Three Tips For Tasting Room Employees

Do you think telling your tasting room guests about tasting notes, terroir and techniques is enough to engage them?

For die-hard wine geeks and experienced wine drinkers, it may be. But Lynda Paulson, a public speaking and communications coach who has worked with more than 600 wineries on their customer relationship building skills, has a different point of view.

Evocative language and explaining why facts are significant are key elements to wine sales, growing a wine club and retaining wine club members, explained Paulson, who recently spoke at the 2022 Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium.

The author of “Romancing the Grape” shared a number of tips that she said could help make customer-facing employees more effective whether they were dealing with new tasting room visitors or longtime loyal customers.

Get To The Point

“Everyone I talk to says they have (someone) on their team with an innate ability to connect with people, and that can’t be coached,” Paulson said. “But they are afraid to sound like a salesperson.”

Paulson said it was a boon to have an employee who can engage seamlessly in conversation with customers, but that they shouldn’t be afraid of sounding transactional.

Closing the deal can be both simple and conversational, Paulson explained.

“The most conversational way I’ve heard a (salesperson) close a wine sale at a winery is asking ‘What would you like to take home today?’” she said. “How natural and clear is that?”

Use Evocative Language and Bridges

Paulson said using evocative language can be a lot more memorable to consumers than simply describing the wines.

Using words like ambrosial, graceful and sumptuous to describe your wine can convey a feeling and make a varietal sound tantalizing and irresistible, she said.

Bridging your facts to an evocative phrase is an effective technique, she said. 

“Other phrases I’ve heard are ‘sunshine in a bottle,’ ‘crown jewel,’ and ‘The Audrey Hepburn of Merlot,’” she added. “The facts I hear in a presentation about French Oak, or dry farming, or the soil being rich with limestone are elaborate facts, but what do they mean? Why are you telling me that?”

Paulson said to have tasting room employees or brand ambassadors start with the fact (such as “This was aged in French Oak”) and then include the bridge ( “and this is important because….”).

Finally, she said, engage them by subtly asking them if the characteristics you’ve described would be important to them in a wine or something they would like in their wine.

“Good salespeople put the closing framework in their presentation,” she said.

Use Cues To Grade Your Performance

Are they interested in what you’re telling them? It’s easy enough to proffer a guess, Paulson said.

Paulson said to look for eye contact. 

“If they’re making prolonged eye contact, they’re buying you and what you’re saying,” she said, noting that little to no eye contact is a pretty good indicator you’re not selling them anything.

Other cues include picking up the bottle and looking at the label, or jotting notes on the tasting room menu, which is a good reason to have paper menus customers can take home.

“Writing on tasting room menus is a big buying signal,” she said, stressing that she tells her clients to keep paper, disposable menus with tasting notes included in lieu of glossy, leather bound menus. “Encourage them to write on the wine list and remind them they’re going to be visiting several wineries. Encourage them to keep notes.”

Finally, she said, if they say ‘my wife will kill me,” just go ahead and finish the sale.

“They just closed the deal themselves,” she laughed. “Just ask them what credit card they want to use.”

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