Prospects buying wine need help
By Tom Thorne
If we first ask the question “What are prospects really buying
in a wine shop?” we may be surprised by the answers we
come up with and what the prospects tell the sales people.
Some answers to the question might be: pleasure, enjoyment,
or perhaps prestige or the building of confidence and social
savvy and food matching. Buying for someone else’s taste
which is always a difficult sale.
You may come up with your own ideas for what prospects are
actually buying when they purchase wine. It’s certainly a product
with many product intangibles and it always requires sales people
to sensitively engage prospects to convert them into loyal returning
customers. Wine buyers always want information without the
embarrassment of displaying their lack of knowledge.
Levels of buyer involvement
A more marketing type of analysis of what prospects do during
a wine purchase can be useful. First there is the level of
involvement in the purchase. Under high involvement a
prospect could go through a very complex procedure sifting
the differences between brands and types of wines available
and how the product array interfaces their own biases.
If there are a few choices then it is a much simpler process as
it may be in a boutique winery. The anxiety that they may
have selected less than they hoped for always exists. This is
one of the issues of prospects and new customers not
knowledgeable about Ontario high end wine products versus
competing wines from around the world can experience.
Prospects and even those considered a customer entering a
store with a wide and deep selection may face a lot of choices
and therefore will do lot of sifting to reach a choice. They may
also be mesmerized by the selection and find their learning
curve frustrating. That’s why they need sales help.
Low involvement buying is when customers seek a simple
answer to their need for a wine. They will naturally be
attracted to a low involvement solution probably taking them
to what is on sale or asking “what’s popular”. Low
involvement is also often about saving face over a lack of
wine knowledge. It creates habitual buying of known entities
and a cessation of any learning and excitement about the
pleasures of wine. Using this analysis of two main customer
segments may take any retail customer service program a
step further. It becomes obvious that all needs and wants are
not the same.
Adding marketing to sales techniques
Adding marketing elements to retail selling can go a long way
to sensitize staff to how purchase decisions are really made
and how their questioning is perceived by prospects at their
level of involvement in the purchase.
The five steps to a purchase Buyer decisions are made in a five
step process. The first four steps of this process can take
15 minutes or becompleted in 10 seconds depending on the prospect’s
involvement level and the importance of their decision or price
point-value considerations. The prospect’s purchase steps
after they have been greeted and welcomed to the store are:
Need Recognition: Can this store and its products fill the
prospect’s needs? This is the one reason why they want to
browse. They want some space and time to size up what is
there. They also are surveying your price points.
Information Search: Even while they are being questioned
by a sales person they take down bottles and read the
information on the label and compare potential choices.
Evaluation of Alternatives: Observe while prospects
consider choices. Is it this wine? Yes? No? Then they put it
back and consider another. Often they look at something else
and then go back to the first choice. At all of these prospect
stages a well designed sales training and wine knowledge
program will help sales people to genuinely help a prospect
The Purchase Decision: At this moment the sensitive sales
person to this process can sense the cue to close and move
the prospect to the cash. They will be looking for confirmation
of their choice of wine. If their wants and needs have been
probed then this is a simple process to reinforce the choice.
Post-purchase Behavior: This last point is why it is
important to ask customers back and if you see them again
ask how they enjoyed the wine they bought the last time.
Done well and consistently this stage can create loyal
returning customers. Was their choice reinforced when they
pulled out the cork and poured out a glass?
How do sales staff help The Buyer Decision Process? First
they must realize that this process always goes on when
anything is being purchased and if they are truly listening the
cues for each step always emerge. That takes us to listening skills.
Anyone who sells wine must learn to listen carefully for cues
about when to interface the sales process (Greet, Qualify, Match
and Close) on the prospect’s buying process.
When all this is done well the outcome is always satisfaction.
Good service is memorable to the prospect and always builds
the reputation of the winery or wine retailer. It also goes a long
way to make and keep them as a customer while enhancing
their wine knowledge and appreciation.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved
The author sold wine for nine years and these observations are a result
of that experience.