Why We Hardly Take The Road Less Travelled – An Easy Primer on Collecting Wine.

I’ve taken a long time away from writing on this blog because I thought I couldn’t say what I wanted without going really deep into what I do for a living. Someone smart told me that doesn’t matter if I add value to the people in my network. If you don’t know what I do, I am sure you can dig up enough research online. My purpose remains the same: I give people access to the best that life has to offer – particularly wines and spirits.

As a luxury professional specializing in the wine & spirits vertical, I have a strong talent for helping clients procure very expensive wines, which they don’t typically desire until they get to try them with me. Well, I can humbly tell you it’s not because of my looks and charm (that only worked on my wife… thank God she liked what I was selling). It’s because I have a very unique way of presenting rare wines and spirits – I tell stories and help my clients make memories.

My approach stems from a belief that most, if not all people, hate disappointment and failure. Think about it! Who wakes up in the morning and says “today I’m looking forward to failing?” Probably only the rare few that understand that failure is a pit stop on the way to success. However, most of us (even myself at times) dread failure, and its hard to coax ourselves out of those mental prisons that prevent us from fulfilling our potential, expressing true affection or a fashion sense, and even drinking good wine.

In the same way, many collectors hate failing when it comes to selecting wine for their palates and cellars. That’s why most consumers rarely “roll the dice” on a bottle of wine from an unknown producer, even if the wine is made from a varietal they like. They would rather buy the wine recommended by someone else (whose palate and preferences may sometimes differ from theirs).

So most often than not, they rely on the advice and selections from wine professionals like me. It’s unfortunate that I have to say this, but I think many wine pros focus so much on selling the brands that we represent, without any real consideration for where our clients are in their wine journey. We should be working on selling an experience and creating a memory they can remember and associate with our brands for the rest of their lives.

A better way to think about this is real estate.

So imagine you are an agent for a client looking for a three bedroom – two bath home on a half acre plot. Your client knows exactly what they want and probably how much they would like to pay (they might not know how much they will have to pay). Most agents would try their best to find exactly what the client wants.

I take a different approach.

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I peel back the client’s expressed needs and expectations to identify their unexpressed desires. I “walk the block” with the client from where they are to show them where “they might want to be in the future.” As a result, I will show my client the five bedroom – three bath home on 10 acres with a little woodshed for him/her to make that custom furniture piece they’ve been trying to produce in their spare time. I don’t do that because I think they should buy a more expensive property. I do it because I want them to have a glimpse of an alternate future. I want to give them something to look forward to, so I capture them with a possible expression of their innate dreams. I may end up selling the customer exactly what they wanted to begin with – but guess who they rely on when they want to fulfil their ultimate vision…me!

We aren’t just chasing the status and social confirmation that our bank accounts and material possessions afford us. We are chasing the memories that make our lives rich and meaningful. Give your clients more than they ask for… give them all they could possibly want and help them build a vision for the future. I guarantee they’ll stick with you because you help them make memories.

I’ve ranted and gone around the block a couple times, but that’s consultative selling in a nutshell.

PS: I had a lot of fun writing this post. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Drink some good wine with someone you admire after this and I’m sure you’ll understand why I do my job so well. Today, someone whose mind I greatly admire received the Nobel Prize for his work in the field of Behavioral Economics. Irrational behavior and animal spirits are everywhere…. even in luxury and the business of alcohol.

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Are you the target?

I came home this evening a very disappointed consumer. I had just seen “Man of Steel” and “The Wolverine“. I know it seems so off-message to start my post on luxury with talk of comic book heroes, but read on to see where this leads.  Continue reading

JC Penney Going for Broke / Luxury Conference in Boston, MA

Ron Johnson’s Original Turnaround Plan for JCP – Circa April 2012

The Gist:

Less than a year ago, I wrote about JCP’s “square pricing” strategy created under CEO, Ron Johnson. The pricing strategy was intended to help the retailer grow its business, however, latest indications show the company has recorded four consecutive quarters of decline.

In combating the consumer backlash, Mr. Johnson is rolling out some of the previously discontinued sales that JCP is known for. There is no indication as to how many sale campaigns the retailer will bring back, but JCP’s CEO has vowed not to return to levels where the company ran up to 600 sales promotions each year. Supposedly, the retailer is going to introduce a limited number of promotions that tie in with the core habits of its consumer set – shoppers who only buy when they need something and require high value.

It’s bad enough that most of JCP’s consumers have decided to shop at its competitors (Kohl’s, Target, Dillard’s, and Macy’s to name a few). What’s worse is that Wall Street investors have also lost confidence in the stock. After losing more than half of its value, Penney stock is now trading at around $19. The company will also find it hard to raise capital as its credit rating is in the realm of “junk status”.

There is still no light at the end of the tunnel for Ron Johnson’s (RJ) turnaround. Though I was very pessimistic (and correct) in my initial assessment in April, 2012, I wouldn’t quit on RJ just yet. You do know he turned Apple and Target’s retail performance around, right? The past is the best predictor of the future. I just might roll the dice on some JCP stock.

Question

Where do you need to be this month?

Harvard Business School

Answer

In Boston, at the Retail and Luxury Goods Conference, at Harvard Business School. It happens every year (this is the ninth) and is never a dull event. I had some of my best professional moments there. If you can’t make it, you can trust that I’ll take notes for you.

#HBSRLGC – Day 2: Emerging Markets Panel

4/15/12 – After the keynote address from Max Azria, I went on to some of the panel sessions. The panel sessions are a little more intimate than the keynotes because you get to hear different perspectives on the same issues that concern retailers today. You’ll see competitors, collaborators, and disruptors in the same room. This year there were four panels and I attended two:

Emerging Markets – The panelists were:

  • Anya Ayoung Chee – Designer, Project Runway Winner
  • Kai Schoppen – CEO, Brandsclub Group
  • Malte Horeyseck – Co-Founder and Managing Director, Dafiti
  • Tikka Karpurthala – Chief Representative in Asia for Moet-Hennessy/Group Advisor Louis Vuitton, India

New Business Directions – The panelists were:

  • Anthony W. Campbell – EVP of Administration, Vice Chairman’s Office, Perry Ellis International
  • Julie Bull – Director of Investor Relations, Dillards
  • Mark Bonchek – SVP Communities and Networks, Sears Holdings
Here are the tweets to catch you up on what went on in the Emerging Markets panel.

Continue reading

#HBSRLGC – Day 2: Max Azria

Two Crazy Guys - Max Azria (Founder, Designer, Chairman and CEO, BCBGMAXAZRIAGROUP) and Edmund Amoye (LuxRe Club, Mason School of Business)

On day two (Sunday 4/15/12) at the Harvard Business School Retail and Luxury Goods Conference (HBSRLGC), we kicked off the day with breakfast, which was not attended by yours truly.

I was having too much fun walking around Boston... literally.

However, my day was off to a a memorable start with the second keynote address by Max Azria – Founder, Designer, Chairman and CEO, BCBGMAXAZRIAGROUP. This is a man I have always admired for his perspective on fashion – and have respected for his vision with the Herve Leger brand. Meeting the man was something I wasn’t expecting and the HBSRLGC helped me do that. I tweeted so much at this conference that I’m just going to use my tweets document my experience. Enjoy. Continue reading

HBSRLGC – Boston, MA: Day 1

So I was in Boston for the annual Harvard Business School Retail and Luxury Goods Conference (HBSRLGC). Yes, I know that’s a long acronym. I’ll document my days in Boston (4/14/12 to 4/15/12) with pictures and tweets (yes – tweets).

A Sculpture at Back Bay Station - by George Greennamyer, 1976

After coming out of the station I took this picture of the entrance to the Back Bay Station:

Right across the street from Back Bay Station is an iconic property – Copley Place. This was a good experience for me because just the day before I had the pleasure of conversing with Howard Elkus and Ken Himmel, famous architect and renowned developer respectively.

Copley Place consists of multiple connected buildings. Here is a picture of a pedestrian bridge over Stuart St.

NW Elevation of Copley Place

NW Entrance of Copley Place

Took the Orange Line from Back Bay to Downtown Crossing, transferred to the Red Line and went on to JFK/UMass where I stayed at the DT - Boston Bayside

Left the hotel and went to Harvard Square Station via the Red Line

Later in the evening around 6pm, I went on to the Sheraton Commander Hotel for a networking session and keynote address by Steven Kolb, CEO, The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). He set the conference off on a good tone discussing the role and history of the CFDA as well as its efforts to push intellectual property rights for designers in the US.



Interesting Infographics – Global E-Retail

These infographics (below) from Internet Retailer are necessary for today’s entry because of my last post on Neiman Marcus.