Selling wine during a recession

The word RECESSION is being bantered about far more now than in over ten years.

All signs are pointing toward an economic recession on the horizon (and the truth is, it’s always on the horizon … but we can never tell where the horizon is).

As always, nobody knows anything, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t actually happen this year.

However …

It’s a good moment to talk about selling wine in a recession. If you were not in the wine business in 1981, 1991, 2001, or 2008, you don’t have the first-hand experience to know how dramatic it can be. And believe me, it can be dramatic, bordering on traumatizing. 

Here are a few hints to start to lay a foundation for success even during a recession.

Let’s assume things will go south between now (April) and September/October, which would make the heyday of November and December a problem for many in our industry.

First … if a recession hits … corporate spending gets frozen quickly, and holiday parties are scaled back or put on hold. So if you sell lots of wine to hotels and caterers, just be ready. If you sell lots of wine to restaurants that book corporate gatherings, just be ready. The big profits many companies and industries saw in the last two years might evaporate.

Second … if a recession hits … people don’t stop drinking. In fact, they may drink more. But they will downgrade their purchases in a big way. Boxed wine will edge up. Affordable and awesome wine will edge up. But anything in the $25+ retail category suddenly gathers dust. Affordable wines by the glass, sales take off. Expensive wines by the glass are suddenly ignored. By the bottle at restaurants, sales evaporate. Just be ready.

Third … if a recession hits … you’ll be amazed at how many sales reps start complaining, very vocally, to their retail and restaurant customers. Sales reps will start to mumble and grumble about how hard the job is, how nobody is buying the wines, and how “the job isn’t like it used to be.” So unprofessional. Don’t be that person.

So what to do? Go Johnny Appleseed all over this. Start planting the seeds in your customer’s heads that you are the problem solver they can trust. That you can analyze a situation and suggest routes to success. Starting NOW, begin following Marketplace on NPR, or read the front page of the Wall St. Journal, and talk about the economic situation as part of your sales pitch with customers. Don’t complain about it; just start talking about solutions and preparation.

Let me repeat that for emphasis: do not complain about the economy; just start talking about solutions and preparation. 

Then if the shit does hit the fan, your clients will call you first.

Believe me, for I know all of this from experience.



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