I worked in quite a few fine dining establishments for about 10 years, before finally getting into the retail side of wine. I treat every customer as if they were sitting in my section or assigned tables for the night.
- Greet them, and say hello… my name is XXX, please let me know if you’re in need of some assistance with your selections.
This is like offering them a cocktail menu, wine list, etc.
Of course there are going to be a few different steps conversations pieces that are quite distinct, the restaurant scenario vs. retail but I’m sure that most would be able to figure out how to make those adjustments.
A few pointers and suggestions that I have are the following (work them into your dialogue as you like):
Try and recognize if they’re repeat customers or first timers, great them by name if possible.
I try to avoid the silly questions, or the ones that I deem superfluous: “Are you looking for some wine today?” - and they’re roaming around in the wine section, obviously looking for wine. Think Bill Engval and his famous signature “Here’s your sign”. For those that don’t know, many of his pieces revolve around his personal idea of a perfect world in which stupid people must wear signs so that the rest are forewarned and can avoid possible pit falls.
A thought that stays in the front of my mind always is: I want them to come back. People are creatures of habit and I’d for their habits to include coming back to my store. Also, people are curious and like surprises, the nice ones. Create an interest for them that would make them want to come back. During your initial hello and your offering of some assistance, simply state that you have some new arrivals and would be glad to point them out.
By this method I’ve been pretty successful at silently training my customers. Many of them that now frequent the store come right up and ask, “Hey JP, what’s new and exciting?”
A note on how to approach the ever so difficult side of interpreting what their standards of “dry”, “oaky”, “”… Ask them what particular wine they’ve been enjoying while at the same time they tell you what they like in a wine. I kid you not, I’ve had people tell me they like dry American whites, no butter, no oak, and then proudly point out that they absolutely love Kendal-Jackson Chardonnay. So instead of pointing out that they’re wrong, find them a wine that along the style of what they like, and hopefully someday they’ll read the back label of the wine bottle and say to themselves, “I’ll be damned, this IS a buttery-oaky Chardonnay”.
This is it for now, I hope it helps. Now to see what the others think.