Wine Industry Sales Education academy set to launch in Central Otago

Bruce McGechan is set to launch Wine Industry Sales Education (WISE) academy in Central Otago next Wednesday.
DEBBIE JAMIESON/FAIRFAX NZ

Bruce McGechan is set to launch Wine Industry Sales Education (WISE) academy in Central Otago next Wednesday.

Kiwi cellar door staff need to be more forward and less reliant on the "pour and hope" model when selling wine, a leading Central Otago businessman says.

Bruce McGechan, who has a background in wine and tourism, says cellar doors are not as profitable as many people think and more needs to be done to make the visitor experience top quality.

As a result, McGechan has teamed up with Lesley Berglund, a leading direct-to-consumer expert in the US wine industry, to offer wine sales training courses.

The pair will launch Wine Industry Sales Education (WISE) academy, originally established in Napa, California, on November 25, kicking off with the inaugural three-day cellar door professional course.

Berglund co-founded WISE in 2008 to address a core challenge in the wine industry - an urgent need for more, well educated, direct marketing proficient staff, managers and leaders.

McGechan sees a similar need in New Zealand.

"Based off what I see the top wineries do in the US - and certainly when we look at the wineries in Napa Valley - there is a high level of customer service.

"They [staff] are able to tell customers what the wines are and the stories of those wines, which gives visitors confidence to buy the wine. You don't see a lot of that in New Zealand," he said.

"What we do in New Zealand and Australia is we are friendly, we are really good at that, and we are good at technically describing the wine and that's absolutely fine as a cellar door experience.

"But what we are not doing is, we are not giving that visitor the real interesting stories behind the wines."

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Cellar door staff did not have the courage to sell wine, McGechan said.

"We can't rely on what we call 'pour and hope' - pour and hope they buy something. We need to provide better experiences for the visitor."

It was tricky for wine companies to make a profit from cellar doors, as many do not charge for tastings, he said.

"[Cellar doors] are the marketing part of the winery and they should be pulling their own weight and making a profit, but we are a little bit behind the game with international wine sales and marketing."

McGechan believed that could happen if cellar door staff had more training.

In America, wineries track the number of visitors they get through cellar doors, as well as the number of wine sales, he said.

"By tracking demand and the number of orders, they can get to the bottom of any issues they might have with sales and the skills of their cellar door staff."

Berglund will be in New Zealand to launch the academy and be the instructor for the first two WISE courses.

From next year, McGechan will run the New Zealand organisation with courses extending to other wine regions, including Marlborough and Hawke's Bay.

 - Stuff

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