Go Old School to Create an Extraordinary Customer Experience

Get out of your comfort zone and pick up the phone.

You’re in New Orleans. You’re walking around the French Quarter on a lazy Fall afternoon. The sights and sounds and smells of the Quarter fill you up. You duck into an alley where you see an out-of-the-way café. There’s a small metal sign (for the aptly named, Alley Café), and a couple of tables and chairs out front. You walk in and order a chicory coffee and a beignet from the gentleman behind the counter. He is not only friendly but proceeds to talk a bit about how they source and roast their own coffee beans and that the chicory comes from an eighty-seven-year-old Cajun man who lives along the Bayou.

This coffee is the Best. Thing. You’ve. Ever. Tasted.

This cup of coffee is swirling with all of the other sensory experiences of New Orleans. You decide to purchase a bag while you are there. Why not take a piece of the Big Easy back with you? Once back home, you indulge in your coffee purchase every morning for a week… and it takes you right back to that moment in time in the Alley café. At the end of the week, with a wistful sigh, the coffee bag is empty. And then it’s gone. Damn, the vacation is officially over.

Fast forward six weeks. You see a call come in on your cell with a New Orleans area code. Intrigued, you answer it.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is this Britney?”

“Yeees?”

“Cool! This is David from the Alley Café in New Orleans.”

“Oh, hi! Man, I finished the bag that I bought—it’s the BEST COFFEE!”

“Thank you! We love it too. Since you’ve run out, perhaps you’d like me to send you some more.”

“Heck yeah! What do you have?”

“We certainly have the chicory coffee that we’re known for, but we also have a special, limited production roast that’s only available here at the café. Would you like to give that a try? It’s only three dollars more per pound and if you purchase twelve, you’ll get an extra bag of chicory coffee for free.”

“Yes please—let me get my purse…”

I tell this story because sometimes we forget that wine (like coffee) is one of those things that can transport you back to a specific moment in time. It’s like a time capsule that re-opens each time you uncork a bottle. Sometimes, with the day-to-day business of making and selling wine, we forget how powerful wine is for summoning memories and experiences. We forget that our winery’s story profoundly affects those who experience it. And if you take the time to thoughtfully pick up the phone to speak to your fans, you deepen their connection to you and your wines.

Wait…you want me to pick up the phone?

aka: Isn’t that what email and Instagram are for?

In this age of Facebook, Instagram, and email campaigns, we often think that using the telephone to sell wine is somehow antiquated. Or that we will be irritating our customers by calling them. I’m here to say from experience, that the absolute opposite is true.

When your customers receive a call from the winery, they feel singled-out, special. A place that they LOVE is calling them. A place that is often their vacation spot, their paradise. When they pick up the phone, they are, if for only a few minutes, connecting with a place that they resonate with on a deep, personal level. They’ll often ask how the weather is, how harvest is looking, and mention when they are visiting again.

How to Make Your Phone Calls Successful Sales Calls

Who should you call?

Compile a list of your biggest, most loyal buyers. It’s okay to start small, say with your top ten. You can always add more buyers as you become comfortable.

What should you sell?

Before you call, be sure to know what varietal(s) each customer prefers (you don’t want to push Chard for a person who only buys Pinot).

What should you say?

Come up with an angle. (First dibs at the new vintage? Limited production large formats? Limited-time case discount?)

Who should make the calls?

This is an interesting question. You have a couple of ways to go on this front. You can do it in-house or you can outsource it. Let’s look at both.

Do it In-House

Who knows your product more than you (and your staff) do? If your staff each takes a portion of the list, this is a do-able and worthwhile option.

Pros:

  • Deepens the personal connection to your most loyal customers.

  • Since you’re not paying a commission to an outside sales company, you can get creative with staff incentives. Often you can get a little competition going which makes the campaign more fun and ultimately more effective since staff members get behind it 100%.

  • For extra oomph, ask the winemaker to call a couple of your high dollar customers. The customers love hearing straight from the winemaker. Everyone wins.

Cons:

  • Winery staff must set aside time to make the calls.

  • Some staff members may feel uncomfortable about calling and selling over the phone.

When is this option the most effective?

This is most effective when there’s something new and/or exciting to share. For instance: A new vintage, a limited edition etched bottle, newly released large formats, etc.

Outsource it.

There are companies who you can hire to call your customers for you. Their staff will become educated about the offering, your wines, winemaking style, etc. They call your customers on behalf of the winery. They are professional salespeople—and they make a commission on each sale.

Pros:

  • No need to use winery staff to make the calls.

  • They are professional salespeople and are very effective.

Cons:

  • Commission—This varies based on the particular campaign.

When is this option most effective?

This is an excellent option for when you are trying to clear out an old vintage. They can get the pipeline moving by putting new energy behind a slow-moving product.

A couple of respected players in this space are:

Bottom line—get out of your comfort zone.

Give it a try! You have absolutely nothing to lose. Start with your top three buyers…you know who they are. You likely know their spouse’s name…how old their kids are…that they have a cocker spaniel. They’ve likely visited the winery, met the winemaker. The conversation very naturally turns to your wines, what they have in their cellar…what they may need for the holidays. Nurture this relationship. They clearly WANT this connection with the winery. When you take the time and effort to pick up the phone, it makes them feel special and important. Which they are!

 
Author and Head of VineSpring Customer Success, Britney Yunker, far right, behind the bar enjoying barrel-tasting weekend at Red Car Wine.

Author and Head of VineSpring Customer Success, Britney Yunker, far right, behind the bar enjoying barrel-tasting weekend at Red Car Wine.

 

To hear more from Britney and learn more about VineSpring’s support team, check out Not Just Tech Support.