Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When to fire a customer

As you may have figured out by this time, one of the things I do is sell wine. I do in-home wine tastings as an independent consultant for WineShop at Home. When I joined WSAH about a year and a half ago, one of the things my 'upline' recommended in terms of building my business was to donate a wine tasting to a charity event. I had concerns about doing that. I wasn't exactly happy at the thought that if someone won the tasting or bought it thru a silent auction, I would be responsible for the cost of the sampler up front, and of course, there is never a guarantee that anyone will buy wine at a tasting, so I could be out the cost of the sampler and my time.

Around the end of the year, fund raisers for myriad organizations seem to spontaneously generate, and several organizations were referred to me by various individuals who supported my wine effort. I ended up donating 3 tastings to 3 different organizations.

It was easy enough to create a gift certificate with specific terms and conditions - an in-house tasting for a maximum of 10 guests, including the host. I would supply the wine and the appropriate snacks. This meant that, if no one bought a single bottle of wine, I would be out $59 plus the cost of the food plus my time.

The first donated tasting was purchased by a lovely couple, who were both into wine. They invited 4 couples, JD and I showed up with the stuff, and we had a GREAT time. Everybody purchased wine, and we were all happy. Win-win.

The second donated tasting was purchased by a young lawyer who had her own agenda for the evening. Despite my repeated coaching, she was determined to make it a night of networking for women. She wanted to have around 30 people - I talked her down to 20 with the condition that she purchase a half case of wine to supplement the sampler. She ignored my request to use either the WSAH WineVite or eVite, and sent out a flyer for her networking event with NO mention of me or WSAH. I called her to discuss what she was doing, and she assured me that she completely understood, and that her guests knew it was a guided wine tasting, and they would be able to purchase wine.

When JD and I arrived - after having some difficulty finding her office - she was already setting up in her conference room. A friend of hers - a pastry chef - was busy setting out gorgeous desserts. It seemed as if everything was going to be all right. I was wrong.

Her guests arrived - all professionals, lawyers, accountants, publicists. Seemed like a nice crowd. Our hostess started everything off like a business meeting, handed it off to me after round table introductions, and I began my presentation.

By the time we had poured the second wine, half of the guests were having their own conversations - so loudly that first I tried to raise my volume to get their attention. Then I asked them to be quiet while I presented the wines. Then I stood there silently until a few of them noticed I wasn't talking. Because they were too rude to pay attention to another woman trying to do business, I couldn't do anything except race thru the rest of my presentation. No one bought anything. And several of them were rude to me when I asked if they were interested in any of the wines. If I had not insisted on the hostess buying the supplemental 1/2 case, I would not have sold a single bottle of wine. At least she validated the parking. A colossal waste of time - and I was out $100 for wine and food.

The third donated tasting is supposed to happen this weekend. My host has been somewhat problematic from the moment we connected. I have explained several times to her how the tasting goes: JD and I bring the wines and food. I introduce myself and WineShop at Home and provide a quick synopsis of what the evening holds. We go thru the 6 wines - discussing how they're made, where the grapes are sourced, specific attributes of the wines, suggested food pairings and recipes. After the second wine, I do a short commercial about the Wine Club. After the fourth wine, I do a demonstration of our Artisan crystal stemware. At the end, I thank everyone for their attention and ask them individually if they are interested in booking a tasting, joining the wine club and/or buying wine. And then I take their wine orders. And then we leave.

Last night, making the mistake of checking email before going to bed, I found an email from my host, telling me she didn't want me to do ANY selling at the tasting. That she wanted to take advantage of my knowledge and expertise to entertain her guests, but that she really didn't want me to sell anything.

I was so angry, I didn't sleep all night. After tossing and turning all night, and being distracted by my anger all day, I decided not to call her, but emailed her back as follows:

I have been thinking long and hard about how to reply to your email. And I have a question: What do you do for a living? When you do your job, do you expect to get paid? I sell wine for a living. So when I do an in-home tasting, I encourage people to purchase wine or join my wine club or book a tasting. And when folks do any of these things, that is how I get paid for doing my job.

From the very beginning of our discussions about this event, I made it clear that my presentation would include opportunities for people to buy wine, etc. As I have already said, I don't twist anyone's arm, I don't do a hard sell, but this is my business. This is my job. Because I am very good at my job, your guests will have a very enjoyable evening - it will be fun and educational, the wines will be tasty, and I have no doubt that your guests will want to buy wine.

You do not have the right to tell me how to work my business. If you cannot respect this, then perhaps we should cancel the event, and I will return the wine sampler to WineShop at Home.

I'm waiting for her response.

1 comment:

winewithgraham said...

Good for you! I've been a WSAH consultant for 3+ years, and you are exactly right, this is our JOB, and we make our INCOME off of sales! Wine does not require a hard sell...if people like it, they just need a REMINDER that it is for sale at a very reasonable price! I hope you'll update your blog or tell me how this turns out! Oh, and a majority of my business is donated tastings & fundraisings...if you're interested, I've got some other ways for you to fundraise without as much $$$ output...feel free to contact me! email is winewithgraham@hotmail