Sales, Love and Liquor

This past Friday afternoon I drove up to Amherst, Massachusetts to visit my 19-year-old daughter, Emma, who attends my alma mater, The University of Massachusetts.

Killing time while we waited for a sushi restaurant to open, we walked into a liquor store in the center of town. Thirty years ago I put in 20 to 25 hours a week working here and earning my way through college.

The store smelled exactly the same way it did in 1982—exactly!—and the memories flooded my brain the instant I walked in the door.

I found the owner and reintroduced myself. He remembered me and we spent a few minutes reminiscing and laughing. He even shared a couple of stories with Emma that I’m certain will come back to haunt me someday.

It was at this liquor store that I learned two important lessons. The first—how not to treat people who work for you—is a tip for another day. The other is what I want to talk about today, for it was here that I fell in love with sales.

At 18 years old, I was not hired for my knowledge of wine, but that didn’t stop people from asking me my opinion. My response was often to quickly scan the description on the back label and then “package” it and spit it back to the customer.

If the label said, “‘Smooth tannins with a full body and a pleasant aftertaste,” I would knowingly and confidently say to the customer, “Ah, yes. This is a full-bodied white. The tannins aren’t that bad. But the best part is, there is a pleasant aftertaste.” Nearly 100 percent of the time, the customers would happily buy the bottle.

All I had done is simply restate the description highlights I found on the label.

Yup. I learned a lot about sales working at that liquor store. I learned about presentation and delivery and confidence and I learned how satisfying it was to close a sale, even if it was for a cheap bottle of fruity wine with smooth tannins, whatever that means.

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  • Joe Kern

    Love that last line. As simple of a story this is, there really are some great points that can be taken from this. Love what you do, and learn how to package it well. Always exciting stuff Bill.

  • Kelly Mallozzi

    Emma and I had a similar reaction. This blog post explains a lot about you. Thanks for the clarification.

    And all good points too!