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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Aman Resorts: A Tough Sell for DLF

Amangiri – Utah, USA

Two weeks ago, there was some news that China-based conglomerate, HNA, had sent in a bid to buy Aman Resorts, a collection of unique luxury resorts in some of the most sought-after destinations in the world. Aman Resorts, which is owned by DLF, an Indian development company, represents the company’s biggest non-core asset.

To bring you up to date, DLF currently has a net debt of more than $4 billion and is looking to raise as much as $650 million to shore up its debt levels and put some cash on its balance sheet. In 2007, the company had bought a 97% stake in Aman Resorts based on a $400 million valuation, while the remaining three percent was held by Aman founder Adrian Zecha. Considering that the purchase was made right before the global financial crisis, DLF has been desperately looking for a buyer for this property.

HNA Hotels and Resorts is part of China-based HNA Group. With assets exceeding $30 billion, the group has its tentacles in airlines, hotels, airport management, real estate, retail, financial services, logistics, and tourism. Annual revenues are around $10 billion (as of Dec. 2011). The hospitality segment of the group consists of a total of 43 luxury hotels and resorts in China and Europe (40 in China and three hotel assets in Brussels and Belgium).

Reports are out that HNA is out of the bidding process for Aman Resorts, since it never received any feedback on its undisclosed bid. Reuters reports that “bids came in the $300-$315 million range”, which means that the market feels these luxury assets are overpriced. This is a huge setback for DLF considering the list of companies interested in Aman Resorts. They include:

  • Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah
  • LVMH, and
  • Kingdom Holdings, which owns a 47.5% stake in the Four Seasons chain of luxury hotels

It’s looking bleak for DLF, but maybe some other group will step up to take over Aman.

Adding Value – Train Rides and iPads

Train rides are very enjoyable for me because I get the chance to remain terrestrial. I’m not driving myself, nor am I on a bus going pretty much the same way I would have driven myself. Since train tracks do not always follow “car routes”, I get to take a more scenic view, stumbling upon sights that don’t come into my view on a regular basis. I also like to take trains at times they are sparsely occupied, so that I have a lot of space to myself. The combination of those components makes the ride an enjoyable one. However the real luxury experience can be summed up in one picture from my last trip on Amtrak: Continue reading

Real Estate is an Entrepreneurial Venture

I wrote another blog post about the real estate course at the Mason School of Business. It starts out like this:

As with the last 100 meters the 400-meter dash, the conclusion of the 2011 fall semester marks the beginning of the end of my time at Mason. As I race towards the finish line in May 2012, good thoughts come to mind, especially of the Real Estate CAM taught by Prof. Ben Bolger. The course exposed me to the nuances of an industry where success is not necessarily about reality, but your ability to create a perception, in which people want to participate. In the CAM, we covered cases analyzing the future of real estate at academic institutions using Harvard and W&M as examples; urban development in Brazil; and the redevelopment of the World Trade Center.

Click here to see the rest of it…

A Room With a View of Your Porsche, Ferrari, Benz, …

30-day Challenge – Day 29

In the second half of this past semester at business school, I took an immersion course in real estate – the best course I have ever taken. The course not only exposed me to the business of real estate, but also introduced me to the nuances of an industry where success is not necessarily about reality, but your ability to create a perception, in which people want to participate.

Real estate can give you a means to exercise your networking, negotiation and selling skills. At the same time, real estate allows you to be very creative in realizing your visions of developing mixed use, multi-family apartments, commercial, or industrial structures. You can literally do anything and the next lines will show that. Continue reading