HOW TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS ONE CALL AT A TIME – THE ANATOMY OF A PHONE CALL

“Hey! Didn’t you get a new job, Jessica?” She asks suddenly, trying to remember, “What is it that you’re doing? Do you like it?”

“Well,” I begin,  “technically, I’m calling people all over the US on behalf of different wineries and either retaining them as customers or gaining back their business.”

“Oooh,” she says, wincing. And then, in a hushed voice: “You’re a telemarketer?”

“Not at all!” I laugh, “I’m more like a wine fairy- I make wishes come true.”

“Ok…” she says with a shrug. True to form, I’ve given her a ridiculous answer. But I mean it- on a scale from telemarketer to magical granter of wishes, I’m much closer to the latter.

So why is a Boxter not a telemarketer? For one, I don’t follow a script. Instead, I engage with customers. I know their history. I ask how the remodel of the house went, or how their vacation was. While I’d love for them to purchase some of their favorite wines from me, at the end of the day what’s more important is that I’m building upon the existing relationship between them and the winery I’m representing. They’re happy to hear from me. “I’m so glad you called! I was just thinking about you,” is a response I’ve heard more than once.

I’m also passionate about the subject matter. I’m not selling vacuums out of a catalogue, I’m selling wine. A science, an art form, and one of the oldest traditions on the planet. I’m able to taste each wine on offer and make notes of its character and its nuances. I know that what someone might need for a barbeque in the back yard is not what they’ll need for an elegant evening engagement party. Beyond that, I’ll have been to the winery, met the people behind the scenes, and seen the passion they have not only for the wine they make but also for the philosophy behind it. I know that wineries are selling more than just an alcoholic drink- they’re also selling a lifestyle.

Before working at Chatterbox I worked at a family winery in Oakville. I knew the wines inside and out, and I knew their style and their voice. I was learning, but slowly. At Chatterbox I have that level of knowledge for every winery I represent. I’m learning quickly and constantly. I’m trying countless wines of all different styles and varietals and I have the privilege of listening to the winemakers explaining the choices they made and why.  As I study for my certified sommelier exam, this type of learning and exposure to one hundred different faces of the Napa valley and beyond is priceless.

The teamwork that goes on here behind the scenes is amazing as well. Because we are compensated first for our time and rewarded beyond that for our sales, there is an atmosphere of camaraderie here rather than one of competition that might exist in other sales roles. If my approach is not leading to results, there’s always a fellow Boxter who is willing to help and lend suggestions.

Who I’m representing, what I’m selling, and the style with which I’ll approach conversations with their customer base can vary on any given day. I have to be quick, adaptive, and creative to keep up with the constant changes and new information. Each day, I’ll go over the winery that I am representing and the wines I am focusing on at my desk, making sure the information is fresh in my mind. I recall the way the wine tasted, or the way the sunlight dappled across the balcony overlooking the vineyards, and the way I felt like I could sit there forever. That’s the feeling I want to pass on to my customers.

Then, I’ll hit the phones. Every conversation is different, and to be successful I have to form rapid connections with the people I’m calling. That means matching tone- be brief if they sound rushed, joke around with them if they seem relaxed and jovial, ask and answer questions in kind. It’s a lot of fun to reach someone on the other side of the country, or all the way in Alaska, and learn a little bit about their life and their experiences. Whether people purchase or not, my goal is to at the very least brighten their day. After all, Napa is about the memories, and it’s my honor to be the one to remind them.

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