day with Cabernet Franc.

Many people have May birthdays.

Invite your customers to join you for their birthday, with any customer who comes in during the week of his/her birthday gets a birthday surprise. I will leave it up to you to decide on the surprise, though it could be a flower, chocolate, preferential pricing, a coupon for their next visit, or access to a special offering or person – just to name a few.

There is something special going on every day in May. Here are a few “special” days during the month of May: On May 3rd we had Paranormal Day, Garden Meditation Day, School Nurse Day, Lumpy Rug Day (really!), for example.

Looking at a calendar for May shows me that every day in May has at least three special designations and some days have up to seven “special” designations. Some of them are important, such as May 28th which is Amnesty International Day and some less so, May 27th Cellophane (Scotch) Tape Day.

By the way, May 25th is National Wine Day, so you have plenty of time to get ready for that.

A tip of the glass from me to you, and have a great day no matter what you choose to celebrate!

Customer Service: The Good, The Bad, And The Very Ugly
24 April, 2017

After watching a segment on the television about a couple of companies that offer customer service that is above and beyond the norm, earlier this week, I decided to write my blog on customer service, talking about some companies that really go out of their way.

Last weeks along came the story about United Airlines dragging a paying customer out of his seat and off an airplane. I was amazed. Not only at the removal of the man by airline security people but also by the fact that none of these people gave any thought to the fact that cell phones (which are ubiquitous these days) have cameras. It was not a pretty video.

This was followed up by a less than stellar “apology” from the CEO of United Airlines. All in all an extremely bad day for United, its employees and (it seems from the internet) its share prices.

That takes care of the bad and very ugly, as this incident definitely fits into both those categories.

On the other side, there are some great examples of customer service. Land’s End company will always refund the purchase price of any item. In fact, the information on the Land’s End website states:

“Guaranteed. Period.

If you are not satisfied with any item, return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.”

That type of service with no questions asked is bound to make consumers life-long customers of Land’s End.

Another shining example is Nordstrom, a company known for the excellent treatment of their customers.

Of course, it’s not only no hassle return policies, it’s also the quality of service, being polite, friendly, interested in the customer and ready to help. All these will increase your sales and keep your customers coming back again and again.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What About The Wine Label?
14 April, 2017

I was speaking to a group of wineries and growers recently about sales and marketing of wine and grapes. In the course of the conversation, a question was asked about the importance of the wine label. The question was about the look of the label and whether it was okay for a label to be quite plain and simple.

My answer was that yes, having a simple label is fine as long as it well executed, easy to read and it gave the government and buyers the information they needed.

The person who asked the question then responded by saying that he thought that the label was just the label and that “it’s what’s inside the bottle that counts.” While I don’t disagree that what is inside the bottle is very important, I hastened to add that the label was also of great importance.

For many people, the label is the first impression of your wine. Someone who has never tasted the wine has an impression of the label design and execution as well as the verbiage that will help him/her make the decision as to whether or not they buy that wine. This is especially true if you are selling your wines off-premise, where many buyers will not have the opportunity to talk to you.

Even if you sell all your wines through the winery, many of your customers will be influenced not only by the taste of the wine but also by the overall presentation of the wine, the label, the bottle the capsule, etc.

So while your label does not have to be fancy or expensively produced, it should be of the same expected quality to assure the customers that the price you are charging for the wine is warranted.

Keep a label simple if you wish but let it echo the quality that you know is in the bottle.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

First Emails to Customers
07 April, 2017

I was at the US Bev X conference and trade show in Washington DC in February.  It was a great conference with lots of pertinent information on a host of topics pertinent to all facets of the beverage industry.

In one of my sessions this question was asked:

“When a visitor comes to your winery and gives you their email address so you may send them information, how do you create that first email to engage with them further?”

This was an excellent question as that first email is crucial in strengthening the connection between your business and the new customer. My answer was that you have to go back to the initial encounter. This person came first to your tasting room and that is where the connection has to start. The staff members who interact with the visitors have to create the relationship from the beginning of the visit.

It is up to them to take the first steps in learning about these visitors:

Their names

Where they are from

What brought them to you

Their wants and needs, likes and dislikes

How much interest they have in the product.

These questions sprinkled throughout the conversation (rather than being asked one after the other) will be the beginning of the visitors’ relationship with the company and with the individual staff members. The staff members should also offer information, not only on the product but a trade of information about themselves, starting with their names. As the visit progresses staff members can mention the things that they may have in common with the visitors as well as giving them information that the visitors will be interested in.

These are the things that will make visitors give you their email and may turn these (possibly one-time visitors) into long-term customers, even if they live far away.

So back to that first email? It should be sent within a day or two after the visitors’ first visit. The email should be signed by the person or people the visitors connected with during their visit. It will renew the personal contact and should have some of the information they learned from the visitors. Remind them of what they enjoyed about the visit. Let them know how much their visit meant to you and that you look forward to seeing or hearing from them again.  There is plenty of time to sell to them in subsequent emails. Use the first one to engage emotions.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

It’s Important To Be Important!
03 April, 2017

It’s nice to feel important. Think about the last time someone (a friend, family member or a business) made you feel important. What does that do to your mood in the moment or the way you feel for the rest of the day?

In order to make your visitors and customers important, you have to get to know them. In the case of first-time visitors, you start by observing as they walk through the door. First-time visitors who may not be familiar with wine tasting may be more hesitant when they arrive. Being aware of that fact gives you a clue as to their level of comfort or discomfort. If visitors are hesitant, you can start by making them comfortable. There are many people who come into wineries, who have never been to a winery before. They may be unsure of how things work and what is expected from them. So reassure them that knowing about wine is not a prerequisite to having a good time. Ditch the insider lingo and speak in terms the visitors will understand while still giving them information that will make them more knowledgeable. Ask for their names and become their friend.

Conversely, you make regular customers feel important by greeting them by name, telling them you are glad to see them again and asking them how life is going for them. This lets them and (sometimes more importantly) others in the room know that they are well liked and appreciated.

It sounds easy and it is as long as you are focusing on your visitors needs, wants and desires, rather than launching directly into your regular spiel about the products and winery.

Practice being aware of body language, questions asked and answers given. You will always gain more loyal customers and sell more when the focus is squarely on the customers and visitors. The primary goal is to make friends and to create connections.

After that, the sales will follow. People who are engaged are more willing to buy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are You Missing Marketing Opportunities?
24 March, 2017

There are very few times when you are talking to others that you can’t take advantage of marketing your business. I don’t mean hijacking a conversation with a long monolog about your company. Keep your comments brief and make the conversation interesting, leading the person or people you are speaking with to ask you for more information.

For example, when someone asks you what you do for a living, what do you say? Are you specific, “I own a winery” or “I work for a winery,” for example, or do you talk about working for or owning a small business? Then have ready a quick sentence about something the company does that will differentiate it from other wineries. It could be a special event; an uncommon varietal or a charitable association, an interesting location or the way the business is managed.

As with people, all businesses are different. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find the differences but they are there.

To get to the root of what makes your business different start a list and keep adding to it. Ask your managers, employees, and customers what they think is different about the business. Once you have the list, create short stories of just a few sentences for each point of differentiation on the list. Keeping it short is important, as it’s easy to get carried away when you are talking about something that is important to you, though may not be important to someone else.

If you know your audience you may point out individual differentiations that will resonate with the people to whom you are speaking.

For example, you are out walking your dog and get talking to someone else who is walking his/her dog.  What is different about your business that may include the dog? Is the dog the wine club mascot or do you donate a portion of the proceeds to the ASPCA or other animal rescue fund? Knowing this small piece of information may bring this stranger into your winery.

Telling a short story makes your business more memorable and the more memorable you can make it, the better chance you have of getting people who may not know about you pay you a visit and make a purchase.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Conducting a Job Interview
17 March, 2017

When you are hiring new employees the job interview is critical to successfully finding the right person. In this blog we will be focusing on finding the right people for jobs that have a lot of customer interaction, whether that interaction is in person, on the phone or electronically.

The most important focus should always be the personality of the person you are interviewing. You can teach people skills, you can’t change personality and if you have a sales or customer service person that doesn’t like people you’re in big trouble.

So look for someone who is warm and empathetic. If they work with others, the ability to work well as part of a team and a willingness to follow through (whether with a project or a customer) should be considered. Also you will want to know if the person is an optimist or a pessimist. A pessimist can bring down the customers and other staff members.

Job interviews can be very stressful for the candidates and no one is their best under pressure. Experts suggest that you let the candidates know in advance the topics you’d like to discuss. Find a time that works for both of you and let them know the dress code of the company. You want to get an idea of who they really are.

Allow enough time for the interview and if you need to, bring the person back more than once. If your candidates will be working regularly with other people have them meet the people they will be working with and ask your current employees for their impressions of the candidates.

As well as telling the candidate about the job, make sure you leave plenty of time for them to tell you things. You can learn a lot about people through what they choose to tell you. By asking follow up questions you may find out what really makes them tick. So plan on listening as much as you talk during the interview.

When you find viable candidates check references carefully, as well as their online presence. Hiring people to be the face or voice of your company is an important decision. You want to build a factual picture of the person you are going to hire.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are You Hiring The Right People?
13 March, 2017

As we rapidly approach the busy season for many businesses, it’s a good time to think about the qualities we need in the people we employ to interact with the customers in person, on the phone or via email. In addition, it’s also important to think about the job description that we present and what skills we need to focus on.

You don’t want to waste your time or the applicant’s time by interviewing people who are never going to be right for the job, so it pays to have a clearly worded advertisement detailing the type of person you want and a complete job description.

In the ad be specific about the type of company you are hiring for and also what you are looking for in a person. If you are hiring for a sales or customer service person you want to put emphasis on the soft skills (empathy, patience, communication) making sure you get a person with the right temperament for the position.

Your goal is to find the right person the first time. Not putting enough thought into the ad or the job description can lead to hiring the wrong person. At which point co-workers are not happy and you have to start the process all over again.

When you are writing a job description let the candidates know what you expect from them and also what they can expect from you. If there is the possibility of advancement or that they will be working with a talented group of people, mention it. You want will attract more qualified candidates if they know that there are benefits to the job for them as well as the employer.

Once you start receiving applications respond quickly to the candidates. Even if you just send a quick email that says you received their résumé and will be back to them within the next week. It is important for people to know when they can expect to hear from you.

Next week, I will focus on interview techniques.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Using Customer Reviews to Improve Your Business
24 February, 2017

In this era of increasing customer involvement, you immediately know how many of your customers feel about your company as you can see what they think of your products and services on any number of review websites.

Most of us in business will look at Yelp and TripAdvisor, but think about other places where we can find reviews. If you sell through Amazon, or Angie’s List take a look at their customer reviews.  Also, check Consumer Reports, Google for Business, Yahoo listings and don’t forget Facebook and Twitter.

While I was researching this topic, I found an article by Ankit Roy that gives some tips on using reviews to market your brand. He also gives a number of statistics that you should find interesting:

  • 88% of people read reviews (
  • 72% of consumers say possible reviews make them “trust a local business” (
  • Reliability, experience and professionalism are the most important reputation traits for local businesses (
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews “as much as personal recommendations (
  • A customer is likely to “spend 31% more on a business” with excellent reviews (

Those are some impressive stats.

If you are not paying attention to reviews you are missing out on some important information from your customers. Reading them, of course, is only the beginning.

Once you have read the reviews, it’s important to respond to them in a timely manner, whether the reviews are positive or negative. A few words in answer to a positive review can make a customer who already likes you like you even more. A response to a negative review can help change a customer’s mind if your response is helpful and solves the problem. Some of the most loyal customers are those that have had a problem with a company and seen it resolved to their satisfaction.

So check the reviews regularly (all the time) and share good reviews in promotional emails with the rest of your customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Do Your Customers Want From You?
18 February, 2017

Knowing what your customers want is part and parcel of making your customers happy and ensuring that they will continue to buy from you. Here are some tips on how to engage your customers:

Use Their Names

Not only will customers remember you if you remember their names and use their names (a couple of times in the conversation), they are also more aware and interested when they hear their names. Try not to overuse the name. Sometimes when I have been on a phone call with a company and the employee has been told to use the customer’s name, they use it every second word, which is way too much and a little irritating.


A key way to make customers happy is to make each experience personal. A personalized experience not only makes customers happy, they are also willing to pay more for a personalized experience. Treat each set of customers as individuals with an individual experience.

Tell Stories

When we tell a story, customers can become a part of that story. Powerful messages about the company are left in their minds through the story. Keep your stories fairly short, so customers don’t lose interest.

Involve Your Customers

Ask customers for their ideas or present ideas you have and ask for their input. If you implement a customer’s idea, make sure they are rewarded for their input.

Surprise Customers

An unexpected treat or gift (no matter how small) will please your customers and will get them talking to their friends about how great the company is.

Time & Memories 

Many customers value time well spent and the memories that are created much more than they do discounts. Though in most businesses there is more talk about pricing than there is about what the product will mean to the customer. Start focusing more on the memories that they can make with your products.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How Much Do You Know About Your Customers?
10 February, 2017

Kofi Annan the former UN Secretary General said, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the promise and progress, in every society, in every family.”

The only addition I have to that Kofi Annan quote is… in every business. The business that has knowledge of its customers, what they want and what makes them happy is indeed powerful.
One way to gain this knowledge is to ask your customers directly through sending out surveys.

Create an easy to answer five to seven-question survey that can be mailed to your customers. Choose as many names as you wish of customers who regularly make purchases or come to your events and e-mail them the survey. Ask the customers to complete the survey and return it to you. You may wish to add an incentive. For example, upon return of the survey the customer will be sent a coupon for 10% off their next purchase. Give the person a reward for completing the survey that also gives them a reason to come back to the business. You may wish to ask questions about how they were treated generally, if they got all the information they needed or if they were told about a special that was going on during the time they were visiting. Whatever the information is that you want or need, include a question related to that information in the survey.

Leave a place on the survey form for comments. Some people, when asked for their opinion, love to tell you everything (and much of this information is valuable to you) while others just complete the questions. However, it is important to give people the opportunity to provide you with information.

Keep the survey short (not more than five to seven questions, which are open-ended so those receiving the survey may provide a short or long answer) and thank them for completed the survey. Make sure you add in a line that you are sending these questionnaires in order to provide them with better service…

You may also create surveys that you send to people after their first visit to your business or surveys to customers who regularly attend events.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Getting Your Customers To Opt In
03 February, 2017

If you are collecting information from customers, make sure that they opt in (agree to your having their contact information). They must agree in writing and it must be unambiguous. For example, I receive many receipts via email from stores that I frequent regularly (such as office supply stores). When I use my credit card and sign for receipts to be sent to me by email that does not mean the store can start sending me other emails or texts related to sales or special offers without my express consent. So if you want to use emails and texts to communicate with your customers (and you should) you must have their permission to do so.

While emails are ubiquitous, texting is becoming more and more popular. Overall 32% of people would rather text than talk and with the Millennials that percent shoots up to an amazing 75%. In fact, a majority of consumers use their phones more for non-vocal communications than for calls. An article by states that an average of 0.4 texts per month were sent in 1995. In July of 2015 there were over 193,000 text messages sent per second via SMS and the number continues to increase.

The key to compiling a complete and effective CRM list is for everyone in the organization to be committed to the task. While it takes effort and a little extra time it is, in the long run, well worth the effort everyone puts in. When people visit your business, call, text or email, request information from them so that you may contact them later.

Start in the store if you have a retail business and make sure you expand this to phone calls and email contact. The staff should have cards that they give to visitors who have shown a specific interest in your products or business. This card should ask for their name, address, cell phone and e-mail; it may also ask for information about how they found out about your business and what they are most interested in. Primarily, it should allow them to opt in to receive information from you.

Phrase the request in a way that there is a benefit to the customers for example:

Occasionally we will send information with offers or special benefits, may we send them to you.

                                                Yes                   No

Once the customer has signed the card, s/he has then “opted in” that is given you permission to contact them. Additionally, make sure your customers know your customer privacy policy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Is Your Employee Manual Up To Date?
27 January, 2017

It’s almost February and before we know it, the busy season will be upon us, which means it’s time to start thinking about the staffing for the coming year. While you are thinking about your staffing requirements, take the time to look over your written procedures and policies for part-time and full-time employees. The procedures need to be up to date and it never hurts to check that you haven’t forgotten something. After all, the more informed and successful your employees are on the job, the more products you are going to sell, the better connections you will make with customers and the more awareness you will gain for your products.

Procedures and policies provide detailed guidelines for all employees. They help managers organize and help staff stay organized. They minimize conflict between you and your staff and outline responsibilities and benefits (do employees get paid holidays, sick leave, etc.)

There should also be specific information on customer service. You want all  your employees to be on the same page as to how customers should be treated as well as the answers to certain questions (for example the discount policy and do the employees have leeway to give a slightly larger discount to make a bigger sale. If so, how far can the employee increase the discount and for what amount?)

Provide scenarios for employees so they know how to handle different questions or situations that may arise. If questions arise on how to handle a situation when the manager is not present, an employee can always check the procedure and policy manuals.

When writing your procedures manual, outline every item, even those that seem obvious to you, as they may not be obvious to a new employee. Include explicit daily tasks and weekly responsibilities. Always include safety procedures. If your employees need training that is specific to your type of business make sure that it is available to them. Schedule training days for new and returning employees and provide a procedures and policies list for each different positions. Employees who are given the information to be successful will be successful.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Referring Customers To Other Wineries
20 January, 2017

One of the things that visitors most comment on and it is most appreciate when they visit wine country (regardless of where the wine country is) is the impression that everyone gets along well and that we all like each other. Much of that is due to the fact that tasting room staff members give customers tips on other wineries to visit. However, we have to consider when in the visit we give referrals and to which wineries.

Here are some guidelines to follow when giving referrals.

  1. If customers ask for referrals to other wineries in your area, wait until after the tasting is complete and they have made their buying decisions before you give them referrals.
  2. If they ask for referrals to other wineries early on in their visit, the tasting room personnel may say, “Let me think about it for a little while. Once I know more about your tastes in wine I will be better able to give you referrals.”
  3. Refer wineries that also refer your winery to their customers.
  4. Refer wineries that produce different varietals than you sell.
  5. Only refer wineries that you have visited. It is important that you know the customers will be treated well when they visit these wineries. If they are badly treated it is likely that the customers will blame you rather than the winery that did not meet their expectations
  6. Tell customers to let the wineries you have referred to let them know who sent them. You may say, “Please tell them that (host’s name) from (winery name) sent you and says hi.”

Additionally, if a guest asks about a winery that you cannot recommend (for any reason), explain that you haven’t been there or tasted their wines for quite a while for ages and so cannot say. Then continue to list the wineries you are comfortable recommending. Do not say anything negative about any other wineries.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Make 2017 A Year To Remember
13 January, 2017

The beginning of a new year is usually filled with good intentions and ideas on how to make business better for the coming year. It is, in fact, the perfect time to take a long look at your business and yourself, and think hard about what is working well and what may not be work quite so well.

As business owner or employee, start with your strengths and weaknesses. What are the things that you are doing well (list those first) and then follow up with the things you could be doing better. Ask someone you trust to give you feedback on what they think your strengths and weaknesses are. It is sometimes harder to understand our weaknesses than our strengths, as we tend to play to our strengths but, sometimes, will avoid doing the things that highlight our weaknesses.

Give some thought to how you can improve your skills to better manage the business.

Next take a look at the business and what skills your employees need. Make a list of those skills and put the names of the individual employees next to the skills you believe they possess. Also, ask your employees to create their own lists of strengths and weaknesses that can be talked about in reviews or in training sessions.

The list of skills that your employees need can be used in the interview process when hiring new employees. It’s important to hire based on skill sets and getting varied skill sets within the company. This list can also be a great help in letting employees know what is expected of them.

Employees and managers should plan ahead to create a strong balance so that everything runs smoothly.

Make all employees and managers part of the planning process to make sure that everyone is in agreement with what has to be done to become successful.

Finally keep track of written goals you have made for yourself and for what you want to accomplish. Check in with these goals every few months to see how you are doing. As the saying goes, “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.”

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Create Invaluable Customer Records
06 January, 2017

At the start of a new year, it’s good to think about things that you want to accomplish for the coming year. A worthwhile task before the busy sales season is to ensure that your customer records are accurate and up to date.

In addition to the basics, the name of the customer and their contact history (including address, email address and phone numbers – business and mobile) make sure that the customer’s transaction history is accurate and up to date. It’s important that you know what, when, why and in what quantities your customers purchased your products, whether they buy for others as well as for themselves. Having this kind of information will allow you to segment your audiences and structure your advertising and offers in more individual ways. Knowing how much customers have purchased gives you an easy way to assess their value to your business.

Also is important to create a personal profile for each of your regular customers. This information could include age, gender, profession, spouse’s name, income, hobbies, children’s names and even the charities they support. Don’t forget to ask if they have pets and the names of those pets. People are very attached to their animals.

Keep track of any individual correspondence you have with your customers as this can give you insight regarding their views and opinions.

Customer information is built up over time as you informally learn about your customers.

When customers are in your place of business, casually ask them questions about themselves (most Americans quite like that) and offer a little information about yourself to balance the conversation. If you are asking for information via email or a questionnaire couch the request in a way that will appeal to the customer. For example “In order to provide you with service and offers more suited to your personal needs, please complete this short questionnaire.” And please, if you do use questionnaire, do keep them short.

Most businesses these days use CRM systems. The most important word of the three in Customer Relationship Marketing is Relationship. Establishing real relationships with your customers will create strong and long-lasting relationships with your customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Happy Holidays!
24 December, 2016

I am off visiting family for the holidays and will be back with new blogs for 2017 (hard to believe) in January. 
Have a happy, happy holiday season with friends and family. Make the most of your time off.
A tip of the glass from me to you!

Words Change Perceptions
16 December, 2016

The words we use when selling out goods or services are as important as the products themselves. Using the wrong words may change the perceptions of potential customers leading them to leave your business empty-handed, whereas if the right words had been used, these same customers would have been happy to buy.

We all know that a pleasant greeting, a sincere smile and an open and friendly demeanor helps tremendously to put customers in the purchasing frame of mind.  These things are as important as they ever were, so be aware of how you are greeting people.

Let’s start with some of the words we should or shouldn’t say…

  1. And rather than but

The word and continues the conversation. When you say and the customer will expect to learn more information that will benefit them. Whereas the word “but” is more likely to be thought of as being followed by a negative. Think of it as “and” continues a conversation while “but” may stop it.

Example:  We have the wine you want and (more good news) we have three cases left.

  1. Because

One of the most powerful words in sales is the word because. It is very persuasive.

Example:  You should buy this because …

When you use the word because you are answering the question, which on every consumer’s mind (either consciously or subconsciously), “What’s in it for me.”

  1. Thank You rather than No Problem

It has become ubiquitous these days in answer to the words Thank You to say No problem. This is not a good habit to get into. Practice says, “You’re welcome” or “I am pleased that I could help” or anything else positive.

  1. I don’t know

I don’t know is a phrase that shouldn’t be used unless it is followed up by, “I will find out for you,” or “that’s a good question let me check.” If you don’t know it’s your job to find out and get back to the customer. It’s also a great way to get an email address or cell phone number so you may email or text to give them the answer.

  1. You chose a good day…

Compliment a customer on his/her good sense in coming in. If you happen to be having a sale that day, let your customers know that buying today will be to their benefit. It’s a good thing to say at the beginning of the interaction, as it gives them time to assess the benefits of buying today rather than next week.

There are many more words that are good or bad to use in a sales situation. If you would like a longer list please drop me an email at

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How Successful Are Your Emails?
09 December, 2016

Email has become the most popular way of communicating with customers for many businesses. Though often times, companies are not following up on how effective these emails are for them.

Not only is it important to check open click through and buy rates, it’s also important to check what your competitors or similar companies in your area are doing. For example on Cyber Monday this year I got a flurry of emails from companies (easily 35 or 40) with the subject line of “Cyber Monday.” After a while, I stopped opening them.

How many of you subscribe to emails from companies in your industry, especially those in your area?  It’s a good idea to do so. It keeps you up to date on what’s happening in your industry and helps you to realize whether you are differentiating your business from those around you.

Keep your customers wants, needs and desires in mind when you are planning your emails. Know what is important to your customers and craft your content to reflect what is important to them. You can still talk about your products, reasons to buy and any sales or special offers you have available but if you truly know what your customers want you will do it in a way that appeals to them emotionally.

Send out emails with content that your customers may not be expecting. Most people are interested in people. If one of your staff, who deals regularly with your customers wins an award, graduates from college, raises money for charity, save someone’s life, is leaving your employment or anything else noteworthy, send an email congratulating the staff member or wishing them well. Customers who have built up a rapport with this person will be pleased that you think enough of him/her to publicly mention what they are doing.

Include product recommendations or testimonials from other customers if you want to increase conversion and click through rates.

It’s essential to create an emotional connection with your email. Customers buy because they feel, not because they think. While facts and awards, etc. are important, it’s bringing out their emotions that makes customers click through to your website and buy the products.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Making the Most of Your Time
03 December, 2016

The holiday season, starting a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and running through the New Year, seems to be, for most of us, the busiest time of the year. Work is usually busier, whatever you do, as many companies are trying to get things finished up before the beginning of the New Year. Not to mention finishing up the budget and planning chores.

If you are in retail sales it is even busier, with most retail businesses open longer hours.  There is also more packing and shipping to think about, as well as managing stock and making sure that everything reaches buyers before the holidays start in earnest.

On top of all of this work stuff, you have to organize your own holidays, which may mean shopping for gifts, decorating the house, planning holiday meals, inviting guests or making travel plans to visit family or friends. In short, a lot of extra work to be accomplished in a short period of time. For those of you who start all of these things in August and have everything finished by September, congratulations! You can stop reading now! For the rest of us, here are a few time management tips to see us through this “most wonderful time of the year.”

  1. Start by making your lists. I suggest you sort your lists into different categories, for example:
  1. Work: List everything that you have to finish before the holiday break.
  2. Home: List all the things that have to be done to prepare your home for the holidays.
  3. Shopping: List all the people you have to buy for, what you want to get for them and when.
  4. Social engagements: Make a separate list of all your social engagements (business and personal) include dates, times and anything you need to take with you.
  1. Once your lists are prepared, add the amount of time you think it will take you to complete individual items on your list. Don’t forget to add in travel time if that’s a consideration.
  2. Keep to your schedule as much as you possibly can. If you miss some things reschedule them quickly.
  3. Finally, enjoy your holidays. Let your lists keep you on track and be sure to add in some time for a little relaxation. Remember to take a break or two and give yourself a small treat for getting things done.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Sell More Successfully
23 November, 2016

Some of the biggest shopping days of the year are coming up in the next few weeks so here are a few tips on how to persuade consumers to purchase your products for holiday gifts and for themselves. From now until the beginning of January, your customers are ready to buy. What are you doing to make sure they are buying from you? I have compiled a few tips that may help.

Tip One:  Know what your customers want. Don’t try to sell them what you think is best. Find out what they think is best for them and sell them what they want to buy. If you want to sell them Merlot and they want to buy Chardonnay, let them buy what they want rather than nothing at all.

Tip Two:  Deal with objections by asking for more information and considering what they are telling you rather than immediately trying to dispel the objection. Perhaps you have explained the product in a way that does not resonate with them.

Tip Three:  Remember that your customers may have come in with their own ideas, so trying to bend them to think the way you want them to think is only going to lose you the sale.

Top Four:  Focus on the experience rather than the sale. Give your customers a top- notch experience. Entertain them, give them a couple of interesting facts they can use to impress their friends and let them know that you have enjoyed their company. Do this and you stand a much better chance of making the sale.

Tip Five: Know your products and be comfortable speaking about them. You want to speak in terms of the benefits of the products to your customers, rather than focusing on features, that they may or may not be interested in.

Tip Six: Know the answers to the questions that you are asked most frequently. You might want to have a list of most frequently asked questions. Consumers prefer to deal with sellers who are knowledgeable and can help them make smart decisions.

Happy Thanksgiving and a tip of the glass from me to you!

Encourage Wine Exploration
18 November, 2016

Today’s blog is a follow up on the blog I posted last week in which I printed an email I received from a consumer talking about why they aren’t doing a lot of wine tasting any more.

The email talked about how the tasters disliked being told what they were going to taste and how they felt that most wineries (or at least the tasting room staff) just wanted them to buy and leave.

I have experienced myself being told at many wineries what I am going to taste in the wines before I taste them. How does the server know what I am going to taste? We all taste things differently. In classes and seminars that I conduct I ask the attendees to name a food that they do not like. It is amazing how many different foods are mentioned. Why is it that we all don’t like the same food? Might it be because we all taste things differently.

It used to be that the scientists thought that the human nose could smell only 10,000 different aromas, now we know it is over a trillion. So what I detect in a wine and what you do could be totally different.

Instead of telling customers what they should taste, turn the tasting notes over and ask them what they taste? If they need some help then go ahead and help them, but encourage them to take a stab at it first. When they come up with a flavor or aroma that others have found in the wine, congratulate them on their palate. Very few of us don’t respond positively to a compliment.

Engage your customers and encourage them to start on a journey of wine exploration with you as their guide. The customers are much more likely to come back for more when you do.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

A Note From A Frustrated Wine Consumer
10 November, 2016

The other day I received an email from a wine consumer I know. This person is not in the wine business, neither is anyone in the family. As a couple, they go wine tasting regularly and are thinking about giving it up.

The note is exactly as I received it, except that I took out any reference to the location of the wineries visited as these things happen in all regions.

“For a while now we have stopped going wine tasting for one major reason: We hate being told what we are going to taste in the wine. After the n-th tasting room, where we have heard the wine notes and we were asked only where are we from, I have had enough.

95% of our tasting room hosts recited the tasting notes to us and all other customers and just wanted to see us buying a lot and get out of the door. I feel not like a treasured guest but as a “body in and body out” and I feel like they check some boxes with how much they served and how much we bought and that’s all. 

We now only have about five favorite tasting rooms in the whole area where we take guests and the hosts are not assuming that we are there in a group just to get drunk, or that we know nothing about wine tasting. 

More often than not we have had to ask for water in-between the tastes and dump buckets were available in about 2% of all the tasting rooms we have visited in the last six years. 

I used to go to discover new places and find new wines I might like. I don’t feel like going anymore. I rarely find good examples of customer service or folks who really care about the customer and want to establish a relationship (other than “buy something, dammit!”).”

Show this note to your staff, bring it up at the next hospitality staff meeting. You might not think it applies to your winery, but it might.

Next week I will talk about ways to fix the problems brought up in this note.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Captivating Your Audience
04 November, 2016

When someone comes into your place of business, it’s important to keep this person engaged and involved in the information you have to impart. Whether you are disseminating facts or giving a sales pitch, you should be aware of how the customer is absorbing the information. Are they interested or are they bored? Are you going into too much detail or not enough detail? Have you asked them some questions and assessed their level of knowledge and interest? Remember it’s not about you.

As many of my readers know I spend most of my time training staff of retail businesses, mostly wineries. Before I start I think about how my audience might feel about coming to this seminar or training. They may well not want to be there. So how do I get them involved very early in the seminar? For me, it’s humor that does the trick. When people laugh they open up, when they open up they internalize your message much more readily. They also pay closer attention because they are waiting for the next joke or humorous story. So try to add some humor into your conversation with customers.

Stories are another way to engage people. So as you assess the customers that are standing in front of you, tell them stories that they can or will relate to. Give them inside information on the company or the products. Give them the impression that they now know things that a lot of other people don’t know and leave them with a small tidbit that they can take home with them that will impress their friends. If you do that, they will talk about your business to others.

Talk to your customers about things that make them realize that they are special to you. If you have more than one set of customers in the room, don’t say the same things over and over. Every interaction should be individual.

Most importantly don’t waste customers’ time with things that they aren’t interested in, which means you have to be listening to them as well as talking to them. Give them high-quality information that will help them to make buying decisions.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How to Provide a Quality Experience
28 October, 2016

Next February I am moderating a panel at the US BevX in Washington DC. The panel is about providing a quality experience, so I started thinking about what providing customers with a quality experience means. Of course, there are almost as many different answers as there are customers, though there are definitely some overlaps.

Most companies work hard to create a quality product or service and that’s very important. Equally important is providing a quality experience for customers when they come to your place of business, call you on the phone, email or text you. Each of these experiences can create positive or negative feelings with your customer. So let’s go for the positive feelings.

The big question is, what can you do to make your customers feel that they have had a quality experience? Remember that people buy because they feel, not because they think, so getting them involved is step one.

  • Emotion: Create an emotional connection with your customers before you start giving them the facts. Greet them with a smile and if you have the option to do so, come out from behind a counter and walk towards them.
  • Engage: Let customers know that they are important to you. A smile can create engagement very easily.
  • Explain: anything the customer doesn’t understand without making the customer feel that it’s a burden for you to do so. It doesn’t matter how simple you think it is, they may not know.
  • Enthusiasm: Be upbeat and ready to discover what they want (rather than what you want to tell them).
  • Effective: Be aware of a customer’s time constraints, needs and wants. Ask them how you can help.
  • Empathy: Assist in resolving any problems customers may have experienced and ensure that your customer is completely satisfied.
  • Experience: Your goal is to make it the best experience you can for each individual customer.

In short, do Everything you can to make the customer feel welcome, important and liked. Creating these feelings will pay dividends with more repeat customers and bigger sales. You might even make some new friends along the way.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Educating Your Customers
21 October, 2016

There is s lot of discussion at businesses and especially in the wine business about the need to educate customers about products and services. I am definitely not against education, though it’s important to realize that education is not usually at the forefront of someone’s mind when they walk into a business. It’s not so much about education as giving customers the facts they want and need to make a buying decision.

For example, if a customer walks into a hardware store to buy paint because they are planning to paint their living room, giving them information about the latest model of kitchen sink is not going to do you or them any good.

Before you give customers the facts, you should know what it is that they are looking for, what information is relevant to them and what will make them want to buy from you. So start by asking questions, creating a personal relationship with them and listening. Let them talk first and for most of the time, you will have plenty of time later when you know what it is that your customers want.

Be sure that everyone who deals with customers knows the products and how to describe them. As an article from Forbes (April 2015) said,

If there’s a starting point when it comes to educating your customers, it’s probably this: Believe in your product. But more than that, make sure you know how to express that belief.”

While the features (what the product or service can do) are very important, the benefits (how the product or service will make the customers’ lives easier/better) are even more significant. The customer wants to know how the product will relate in the real world. How it will impress their friends, what problems it will solve and how others feel about it.

You want your customers to leave your place of business with the view that your product or service will make their life, simpler, better, more fun, or whatever it is that you have discovered is important to them.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

S.M.A.R.T. Marketing
17 October, 2016

As we come into October, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s goals and budgets.

Create your goals with the help of all members of the team. The more involved the team is, the more buy in to reaching the goals. Also let others in the company, who, while not specifically responsible, may impact outcomes. For example, if how you treat your customers impacts your sales, everyone is responsible for ensuring that customers are treated well even if they come into contact with them only in passing.

Many of us have heard of S.M.A.R.T. marketing. Following this simple acronym will help create goals that are achievable. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound.

Specific – Use real numbers. Instead of planning to see more visitors, specify how many visitors you want to see annually, monthly, etc. Taking a general viewpoint won’t get you very far. Also be specific when establishing ways that you are going to reach these numbers.

Measurable – Create programs you can track and know how to track them. How many people are opening your emails? How many visitors come into the retail room? How many sign up for your mailing list? Etc. If you can’t measure you can’t assess whether you are reaching your goals.

Attainable – Most of us work harder towards success when we know that we can reach it, or at least come close. If employees don’t believe they can reach goals that have been set, they are less likely to work towards those goals. You have lost before you even start.

Realistic – Base your goals on what is realistic. Increase targets incrementally and build in a little leeway for anything unforeseen.

Time-Bound – Be sure to deadlines as part of the process. If you are creating yearly goals, put in checkpoints monthly or quarterly. You want to be able to adjust your own and your team’s expectations or make an extra effort if it’s needed.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Happy Customer Service Week!
30 September, 2016

Next week or most of next week, October 3 – 7, is Customer Service Week. According to the Customer Service Group, in 1992 the U.S. Congress proclaimed Customer Service Week a nationally recognized event, celebrated the first full week in October.

While there is a lot of talk about customer service, companies usually don’t do as many things as they could or should on a regular basis to let customers know that they are appreciated.

Customer Service Week gives companies the opportunity to reaffirm how important their customers are to them. Start with a short email letting customers know how much you appreciate them and thanking them for their business.

You might want to create a special offer for your customers. Consider segmenting your customer list so your best customers are given more than those who spend less with you. Or expand Customer Service Week through the weekend and invite your best customers to visit you on that weekend for a small celebration.

It is also a great week to empower your employees, giving them opportunities to make a difference. Encourage them to engage with customers more and thank them for their patronage. Offer small rewards for employees who go out of their way to take care of customers during this week. You don’t only tell customers that they are important to you, prove it.

An article in Forbes magazine suggests writing thank-you notes to customers. You can assign a few customers to each employee, even those that don’t regularly come into contact with customers and ask the employees to write the thank-you notes to these customers.

Customer Service Week is also a great time for a customer service training session. Even an in house session where your employees talk about what they do to engage with customers. A prize can be given for the best idea.

There are lots of things that can be done to make Customer Service Week a way to let your customers and your employees know that they are appreciated.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Is Your Body Language Telling Your Customers?
23 September, 2016

Body language sends silent (non-verbal) signals, many of which we are not aware of.  Though all the time we are talking to someone, our body is communicating messages that are picked up consciously or subconsciously by the person or people you are speaking with. According to Psychology Today, “Micro-expressions, hand gestures and posture register almost immediately, a silent orchestra that can have long-lasting repercussions.”

When you meet someone and don’t like them, it would be interesting to know how much it has to do with their body language.

There’s a good article by Patrick Schober in Customer Experience Insights entitled “Examples of Body Language That Destroy Sales.” It talks about the things you should be doing and how it often leads others to believe that you are no interested, impatient or defensive. As we all know these are not the things that we want our customers to believe if we want them to visit us again and/or buy from us.

Here is a recap:

Make eye contact 70% to 80% of the time. As the article says, “any more and you might appear threatening, any less and you may appear uncomfortable or disinterested.”

Be aware of your posture, keep your head up and don’t slouch as it, “can make you look wear and unconfident.”

Let people see your hands (easy when you are pouring wine) and when you are not holding something, have the palms up to show receptivity and friendliness.

Give them personal space. Don’t stand too close, one to four feet is good, otherwise you may make people uncomfortable

Crossing your arms can and often will feel defensive. If you cross your arms, make sure you are smiling and appear welcoming.

Don’t overdo movements like twirling a pen or tapping your feet as your customers may feel that you are impatient.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Selling to the Customers’ Emotions
16 September, 2016

I was watching The Wine Show on the television the other day. It’s an English show that talks about wines from around the world, visiting different wine regions and adding humor into the discourse on wine, winemaking, etc.

One of the hosts was asked why he had bought a particular bottle of wine and he remarked that he bought it because of emotional memory, rather than anything else. He smelled the wine, tasted the wine and was reminded of something in the past. Obviously it must have been a pleasant memory as he bought the bottle of wine and brought it to the tasting.

It reminded me of something I have been saying in my seminars for many years, “People buy because they feel, not because they think.” The mammalian brain is responsible for memory, emotions and feelings and it is the emotions and feelings that make us want to buy most of the time. Especially when it comes to wine.

In the wine business you have an added benefit, the customers that come into your tasting rooms or see you at outside events have the opportunity to see, smell, feel and taste your wine and those things will bring back memories.  Take a sniff or taste of a wine and see how many memories it brings up.

When you are encouraging someone to buy, try using emotions instead of just logic. In most tasting rooms the hosts use facts, and while these are important, mixing the facts with some emotional reasons to buy is going to bring you more success.

There are different emotions that make customers want to buy:

  • Being Ahead of the Curve

Nobody’s buying this wine, I can impress my friends with this

  • Time Saving

By joining the wine club I will always have good wine on hand that I can trust, no last minute decisions.

  • Inclusion

My friends really like this wine, I am part of the group

  • Reward

I deserve to buy this. It’s been a tough week; I owe it to myself.

I am sure you can come up with a lot more reasons for customers to buy if you give them a chance. Give it some thought.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Getting Heard Through an Overcrowded Medium
09 September, 2016

Don’t you love the Internet?? Well sometimes you might (when an order comes in from an email you sent out) and sometimes you don’t. However, if you are looking to make a splash on Facebook, for example remember that there are 50 million small business Facebook pages. So you have some competition.

When I typed in the search engine “popular social media sites” one of the top search results was a post from 60 second, “Top 52 Social Media Platforms Every Marketer Should Know.” So before you go to that site, how many can you name?

The Internet, email, social media, etc. have changed our world both personally and in business in ways that we would have never thought possible. And every day there are new things coming out that are changing it all again. There is no time to stand still.

As a business, you have to be aware of the next new thing and choose to adopt the ones that will enhance our businesses, products and abilities. For example, a company creates a Facebook page to introduce information about the products, service and business. Now just putting the information out is not enough, you also need to be involved with social monitoring (also called social listening). It is equally as important that you know what is being said about you as well as what you are saying.

Also important is social response, where you respond to people who make comments (good and bad) about your business or products.

Content, of course is still king. Is what you are writing about interesting, amusing, targeted towards you readers? People enjoy stories and stories make a stronger impression. Good stories sell; by buying your products, especially in the case of wine (or especially a case of wine) buying the product will make them happy. Sometimes your customers need to be reminded of that.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Four Categories of Emotional Intelligence
03 September, 2016

Continuing from last week on the subject of emotional intelligence. Taken from an article by Lindsay Kolowich on the Hubspot blog, we are now going to look at the four categories of emotional intelligence in the model created by doctors Goleman and Boyatzis.  The four categories are:  Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management.

Self Awareness 

What are your feelings and emotions, strengths and weaknesses and do you understand what drives them? Additionally, make a list of and then assess your values and goals and where you want to go in life. The third part is confidence, understanding what makes you tick, your strengths and limitation, think about what you are good at and where you can use some work to improve.

Self Management

Manage your bad moods and impulses (we all have them). You may find a customer irritating but that doesn’t mean you have to let him/her know. Instead make them feel important. Define goals for each interaction, before you start talking to a customer, what is it you want to achieve? Keep a positive outlook and if something does go wrong, don’t let it eat at you.

Social Awareness

Take notice of what others may be feeling, look for clues as to their concerns and acknowledge them. Be service oriented, listening is much harder than talking, so remember to pay attention and try not to interrupt too much. Listen to your customers so you understand what they are looking for.

Relationship Management

Create an experience for your customers by being articulate and clear. Give them persuasive reasons to purchase and let them know you care in simple ways. For example, you may have heard the same joke hundreds of times but laugh anyway, it doesn’t cost anything and it might very well sell something. Help build your customers’ knowledge of your products, especially through stories.

It’s always important to know the facts and to have the knowledge your customers needs, but when you have emotional intelligence as well you are more likely to retain them as customers for longer.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are you Emotionally Intelligent?
26 August, 2016

Recently I came across an article by Lindsay Kolowich on Hubspot’s blog about Emotional Intelligence that was very interesting. For those of us who make our living in sales (or in my case helping people sell) the ins and outs of how emotions affect customers’ willingness to buy has long been on my radar. Whether you are selling a product or service to consumers, selling an idea to your employees, selling yourself or your ideas to you boss, or selling your kids on why they should do something your way, if you use emotional as well as cognitive intelligence you will be more successful.

It’s been posited that there are seven different types of intelligence. Today’s blog is about cognitive and emotional intelligence.

According to Darren Horrigon from CIO the differences between cognitive and emotional intelligence are:

Cognitive Intelligence is the ability to understand information, imagine possibilities, use intuition, solve problems and make decisions.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand the needs and feelings of oneself and other people, manage one’s feelings, and respond to others in appropriate ways.

In short, it’s all about feelings and emotions. Your ability to recognize your own emotions and those of others allows you to help others (in this case your customers) sort through the emotions that go along with allowing themselves to buy a product or service when they want to but think they shouldn’t.

Dr. Daniel Goleman, a scientific journalist and Dr. Richard E, Boyatzis came up with a model that splits emotional intelligence into four different categories. The four categories are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.  Knowing these competencies is only the first step; according to Ms. Kolowich, you also need to understand them, manage them and use them to perform.

In next week’s blog we will separate these four categories and talk about the skills you need to become more emotionally intelligent.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Tick, Tick, Tick
19 August, 2016

It’s already the middle of August and in my neck of the woods school has started, which brings to mind autumn and starts me thinking about the coming holiday season. It’s not too early to start planning for the holidays, especially as far as your business is concerned.

While you are still busy with your summer customers, it’s time to start thinking about how will you be promoting your business this before and during the holiday season year? Even if you just start jotting down some ideas on your holiday specials and how you will promote to corporate clients in your area. Get a jumpstart on creating your holiday marketing calendar and newsletters. Outline all the key dates for your marketing and advertising and start planning for Small Business Saturday, an initiative to drive more shoppers to small businesses. This year Small Business Saturday is November 26th (the Saturday after Thanksgiving).

Thanksgiving weekend is usually a good weekend for wineries and other types of small business and a good time to partner with local businesses to make a visit to your retail room even more interesting and fun. Make it even better this year by promoting in advance special items you will be featuring and the preferential pricing on certain items.

In addition to promoting for the holidays this is election year, which adds an extra bit of spice to the end of the year. With all the rhetoric, claims and counter claims the country will be hearing over the next two or three months, having a few bottles of wine on hand is going to seem like an even better idea to your customers. No matter who they plan on voting for, a glass of wine is going to seem like a good idea.

Start now, because the holidays and the election will be upon us in no time.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Keeping Up With Your Customers
05 August, 2016

Times change, people change, and tastes change. What people want at one stage of their lives is not necessarily what they want at others. Are you keeping up with your regular customers? The people who have been doing business with you for years, sometimes decades, don’t necessarily what the same things now that they did when they first started buying your products or services.

Know Your Customers

Updating customer information is key to keeping up with your customers wants, needs and desires. Some of the questions that need to be answered are:

  • Are they still purchasing in the same quantities, more or less than they did?
  • Are they still coming to events and have the types of events they attend changed?
  • Do they visit you as often as they used to?
  • Have the ways they purchased changed, e.g. they used to visit now they order via email?

Monitor your customer records regularly to see what changes have taken place in their buying and attendance patterns.

Stay Connected

People buy because they feel not because they think. The keys to the want and/or need to purchase are primarily emotional rather than logical. While logic does come into it, the emotional desire comes first. Part of the emotional desire to buy is driven by customer service. Customer service is important not just at the time of purchase but also in every facet of the ongoing relationship between the company and its customers. In small businesses interaction with the principals is a large draw to whether people buy or not. Customers who feel that they have a personal relationship with an owner or key employees makes a difference in the amount of money spent and the frequency of purchases.

The other key to connection is keeping your promises. What does your brand promise to the customer in advertising and promotion? When the customer buys the product, is that brand promise fulfilled?

The closer you are to your customers, the better your sales will be.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The More Things Change…
29 July, 2016

We are familiar with the saying by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a 19th century French critic and journalist, which is loosely translated “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

In marketing, while the delivery of the messages may have changed (email and text instead of letters and newspapers) the questions we need to ask ourselves remain the same. Before we can create an ad or correspondence (whether electronic or print) to market products and/or services we must first ask:

Who is the audience we are trying to reach?

Most businesses deal with customers of different ages and generations, with a variety of different wants needs and expectations. First start by segmenting your audience into categories that will bring you the best return, such as purchasing history

What makes your customers buy?

Keep track of what individual customers have previously purchased and ensure those types of products make up part of the mix of offerings you send them as well as similar things they have not tried.

How is the best way to reach them?          

Ask your customers how they prefer to be reached. It may be email, it may be text, it may be a phone call or a post card.  While it’s easy to create email campaign after email campaign, if your audience is not looking at your emails it’s not very effective. Check to see how many people are opening the emails, how many are clicking through and how many are actually taking advantage of the offer by buying. Think about a mix of ways to promote your products or services.

When and how often do customers want to get emails from you?

According to Wordstream the best time to send email newsletters for example is 8 – 9 a.m. on Thursdays, with the company seeing upwards of 25% open rather in this time frame. While Hubspot says that small companies (1-10 employees) find that the open and click rates are highest when they send 16-30 email targeted campaigns per month. Companies in this category may see a median open rate of 35.5% and an open rate of 6.9%.

Start honing your correspondence to fit your audience and focus your message on the wants, needs and desires or your audience. Take time to segment your customer list and send messages that suit their interests and focus.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Identify Personality Types to Increase Sales
22 July, 2016

I came across an interesting article by Mikita Mikado the co-founder and CEO of PandaDoc on the ways people think and how you can get them to buy by paying attention to their actions to discern the way they think. Mr. Mikado suggests that one method to understand what motivates buyers is to apply a personality model and sites the DISC model (Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive or Cautious). He goes on to summarize each personality type and useful approaches when selling to different types of customers.


Confident and assertive people who know what they want. These people make statements instead of asking questions. The dominant people focus on the bottom line and are motivated by control and achievement. Ask them questions about what they think or how they would solve something. With products and facts show them why your product works for them. Demonstrate how it will help their life and give them more control.


These are people who will listen to what you have to say. They are interested and want to get to know you by asking questions that relate to your personally. These people are early adopters so if you have a new wrinkle on an old idea, point it out as they value what’s different. Sell them on what makes you unique or different. They want to try new things. Let them help you sell to others by providing incentives for sharing information.


People who want to discuss things they have learned with others. They are interested in relationships and work hard to maintain them. Once they have a relationship with you they will want to keep it and are primary candidates for rewards and clubs. While they like to take their time making the decision, once they make it you have them for a long time.  Sell to them by building relationships and keep in touch. Let them know what others think about your products.


You need to get straight to the point with these people. They want information and them will ask you several questions, so make sure you know your stuff. They are the people who want the details, so focus more on facts. To sell them, validate their thoughts and emotions and when they are right, let them know. Pictures as well as words help.

While many of us share some traits from more than one personality type, look out for the traits you can identify.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Don't Forget The Wine!
22 July, 2016

One of the things I say most often in my seminars for wineries and wine associations is,“It’s not all about the wine.”  So today’s blog is a little different, in that I have noticed, when I go to winery events, that the wine seems to get lost in the mix of the food, entertainment and everything else that goes along with the event.

There are a few things we should do to keep the product as the main focus in guests’ minds:

  1. Have printed information and an order form available for attendees
  2. Provide your staff members with talking points they can use
  3. As an owner and/or winemaker be available and visible to guests.

Printed Information

During any event, but especially when you are participating in a multi-winery event, have an information sheet or brochure available for the event attendees. An information piece they take home with them will make your winery and your products more memorable.

Talking Points

At an event, we don’t want to overwhelm the guests with in-depth talk about the wine or the vineyards. However, at each tasting station or in the pouring areas, we should say a couple of things about the wine, even if the staff members just tell the guests how good the wine is. You could use a snippet of non-technical information about quality or food pairings. For example: “Have you ever tried this wine with a burger? It’s delicious.” Or,“A glass of this wine on a lazy afternoon is perfect.”


Everyone should be wearing a name badge – and especially the owner(s) and winemakers.

Those are the people that your guests want to meet if they don’t know them, or to say hello to, if they do. Their job is to shake hands with and talk to as many people as they can. I know that’s not easy for some, but it goes along with the job of owner or winemaker.

The guests rate the experience higher if they have the opportunity to speak to the owner or winemaker and they are more likely to buy wine when they have met them. Remember that meeting and speaking to the owner and/or winemaker gives them bragging rights with their friends.

So make your events more successful and more profitable.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are Your Events Working For You?
08 July, 2016

As many of you know, my marketing sales and customer service offerings include mystery shopping for individual companies and associations. Recently I finished a large mystery shop (using multiple shopper sets) to assess a multi-winery event.

What forcibly struck me about the answers the shoppers provided in the questionnaires they completed was the lack of training that has been given to the “first responders” that is, the people who are on check-in at events.

The employees or part timers at the check-in desk are the first people that the attendees see and the first people they have any interaction with. The interactions with the check-in folks may very well set the attendees’ attitudes for the entire time they spend at the event. Their first impression will have a great impact on whether or not these people decide to visit the business again.

In this particular case, not only were many of the check-in people inattentive and in some cases unhelpful, it was obvious by the answers they gave to simple questions that they had received little or no training for their role or information about the event itself.

Put one of your most cheerful and most accommodating staff members in charge of check-in. Make sure that the staff members you have on check-in have been well trained and can deal politely and calmly with people who have been waiting in line, been stuck in traffic, couldn’t find a parking space, or anything else that may have frustrated them before they got to check-in.

When visitors begin with a good experience, their attitude towards the whole event is better. They will be more patient if things go wrong or if they have to wait in line for food, wine or to purchase.

I hear a lot of horror stories from consumers about things that have gone wrong while they were trying to check in at a busy special event. So, please, train your staff and make sure to put your best and brightest on check-in.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Tell Stories to Connect With Customers
30 June, 2016

I was wine tasting recently and went to several different wineries in the course of one day. The wines were good, actually very good, no complaints about the wines at all.  The hard part for me was that the experience was the same at most of the wineries I visited. I was told about the wines, how it was going to taste, where the grapes were grown and that was about it.

Stories of the business, the owners, the passion, the history or the reason for the existence of any particular winery were basically non-existent.

We connect to people through stories. We are known to the world by the stories that we tell. So please, tell me your story and I will remember you, your products and your people. I will give you a place in my mind and tell others about you and your wines.

Tell your stories well. Bring the people, places, products and events in your stories to life. When you tell them well your audience will see and experience the story in their minds. They will then retell your story to others. It’s great marketing and it doesn’t cost much at all. Just some time learning to tell your stories in interesting ways.

Keep the stories simple when you first start, you can add more details and complexity as you get more used to telling stories. Not too many details though, as it’s easy for people to get lost in the details.

Make sure the story has a point and a message for your customers to take with them. Add a little humor; when people start laughing they start listening more because they are listening for the next laugh.

Always be checking that your audience is still interested. If your audience is getting glassy eyed, it’s time to come quickly to the end of your story or ask some questions of the people you are talking to.

Lastly, give your audience the chance to tell you a story or two. Talk about wine a little bit less and let your customers talk a little more and you will sell more wine.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Is Your Story Being Told Accurately?
24 June, 2016

I always find it interesting to hear the story of a business. Who started the business, how it was started and why, as well as what happened along the way. Often times, when I am visiting the same business I will make a point of asking a different employee about the story of the business and am surprised at how much each version I hear differs from ones I have heard before.

While you tell your employees, managers, etc. the story of your business when they first join the company, you don’t always have the time to keep track of what the story has morphed into through the telling process and the passage of time. It’s important to remember, too, that what you said is not necessarily what the person heard. The brain is very clever about shifting things around. Just because someone has been told something doesn’t mean that they remember it in the way it was told to them. As George Bernard Shaw said,

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place”

There are a few things we can do to help staff members remember the story correctly. The easiest one is to start by putting the story in writing and making it part of the employee manual. If you don’t have an employee manual then start one using that as the first page.

Another method that works well is having different staff members tell the story of the company and its owners, as well as what the vision and goals of the company are, at staff meetings, so you know everyone is on the right track. If there are any discrepancies in the telling of the story you have the chance to correct them with everyone present.

It’s important to make sure the stories of your business are being told consistently.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Next Week:  Telling Your Story To Connect

Know Your Customers
17 June, 2016

There are lots of things that you have to remember as a business owner, manager or employee, though the most important thing you should always keep in mind is information about your customers. Not only information about what they purchase from you and how much they spend, though that is part of it; you should also remember your customers as individuals, their likes and dislikes, their loyalty. Starting with one of the most effective things you should know about your customer (take a guess… yes you are right): her/his name.

When a customer walks into a business that they frequent regularly and the employee who is helping them remembers her/his name, it makes a big impression on the customer. It makes your customer feel that s/he is important to you and valued as a customer. Using someone’s name activates their brain, so you know you have their attention from the beginning of the interaction.

Unfortunately, unlike Queen Elizabeth or the US President, you don’t have someone whispering into your ear the name of the person approaching you and/or a small tidbit about the person. So here are a few tips on how to remember names:

When you first meet people and realize that they are going to become regular customers you should (if you haven’t already) find out their names and find associations so that you will remember the names the next time you see them.

Ask the person their name and if you don’t get it when they say it ask them to repeat it.That way you have heard it twice and are more likely to remember it. If you can think of an image that goes with the name, connect the person with someone you already know by that name or someone famous with the same name.

There is a reason why teachers put their name up on the board in school, seeing the name written out allows you to picture the letters in your mind, which makes it easier to remember the name next time you see it.

Keep working on associating people with the additional information you get from them, Remember that most people like to talk about themselves so you should be able to find an association that will help your memory.

If you can’t remember someone’s name, apologize and ask them to tell you again. The fact that you want to know will make them feel good and increase your sales at the same time.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

It's All About Connection
10 June, 2016

Last week I attended the groundbreaking for Sonoma State University’s new Wine Spectator Learning Center for the Wine Business Institute. At the groundbreaking, Bill Silver, the Dean of the School of Business & Economics for SSU gave a great speech.

He talked about raising money for the new building and how, after some phone conversations, he went to New York to meet with Marvin Shanken, owner of the Wine Spectator, to talk about a donation for this new project.

Before his trip he called his parents in Connecticut and told them he was coming to New York. His mother asked what he was doing in New York and he told her about the new building and that he was meeting with a man named Marvin Shanken. To which his mother replied that she went to school with Marvin Shanken. It turns out that Mr. Shanken and Dr. Silver come from the same hometown and both sets of parents owned retail businesses in the town.

In their subsequent meeting Bill told Marvin about their joint heritage, Marvin asked for Bill’s phone and called Bill’s mother to chat with her. Once off the phone, Marvin looked up and said, “Well, I guess we are doing this.” And so, Sonoma State kicked off their fundraising with a three million dollar donation from Mr. Shanken and the Wine Spectator.

The building of the Learning Center for the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State is a great boon for the whole wine industry, as students come from near and far to learn more about the business of wine. It is possible, p