The Tasting Panel magazine

January/February 2015

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76  /  the tasting panel  /  january/february 2015 IN THE BIZ T o say that the relationship between som- meliers and the reps who sell them wine is complex is an understatement. On the one hand, somms and salespeople are mutually dependent; on the other hand, their association is often fraught with tension. I decided to check in with some top somms around the country (see sidebar) to get a cur- rent reading on what they love and hate about a relationship that—at least for the foreseeable future—will necessarily endure. Here's what they said. (Note that because of the small number of somms interviewed, these findings are not statisti- cally significant, but the candid comments below are, I believe, worthy of attention.) Question #1: What are your two pet peeves when it comes to sales reps? The two top answers—mentioned by more than 50% of the somms—were: 1) Showing up unannounced and often in the middle of service. 2) Tardiness to a scheduled appointment. But a whole host of other peeves were aired as well. For Dan Bailey, one of them was: "Aggressive follow-up on multiple forms of social media in addition to phone calls and emails." Question #2: How important is it for a wine salesperson to know the menu/food of your restaurant? Somms were all over the board on this, with some answering this was very important on a scale of one to five, and others suggesting it was only somewhat important. "I don't expect every rep to know the menu of every restaurant they have an account with," said Jeff Spiewak. "Knowing the menu is my job." Question #3: How important is it for a sales rep to know the basics of how wine is made and how vines are grown? More than 90% of somms scored this as a 4 or 5 on the sale of importance (5 = very important). Said Jeff Kellogg, "I can't imagine having a wine conversation with someone who doesn't know the basics." Added Dan Bailey, "To me, it's insulting when distributors hire super sexy women or 'stud' male reps who have no knowledge about the wine they are trying to sell, let alone the basics." Question #4: How important is it for a sales rep to recite statistics on the wines they present to you? Most somms were in the middle on this (scor- ing 3 or 4 on the scale), though several felt it was completely unimportant. "There is nothing more irritating than a distributor rep reciting all the statistics on sugars and acids," said Krisiti Snyder. Question #5: How important is it for a sales rep to understand sensory concepts (tannin, residual sugar, diacetyl, etc.), and use sensory terms correctly? There was lots of agreement here. Most somms scored this as quite important to very important. Said Jai Wilson, "The more you know about sensory concepts, the better we can communicate. These things are much more important to me than where the owner spends his summers." Question #6: On average, how much time do you give a sales rep to present a wine to you? The most common response was 30 minutes. But some somms were all about speed: "Two minutes per wine," said Kelli White. And how should the time be spent? "Show up with an agenda; six wines max," said Jai Wilson. "Have the wines open and tasted prior to your arrival. Keep chitchat to a minimum. Forget the 'let's pick from the bag' routine. If you want to sell me something, sell me something. Come in with your research done and know what works for my program." SOMMS REVEAL WHAT THEY REALLY THINK ABOUT WINE REPS by Karen MacNeil Somms and Salespeople

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