The National Sales Meetings
It takes a village. This is true in nearly all things in life whether it's parenting, selling wine or building a business. This notion really struck home for me after last week's national sales meetings.
Every year, usually twice, we have national sales meetings. The name sounds rather ominous and important for a fairly small group who gather to strategize, review, and brainstorm our upcoming year's sales plans and goals. I figure I've sat through at least 46 of these things. (That's 2X per year for 23 years). And to some degree I always feel a sense of déjà vu. I mean, there are only so many ways we can skin the cat, you know? But this was the year when the rules changed. When we had to throw out conventional thinking and look at our business in a new light. Like so many in this country, we got back to the basics and applied ingenuity and entrepreneurship that is part of our country's heritage.
But, trying to forecast sales with an economy so unpredictable is like predicting the weather in Hawaii. (It can change several times a day.) Sure we've got years of historical data along with this year's numbers, which by all measures have been pretty darn good. And, we have numerous promotions lined up for 2010 that will make an impact. But if you asked me if I know FOR SURE whether we'll hit our 5 year plan or even a 3 year plan, I'd have to say I think so. And with this admission, comes a small degree of unease. A lot of my vintner friends are in the same boat. Ask anyone in real estate, building, banking or manufacturingand I'd hazard to guess they'd say the same thing too. Of course some industries are booming. Take tortillas. Sales are sky rocketing. So are nursing homes and elder care. But wine, well it's as variable as there are wineries today.
At Dry Creek Vineyard, we are very happy to be finishing the year with sales flat to last year. (You know what they say, flat is the new up!) Interestingly, national sales are off modestly, while California sales are up quite dramatically. Tasting room sales are also down a bit but then again, we've had 3800 fewer visitors this year over last. Happily, the wine club and online sales are booming.
As I sat through these sales meetings, the thing that kept coming back time and time again is the importance of relationships. In other words, if you strip away the complicated process of how we get our wines to market, it all boils down to one thing: Relationships. Relationships with distributors. Relationships with restaurants. Relationships with retailers. Relationships with wine lovers. Relationships with wine writers. Relationships with growers. Relationships with vendors, with lenders, you name it. It's all based on relationships. And no amount of planning, strategizing, brainstorming or forecasting can take the place of this old fashioned way of selling. It's how my father did it and it's how we do it.
Now back to my village analogy. Our sales team is our little village. They are our relationship experts. They are the wheels that drive the engine that brings the enjoyment of our wines to so many people. And, they are some of the nicest, hardest working, most ethical and caring folks I know. Thanks guys for all that you do!
(And thank goodness we don't have to meet again until next year.)
After our meetings, we broke into teams at Relish Cooking School for a culinary cook-offa highly recommended adventure!
This is a blog about what it's really like to be in the wine industry...so sit back, take a sip and enjoy!
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