Closing Mindset – A Tale of Two Wine Tastings

By Mary Beth Berry

Why do most salespeople avoid the final closing question? Sales professionals from coast-to-coast primarily answer this query in one of two ways:

  • Fear of rejection.
  • Fear of being too pushy. “If they like it, they will tell ME they want to buy it.”

But how logical are these answers, truly? Let’s explore in the context of one of my top 10 favorite activities: wine tasting.

A couple of years ago, I attended a leadership conference in Northern California.  Having never visited the area, I was excited about the prospect of making this trip both educational AND recreational by tacking on an extra couple of days to visit Wine Country with some girlfriends.

My traveling companions varied in their wine-tasting experience – from novice to expert. We hired a highly recommended company to plan our trip, drive us around (in a Mercedes that more resembled the inside of a private luxury jet than a van), and help us make the most of our two tasting days. 

The long-awaited trip finally arrived, and we ladies buckled up for what was sure to be the Instagram-able experience of a lifetime.  And it was…  with one notable “low” point and one notable “high.”

Let’s start with the “low” point first: 

The tires of our Mercedes van crunched through the gravel parking lot leading up to Shady Hawthorn Vineyard (name changed).  The venue was STUNNING – the perfect blend of gleaming white modern tiles and table tops with cozy boho accents. Huge sliding glass doors opened onto the back patio overlooking the sprawling vineyards. Instagram perfection.

We sat at our table and eagerly awaited our tasting.  The gentleman serving our table, Richard, ambled up to welcome our party.  Now… I will admit this was not our first tasting of the day and that our group of young women was very chatty and giggly.  In fact, we barely thought anything when Richard looked at us, raised an eyebrow, and asked, “So, is this a bachelorette party or something?”

The experience progressed, and Richard technically did everything he was supposed to do. He delivered our wine relatively promptly. He pointed at which cheese was assigned to be paired with which glass. He answered questions about the wine when we asked.  

But, as the tasting went on, we couldn’t help but notice that Richard seemed to linger slightly longer at the other tables – the tables with older, more distinguished-looking/ less “bachelorette-esque” guests. Some of the more experienced tasters in our group started to get agitated by this lack of attention.

The end of the tasting arrived.  Typically, as wine tastings come to a close, it is a normal part of the experience that we should be asked to purchase the wines we have tasted.  As our group finished the last glass, we knew the final “sales pitch” and “close” should be coming.

So how did Richard do with his sales close? 

He said, “Well, ladies, that’s all our wine on today’s tasting menu. Here is a brochure with our options – you can buy bottles or sign up for our club. I’ll let you look it over, and you tell me what you think.” He did not ask us to buy.

This “close” confirmed what we had been guessing: It was obvious that Richard had discounted us as true buyers.  Did he ask the other tables for a sale? Who knows? But the lack of attention and lack of invitation to purchase was insulting.

The result? We left, and Richard did not make a sale from our table.

Fast forward to later in the day… the “high” point:

Our ventures brought us to Hill Family Estates (this name is NOT changed). This location was also beautiful – an upscale rustic venue surrounded by vineyards spilling over the hillsides in every direction.  As we started to exit our vehicle (before we even left the parking area), we were immediately greeted warmly by our host for the day, Charlie Jenson.

The tasting began, and it was clear we were in for a treat! Charlie was knowledgeable and brought the perfect enthusiasm without being too over-the-top. He clearly loved his brand story and thought highly of his product.  He was intensely interested in our opinion of each wine as he poured them for our group.  He even once recommended an off-menu offering not usually provided during the tastings, and (even better) he accompanied this recommendation with a generous pour.

Our group of women laughed and laughed; we took selfies of every background at the venue; we enjoyed the wine, the views of the vineyard, and the experience as a whole. But, alas, it was time for the visit to end. And with it, the final “sales pitch” and final close.

So how did Charlie do with his sales close?  

Charlie brought around his paperwork to each of us individually. He made recommendations on the bottles we should buy based on our tastes. He offered the option of a recurring subscription in the form of a “wine club membership” and tailored that membership based on what he had learned about us at the tasting. He encouraged us that we could each be a part of their club, their vineyard… their family!

Wow. I DARE you to guess how much our group spent at this vineyard. Happily. And to this day, I remain a part of Charlie’s club – the only subscription I have retained from my journey to Napa.

So, New Home Sales Pros, what can we learn from Richard and Charlie?  

Your final close is an extension of your hospitality.  It is the EXPECTED final moment of your interaction with your customer.

Lack of attention and the absence of a clear close can make your buyer feel like you don’t want their business. It can even leave them feeling downright insulted. However, if you have asked the right questions and if you have listened with interest, you will have the ability to make recommendations on the correct course of action.

So, when you are in your models this week, get to know your customers. Ask them questions. Get them excited about your offerings that make sense for them. Then, most importantly, when the final moment of your visit comes… PROVE THAT YOU CARE. Ask them for their business.

Inviting your customer to purchase may give them the confidence to change their world and live in the right home.

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About the Author: Mary Beth Berry

As an accomplished leader with over a decade's experience at the country's top volume producing builders, Mary Beth Berry is passionate about helping sales professionals achieve excellence using lively and engaging training strategies. When she isn’t working, Mary Beth enjoys traveling, trying new restaurants with her husband of ten years, and playing outside with her two adorable little boys.