When I go to a liquor store to do a tasting I get feedback from the agents and the employees. It’s actually more like they tell me stories about different people coming in to do tastings for different companies. They are always amazed that I come in ready to work. I am dressed well and I have brought everything I need to conduct my tasting (except for the small trash can that I keep forgetting). I am amazed at some of the stories that they tell me.
At one store, I was told, the person conducting the tasting was verbally abusing a customer because the customer didn’t like the spirits they were offered. This included following the customer around the store yelling at them.
So here are some tips (In no particular order of importance) for anyone who will ever be showing a product, it doesn’t even have to be alcohol related.
1. Know your product:
There are times when a company hires “Spokespeople” to showcase their products. These people, generally, have no connection to the company and may have never heard of the product they are showcasing. If you ever find yourself in this situation; do yourself, the store and potential customers a favor; read up on the product. Because I will guarantee that some customers will know way more than you do about what you are showing or they will have heard “things” about a product and will want some information. Either know the answer or tell the truth and say that you don’t know. Trying to BS an answer will only show your ignorance and make you look like the fool.
On the other hand if it is your product then you should have all the answers as it pertains to your product and a general knowledge of the product category. (However, even though I make Vivacity Spirits Fine Vodka and have a general knowledge of all things Vodka. That does not make me the repository of the entire world’s vodka knowledge)
There are occasions when an “expert” comes in and starts to tell you things about your product and you can barely follow what they are talking about. In this case, I find that it is much easier to just agree with them because they obviously know more than you do and they will prove it by asking you a question so arcane or confusing that you can’t answer it (most times because they have mixed information from different Spirits or are just plain wrong).
Sometimes they are very knowledgeable. These people are fun to talk to.
2. Be prepared:
This is pertinent for the person who is showing their own product(s). Bring everything you need to conduct business. The less the store has to take care of you the better you are generally received and the more professional you come off.
I try to be a low needs taster.
For the person not directly associated with the business, you will need to have the store give you everything. Help them help you.
3. Interact with the customers:
Does that sound silly?
I had one store manager tell me they had a “Model” showing some spirits and every time someone approached the table she would turn away from them and face into a corner.
Ok, again, Wow!
Not only should you be interacting with the customers (when I am conducting a tasting, I consider myself an employee of the store. I sample them on my products and try to direct them to the things they are looking for) I interact with the employees and the manager as well. Who do you think is going to recommend your product when you are not there? This does not mean you have to suck up to them, it just means be professional and courteous.
If, however, you are returning to the same stores you should also learn the names of the employees, it’s a nice touch.
4. Be Professional and Courteous:
One of the stores pet peeves, I am often told, is the person who comes in dressed like they just got back from a month long camping trip and are generally asses to everyone. They argue about everything and when they are not engaged with a customer they are playing on their phone (which makes them not engaged with the customers).
Confession: I too have been on my phone at a tasting. I keep it on in case of emergencies and because I post my tastings on Instagram. If someone approaches the table the phone immediately goes away and when I am done with my post then the phone goes away for good until I am done with the tasting.
In my opinion being dressed appropriately (meaning clean and with a company logo) is very important.
5. Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover:
How often have we looked at someone and made a snap judgement?
The other day I tasted at a liquor store and two gentlemen, who I was pretty sure were homeless, were sampling my wares. They tasted my Traditional Rum, raved about it and announced that it was Pina Coladas for the evening and purchased a bottle.
Never assume who you think will purchase what you are promoting. Be polite to everyone and treat them all the same.
6. Have Fun:
This goes along with engaging with the customers and employees. Have fun, make jokes. It’s OK to bust their chops, a little. That way everyone is in a good mood and it also helps the time go faster.
7. Have Thick Skin:
This goes along with #1: Know your product, but don’t attach your self-worth to it. No matter how good your product is, there are people out there who will not care for it (I’m being nice here. Some will expound on how crappy they feel your product is).
I was conducting a tasting and I had just sold about 17 bottles of our Fine Vodka when a gentleman tried my Spirit and proclaimed, “I hope you don’t have stock in this company” Ouch! But a little less so because of the previous bottle sales. Now-a-days rejection is somewhat expected but it can still be a tiny dagger in my heart.
--Christopher M Neumann