How to use a story to challenge a buyer’s thinking

Good friends, good food, and good wine always lead to stories, so it’s no surprise that I have a second post from the wine trip that I mentioned earlier in the week. This is post for any seller who has challenged a customer to think differently, but the customer did not at first respond well.

The Paso Robles California area is dotted with over 200 wineries. Each visit, we follow a new, windy road into unexplored areas and found a new winery. The rows of grapes and terracing of the land is always different at each stop. The architecture and experience in each tasting room creates a unique experience and, of course, the wine has unlimited variables in taste and smell.

But as unique as each winery can be, there are many similarities. At the heart of the operation, this is about farming, and most of these wineries are fairly small productions, so everyone in the family is involved. Everyone is getting their hands dirty and it never seems to be a passion for building a big business that keeps things going, but rather just making the best wine.

This whole paradigm changed for me when I met Austin from Treana and Hope Family Wineries. He was our host for a wine makers’ dinner, where he and his sister brought all the wine for an evening in the park. I had great opportunity to sit across from him and a conversation began about his wine. I was intrigued because all the wine on the table seemed to be from multiple wineries. I learned the family has many company names or labels that they use for their wine and that it is distributed nationwide, available often in Costco and Trader Joes.

This wasn’t the story I expected. This was a big business; I wasn’t hearing about farming, I was hearing stories about a winemaker who travels three weeks out of the month meeting with buyers and brokers making deals to grow the family business – a topic more in line with this blog, but unexpected for my weekend.

I was reluctant to listen to a story I was not expecting. He could see I was disappointed that he was not a small, single label, boutique winery. So he took the opportunity to challenge my thinking. He asked me “Ken, what do you think of when you hear the name Mondavi?” I paused, had to think and said, “Well, they are probably best known for their Cabernet.” He said “Exactly, when a winemaker has a single label, they become known for a single specialty. With multiple company names, we can ensure that each brand can have a specialty, and we work to tie that brand to that grape.”

Again, a great business point of view, which we talk about here every week, but I was not interested. As the buyer, I had a set of expectations for each wine seller, and he did not meet those. What he is doing for Paso Robles is absolutely awesome. Everyone knows the Napa and Sonoma names but many less know about Paso Robles. This family is getting the word out through many channels that this is a prime wine region that deserves attention from all wine lovers.

To top off the story, the wine he brought to dinner was absolutely amazing. It could have been the best I had all weekend. He brought all of his favorites, some in the large magnum bottles, which are so fun for a large group to open and enjoy. There were some that had been aged ten or more years. Even a Viognier that was 15 years old – usually a wine that does not age well, but this was absolutely perfect.

Was I sold now? Sadly, no. The story was just not what I expected. He had done everything he could to challenge me with new information and prove that I should be buying.

So what changed and why am I writing a blog to endorse the Treana and Hope Family Winery now? Some time has past, I played that story back in my head a few times, I thought about the information and reconsidered all the proof points, especially that amazing wine.

The lesson: When a seller challenges a buyer to think differently, some time is required to allow the buyer to accept the change and take action.

I have now taken action and found these wines in my local wine store. It only took a couple of days for me to arrive at this decision, but it could take months to help a prospect see your point of view.

photo by Katrina Snaps

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