The Biggest Winery Sales Mistake!

This is of utmost importance for wineries

This is a Google translation fo a VERY interesting article in the WineMeridian, originally in Italian, and written by Alessandro Satin. (Here is the original article)

“What Buyers Want

Is a foreign buyer buying only our wine, or is he also buying a series of additional services? What is he looking for from us and what can we offer him?
by Alessandro Satin
“What do we sell when we sell to a foreign buyer? Or rather, are we sure we know what he is buying from us?
The spoiler, I say it immediately, is that the answer “my wine” is not the right one.
Wine, understood as liquid, bottle, label, carton, is only the physical asset that will be loaded into a container and to which economic value is given, so while the goods travel in one direction, the money travels in the other.
But what the buyer buys is more, much more, it is often intangible and not measurable.
I was an Italian wine buyer from 2014 to 2017, when I opened the f & b sector for an Italian-Chinese company with an office in Shanghai, where I lived for three years, learning about the needs of what is now my client, i.e. the foreign buyer. We have imported large and small producers into China, prepared and less prepared, fast and less fast, and I have made a fairly large sample of the needs that the importer has to be able to do his job in the best possible way and be able to develop a satisfactory business for both. .

But let’s start with the basics.

The importer is not the one who buys the product, he brings it to his country and takes on all the work of promoting and developing the brand. Let’s see why.
Importing wine into a new country means starting a process from scratch, as no one knows the brand, company, history, or values ​​behind the brand. Consumers, operators, press, distributors, restaurateurs, local wine lovers, etc. do not know them.
If it is clear enough that the benefits of a good launch are shared between producer and importer, it is not always equally clear that promotion efforts must also be shared, especially in the initial phase, when the economic results are not yet sufficient to support the project.
When I started talking to a new company, for a possible collaboration in China, what I was interested in understanding was the type of support I would have for product launch and development. Basically, I wanted to understand what help the producer could give me.
In the meantime, support means the presence on the territory with travel, especially for the initial phase, when it is necessary to train the sales staff, visit the main customers, understand the market. It then means quantifying a budget, to be spent in an agreement between the producer and the importer, to go and do the first communication, presentation, and launch actions.
The direct result of the presence and the budget is the participation in specific fairs or events, specific to reach the target clientele identified. In several cases, with our suppliers, we have established participation in a specific fair or b2b, to go, together, to touch the first new customers, and get feedback from the market, as well as the analysis and tests done before importing the product.
The importer who buys our wine is buying, in short, the possibility of reselling it and making money ((my emphasis – Izhar, also the following emphasized lines), so every tool that can help him to achieve this goal is important.
In many markets, for example, having received awards or being well-reviewed by guides, opinion leaders or apps, is essential to be chosen by the consumer, so the producer who is prepared in this respect, with good results, will certainly be preferred. All other conditions being equal. Similarly, a company with good and followed social media profiles, or willing to make an investment in opening social media profiles or in the language of the country of interest, will still be preferred by the importer. In China, having a good profile on Wechat or Weibo can be very important, while having it on Facebook or Instagram is completely useless, given that the local consumer does not access these social networks.
Then there are, as anticipated at the beginning, less tangible but no less important aspects that can make the difference for an importer, namely simplicity, precision, and speed.
Even if many of those sitting on the side of the seller do not imagine it, the work of the importer is rather complicated, with many things to follow, long times, necessary schedules, time zones to manage, stocks to follow, customs to respond to, etc.
Having to deal with a producer who makes things easier, or conversely with one who makes them more difficult, makes all the difference in the world. I’m talking about price lists, contracts, technical sheets, order procedures, simplicity of communication, and much more. If only to calculate the price I need a calculator, I can imagine how complicated it will be to deal with the manufacturer for all the other tasks. the importer is used to using a communication channel, let’s not impose ours on him. If you use Wechat, let’s download it, it costs nothing.
Another thing, very important in many countries but even fundamental in others, is the precision in respecting the delivery dates, in providing the customs documents, the information on the invoice as well as on the label. What may seem like a small and negligible inaccuracy to the seller can become a big problem, for example with customs. Similarly, a wrong document implies that the recipient has to check it, send it back to the sender asking for the correction, wait for this to be done, the document is sent again, double-checked by the importer, and sent back to customs. In addition, several copies of the same document are created, some of which are incorrect and one correct, which can lead to confusion and subsequent problems.
Finally, speed, a subject often underestimated by those who sell. Working with foreign countries, there are already long times on average, also due only to the time zone and transport times. In China, if I needed an answer from Italy in the morning, at least I had to wait until late afternoon or evening.
When an importer asks a question to the manufacturer, he should try to answer him as quickly as possible, as well as in the most accurate way, because the passage of time can be a problem, if for example the goods are stopped at customs and there is a storage cost to be paid, or if a customer of the importer is waiting for the goods.
A positive episode that happened to me in China occurred when, during dinner time, a restaurateur contacts me with a question relating to a product purchased by me, made to him by an important customer of his, to which he cannot answer. Since I don’t even know the answer, I contact the manufacturer directly, to whom I ask to send me a short video in which he answers the question via whatsapp. Thanks to the speed of the producer, I receive the video after a few minutes, I immediately forward it via Wechat to my client, who shows it to his client, translating it. Now put yourself in the shoes of the restaurateur, who receives excellent service and who in turn can boast a personalized and punctual service towards his customer. If you were him, would you make a fuss if the product costs a few cents more than another?
So, at the end of this journey, what have I learned? Follow me for a moment, because I am about to move to the side of the desk where I am sitting now, that of the seller.
When a buyer talks to me about price only, I have many arrows in my bow to shift attention to all the services I can give him, to which perhaps immediately it is not possible to give a numerical value, but which he knows very well, and I can assure you that often, very often, the buyer is willing to accept a few percentage points of extra cost, in exchange for a series of services that help him and make his life easier.
Not always, of course, but that’s another story.”
This article is an absolute treasure! it covers extensively the most missing viewpoint so many wineries suffer from!

Inverted Viewpoint

Being a salesman and a sales manager for decades, I trace this lack of customer’s viewpoint to the automatic, self-centered,  and quantitative approach in sales training!
It would be nice to hear some feedback from wine buyers and wineries to this article!


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