The Merchant23 Blog

A Winery Direct Guide to Qualifying and Closing Sales.

Jan 22, 2019 11:10:13 PM / by Cyrus Azari

The article concentrates on wine trade, but the concepts are universal, and can quickly be applied to any person or business wishing to increase profitability over time.



Wine Sells, but Who's Buying?  

Have you ever had trouble selling wine? Before selling any wine  the most important concept to understand is exactly who you are pitching to.  Make sure your wine is going to the person most likely to buy it: Are you making high end, premium, one of a kind, small lot wine? Do you deal in bulk juice? Is this a shiner project? Figure out your niche. Each of these commodities command a certain buyer persona and price, so make sure you are prospecting the right buyer persona to begin with. A fancy pants wine bar in Marin County wants something that commands scores, respect, fantastic winemaker, etc. At a casual pants Bevmo, you can sell your bulk juice/shiner projects to. Whatever it may be, focus your effots towards the persona who is most likely going to buy your unique product. 

CSO Insight's2014 Sales Performance Optimization Find More Analysis Report" has findings that point out only 50% of organizations have defined their respective buyer persona. The marketing and sales arms of a company should both be aligned with one another - one needs to feed into the other in a constant feedback loop.  Emma Brudner states in the articleWhat's a Qualified Lead? Depends on Who You Ask [Data] that:

“The research shows that only 34% of companies with no formal definition were able advance a lead to a first discussion more than half of the time. This percentage jumped to 63% when considering companies with clear definitions. Bottom line: Organizations that formally define the term "qualified lead" connect with prospects more often.”

The data is undeniable. Set out to create a simple definition of what your buyer persona is. For example, at Merchant23, one of our buyer personas is liquor store chains with 10,000,000 in revenue. We look for those buyers and then we think about what their problems might be; walk in their shoes so to speak. As a winery you want to offer your buyer persona something that helps their business, and gives them value, and they will oblige you with lucrative profits. Think symbiosis.

Do you already have one? Great. If not, stop reading, and write down the first thing that comes to mind when you picture your ideal buyer. Do this now, for the welfare of your business.

Target Acquired - Vector Locked In...

Now that you have a target customer you can better apply this methodology to your sales process.

Authority, Need, Urgency, and Money - A.N.U.M. We touched on this in a previous blog post, but did not delineate on the point, which we will remedy in the below paragraphs.


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Leslie Ye, in her article "The Ultimate Guide to Sales Qualification" is very familiar with the ANUM process, echoing the sentiment of “a sales rep’s first priority should be to determine whether they’re speaking with a decision maker.” The same sentiment is echoed by marketing genius Niel Patel, in his article "Sell to Large and Enterprise Businesses Using This 16 Point Checklist" as he states  “In order to close a deal, you need to understand how decisions are made.” This is step number one for a reason, delineated below. Take a moment to understand how important this is before applying the this

Now, ask yourself, who will ultimately be authorizing the purchase order? Whoever it is, they are the one you need to convince and delight. Simple in concept, complicated in execution; for a variety of factors, such as:

1) The authority is constantly getting offers thrown at them everyday.

2) They are not available by phone/e-mail/a gatekeeper prevents you from talking to them, or they simply hate sales calls.

3) Your competitor can be offering them a similar product with a better price.

4) They are out on vacation.

5) Life, acts of god, really anything is possible for not reaching the authority.

Reach out five times, and if it does not pan out then move on.  Do not waste time - clearly they do not want whatever you have to offer. Everything hinges on talking to the authority, accept nothing less.


Once the authority is reached, you need to put on your consulting hat. You are nowhere near closing - think instead of how you can add value to this person. Ask questions in the vain of: what varietals, regions, and price points work for them. What does the authority emphasize when making a purchase decision, is it margin? Does the authority specialize in a certain region (France only, New World only, etc.) or is the company more global? Are they a boutique wine buyer, or a bulk wine buyer (micro vs macro buyers Is it name recognition? Wine competition scores? Close outs? Exclusivity?  

Be an active listener. Ask the right questions -what are their pain points? What do they want to improve on at their business? Before you know it you will have a very good idea of what the authority is interested in and how a decision to purchase is made. The purpose is to understand what they need. It is very possible that you have nothing to realistically offer them. Why try to fit a square widget into the triangle shaped hole?

Consulting is the new closing, internalize this concept.


Many retailers operate on category reset dates, seasonal manual transitions, or seasonal menu changes. Sometimes retailers might buy things on a whim.  Make sure to ask when the prospect plans on bringing in new product so you can prioritize opportunities. You may have the right products, but the timing might be off. After all there is not a huge impetus for bringing in a Rosé in the dead of winter, now is there?  Its like Stephen Ngo in his article, "How Beer, Wine, and Liquor Sales Trend by Season (2017 Edition)" that “Wine still sees its highest on-premise sales in the autumn, with demand dropping off after the December holidays end.” Understand when the timing is right and then make your move accordingly.


When you make it this far, ask the question:“If all things align, and you like my product, how many cases would you bring in on your first order? What is your average time for reorder if the product does well?” The teleological end of A.N.U.M is to increase money to your pocket. Its as Zorian Rotenberg in the article "Lead Qualification: Don’t BANT. Just CHAMP!," says “Have they (the authority) set aside a budget to solve this challenge? If they don’t have the funds now, will they in the future?” Getting an idea of what commitment level is allows you to strategize around that. You can understand the timeline of business with the potential buyer, and can better anticipate when money will be coming in.

Big Bucks Rollin' In! 

Many wineries and distilleries need far fewer accounts then they actually think they need. Dave Lavinsky at Forbes, in his article “Pareto Principle: How To Use It To Dramatically Grow Your Business” states “ general, 20% of your customers represent 80% of your sales. And 20% of your time produces 80% of your results.” Concentrate your resources and times on the buyers that are excited about your product. Nurture the big accounts that do this, and the money will be rolling in .

Find your market segment, and apply Authority, Need, Urgency, Money to it. Internalize this process, breath it, live it. You yourself will create your own style, allow these questions to fertilize the ground for you to organically modify this to your business. This is but a snapshot of the many facets, facilities, and efforts that it will take to create a successful brand. Stick to these tenets, work hard, and have the fortitude to have doors slammed in your face, and success will be your reward.


Merchant23 has made it possible to sell your wines nationwide without needing a predetermined distribution partner. 


Check out our sellers Success guide below and start selling more now! 

Download Our Sellers Success Guide Here!


Written by Cyrus Azari

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