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  May 5, 2015
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WISE Bites   Tasting Room Forum
Tasting Room Road Map   Don't Blow It!
Do you go to the beach and not bring a towel? We’re ready for summer – are you? After thousands of mystery shops, we’ve learned a lot (and are still learning). Based on our findings, we have come up with some best practices for the tasting room that can be used as a roadmap to success this season.


I. Don’t Let Your Backstage Show.

Backstage refers to the “performance” concept of where the “front stage” is the guest experience – everything the guest sees, hears, touches, smells – and the “backstage” is all the things behind the scenes that need to take place in order make sure there is a great front stage performance. Backstage issues are usually physical (i.e., smudged glasses, bathroom that needs servicing), but they can also be verbal (inappropriate staff attitude or comments in front of the guests).

WISE Best Practice: You never want your backstage to be showing in front of the guests. Ensure everything is in place prior to guests’ arrival for an exceptional guest experience.

Create your own success checklist for all your backstage setup requirements. Ensure everything is tidy and clean – with regular bathroom checks – but don’t forget to focus on all the senses. Are the lighting, music/noise, temperature and smells all appropriate for the setting? And, beyond the physical, ensure staff discussions and attitudes are always appropriate and customer-facing.

WISE Best Practice: Use front-stage vs. backstage concepts and language to motivate team to notice more, care more and keep raising the bar. Include in your daily team debrief, “Where was our backstage showing today?”


Make sure your customer service exceeds expectations! 

Some situations really bother me. Recently I went to a winery opening (invitation-only) for representatives of B&Bs, hotels and “wine country” service establishments located within 20 miles of the new winery. So far so good…

The owner, who was from a different state and in the banking business, started talking to our group of 20 or so professionals about how great his wine was (the best in the valley), how to make Petite Sirah, etc., in a manner that was so condescending I was embarrassed. Sales 101: know your audience!

He then announced that today only he would offer a 40% discount on the wines. OK, that is in line with accepted inter-winery discount. Then, as I went to purchase three bottles as a gesture, he announced that – for these bottles, and since thay didn't have a lot – there would be no discount. Sales 101+: meet/exceed expectations!

These are just two examples of how someone missed the point of throwing an event, which was to build community and use the invites to build an added sales force for the winery and wines. You get one chance to show your best – don’t blow it!

Tasting Room Forum is continued below. 


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"WISE Bites" continued.   "Tasting Room Forum" continued.

 II. Leverage Silent Selling Tools.

 Effective silent selling covers the many different ways your brand is reflected, which your guests can be subconsciously sold on,  but has nothing to do with anyone on your team actually saying something. It’s everything within the tasting room including design, merchandising, printed collateral materials, signage, and other items that encourage guests to purchase products. It’s more than pretty displays; it’s subconscious emotional triggers to buy.

WISE Best Practice: Every single guest (not each couple) should receive a list of wines being tasted with descriptors, pricing and room for notes plus a full price list, order form, club brochure and a pen.

Your success checklist should include having effective collateral (and pens!) readily available for every guest. Go beyond the club brochure; there are other club mentions such as signs, VIP areas, price list with club pricing, photos, etc., about the club that should be obvious and numerous as well as your visual merchandising, which serves as your brand mirror. Consider the materials you might put in with each purchase, and tailor it to each guest’s unique preferences and interests.

III. Demonstrate Real Service Heart:

What are your company’s service standards? It might be surprising how the smallest consideration can set an experience up for success or failure. For example, is the staff giving a friendly greeting with eye contact within 15 seconds, even on busy weekends? Your first impression is a lasting one, and once you’ve started off poorly, it’s very difficult to recover, never mind deliver a “WOW” experience. Don’t forget that last impression either! Every guest should be given a friendly farewell with an invitation to come back and visit soon.

Beyond the staff being hospitable and of service, WISE wineries are choreographing aspects into each experience to go above and beyond guests’ expectations, delivering a “WOW” experience. We call this “Surprise and Delight.”

WISE Best Practice: Exceed guests’ expectations on every visit by formally choreographing elements of surprise and delight into every guest experience. The key here is to do so in an authentic way, tailored to each guests’ experience.

IV. Use Natural, Helpful Sales:

From the first moment of a guest’s experience to the last, actively listen, notice signals, and ask open-ended questions to really be able to provide natural, helpful sales. If we’re paying attention, we will be selling a memorable experience that will translate into real dollars.

Begin with using a good icebreaker and asking for a referral source. Make it a natural part of the initial greeting and icebreaker. Understanding where your guests heard of you – and what specifically brought them in today – helps allocating marketing dollars to those who send qualified guests. Perhaps even more important, these relevant open-ended questions set you up to easily build rapport and then tailor the rest of the experience based on your guests’ interests.

When building rapport, use analogies, demonstrate great storytelling skills, and weave a compelling, memorable brand story. Analogies make visitors feel comfortable (instead of intimidated) as they learn new things and concepts. Analogies are especially effective for visitors who are new to wine. Storytelling helps to share interesting, relevant things about the wine and winery. The best tasting room performers – the best sales people – are all great story tellers because they weave a good tale. Including stories and analogies engages customers, gains trust and earns sales.

WISE Best Practice: Sell the brand first, wine second. Be sure the start with WHY. Storytelling makes the brand come to life and makes experiences memorable.

Use features and benefits as a natural, helpful sales technique. A feature is what something is. It’s a factual statement about a product or service. A benefit is what something does and answers the question: "What's in it for the customer?" Features alone don’t usually close the sale. Benefits appeal to the customer’s emotions, which makes the sale. Those who are uncomfortable with sales tend to get stuck in presenting a list of features. When selling the brand, wines, wine club and capturing contact data, use features and benefits approach as a more effective sales tool.

Last, but not least, notice both verbal and non-verbal buying signals: 70% of buying signals are non-verbal. Noticing these buying signals is one step closer to more natural, helpful sales.

V. Focus on the Full Triple Score:

The goal for successful DtC (direct-to-consumer) wineries is to have both high customer satisfaction scores and three out of three on the WISE Triple score for every shop. (WISE Triple Score measures if [1] the server asked for the order, [2] effectively presented wine club and [3] attempted to capture contact data.)

WISE Best Practice: Ensure that these business goals are communicated to everyone who works in the tasting room by measuring all three metrics. This can all be done in a brand appropriate way.

  1. Wine – Always ask for the sale. It’s important for more natural, helpful sales to plant buying seeds and pick up on buying signals along the way.
  2. Club – During the guest experience, work relevant club benefits into the conversation, again planting seeds along the way. Use features and benefits tailored to the individual interest that staff has discovered while building rapport and using great open-ended questions over the course of the guests’ experience. Have the club brochure available to all guests and use as a selling tool to review key benefits and how the program works.
  3. Data – Have more than one way of collecting contact information and ensure this is communicated as a priority for tasting room staff.

WISE Best Practice: Measure what matters by tracking your DtC data. Your metrics dashboard should focus on the key driver of full WISE Triple Score (wines sales, clubs, contact data capture). Track performance and share it with the team. Capturing wine sales, wine club and data capture conversion rates and AOV – both as a group and for individuals – will increase performance as long as performance results are shared in a positive and inspirational way with the team.

With these five tips, you can set your team up for success and ensure they’re prepared with a ‘beach bag’ full of these useful tools. We’re predicting sunny skies and a good chance of sales this season.

Source: WISE Academy,


Are Sommeliers’ Opinions More Important Than Wine Scores?
Robert Sinskey writes a pretty lengthy article for about the subject. The comments at the end of the article are also very interesting, as they point out that sommeliers are not usually around when you buy wines.


Wine Consumers Trends
As a wine producer and seller, you should be aware of what is happening in the industry from the producer and the consumer point of view. One of the few things I remember from my sales training decades ago was, “In order for a sale to happen, the selling cycle must be aligned with the buying cycle…” (i.e., The consumer must want what you are selling now, so you'd better find out what they want first, otherwise you will spend a lot of effort climbing a very steep mountain.) An interesting article on this topic by Susan Kostrzewa can be read here.

ShipCompliant Merges With Sovos Compliance
A press release about the merger is available here.

Return On Investment (ROI) is a Critical Factor for all Businesses. Where does Social Media Come Into Play in the Winery Business?
Andrew Adams wrote this article for Wines & Vines about the elusive understanding and measurement of the impact of social media on the winery tasting rooms and DtC businesses.

Wine Industry Metrics
March 2015 numbers are now available from Wines & Vines.

Do you know the Legal Aspects
of Using Social Media in your State?

An article in Wine Business Monthly addresses some of the legal answers to social media usage by wineries in California. Your state is “probably” different, and you may want to get clarification from the local authorities

Silicon Valley Bank’s "Secrets
of a Successful Tasting Room
On May 12 at 9:30 a.m. (PDT), Silicon Valley Bank will have a video-conference conducted by Rob McMillan. Register now.

Regional News
New York: Cornell University is expanding enology instruction.
Connecticut: A law to allow wineries to sell their own brandy.


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Jacques Brix is vice president and director of sales, West Coast, for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms and events.




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