How To Get into Wine Sales
Tom Wark's Fermentation
I don’t know what the best job in the wine industry is. However, I do know which job is in most demand and also the job most likely to allow you to break into the wine industry: Sales. Specifically, street sales.
I make a point of heading over to Wine Business’ “Wine Jobs” web site now and again just to see what kind of people the industry is looking for. They list jobs under a number of different categories: Winemaking, Vineyards, Hospitality, Administration, Finance, etc. But far and away the category with the most jobs listings is “Sales & Marketing”
In the month of February there were 140 listings on this job site offering work in the wine industry.
While public relations and market analyst and marketing director jobs fall under this category, by far most of these positions are with companies that want you on the street, visiting restaurants and retailers and selling a number of different wines. Some are listings by wineries who employ their own sales people. But the most common job offer is as a sales person with a distributor.
Good sales people are few are far between. In the first place it is very hard work. You are often schlepping around bottles all day, running from one appointment to another, working with a widely varying personalities. Add to this the fact that a good sales person is expected to know a great deal about each of the wines in their portfolio. This is not difficult if you are working for a winery, but if you are working for a distributor that probably means knowing all about upwards of 100, 200, even 400 different wines.
Then there is the sales aspect of the job. One doesn’t just walk into a restaurant with a checklist and pencil and start taking orders from the wine buyer. The best sales people know the restaurant or retailer, understand their niche and customer base, and understand which wines sell well in this particular account. Without this knowledge the salesperson is wasting the buyers time, the kiss of death for a salesperson.
As the number of distributors in each state has been reduced, sales people at the remaining distributors have been given more and more brands to represent. At the same time, the number of brands available to the market has grown. The salesperson’s job is made all the more difficult under these circumstances and explains why turnover is the biggest difficulty that managers at distributors have to manage. But it’s also the reason why very good sales people can make very good money.
Yet few people want to be sales people all their lives. The best salespeople do tend to move up from sales. The path is often to manager or district level manager or state level sales manager. From here they have a number of paths they can take if they want to stay in wine. They might move to the winery side and become a Director of state sales or National Sales Director. Or, it’s possible to move to the buyer side working for chains or hotel. Or, a move into marketing is a common path.
If you are thinking of getting into the wine industry, sales is by far the easiest way to get there. WineJobs.com is a great source for openings in this area. Most jobs are listed in or near large metropolitan areas and particularly in California and New York.
<font size=“4”; >Not qualified for a sales industry? Specialize through a degree program.