How many times does a wine country visitor hear: “Where are you from?” And how often does our tasting room staff ask it in a day, a weekend, a week…? It’s not that finding out where a person is from is not important; it’s all in the how we find out. Eventually we do need to find out where they are from – to see if they are from a state we can ship wine to – but everyone asks where they are from as an icebreaker so that gets old fast. And, we don’t want to sound like everyone else.
To really make the most of an opening question, we can get the ball rolling with guests by starting with strategic kick-off questions that will answer not only the question where they are from, but also signal us with the types of wine buyer they are, their relationship to the winery or brand and how they heard about our brand.
A much stronger icebreaker is: “How did you decide to visit our winery today?” They may say they have never heard of you before but their hotel recommended a visit, or the winery down the street sent them there, or they are a long term club member and come every year, or they are on their honeymoon and this is their favorite wine . . . no matter what their response you will instantly have much more relevant information that can be a foundation from which you can have a real conversation, build real rapport and begin to tailor a guest experience that will create real WOW.
Using this icebreaker is an excellent way to start figuring out your customer within seconds of meeting them. Find out things key nuggets of information that can then be used to tailor the guests’ experience like:
- Where are they on the Buyers’ Continuum? If we ask our guests the right questions, we can find out if they have been to the winery before, if they are wine club members, or new to our brand. This will help ascertain whether they need help understanding the tasting options, how to better tailor their wine tasting experience, and assists to set up for the next open-ended question.
- What kind of wine buyer are they? By asking questions such as: “What is your favorite way to enjoy wine? What sort of things do you do with wine? What other wineries are/have you visiting/visited?” The answers to these questions lead us to a better understanding of their wine and/or experience preferences. With follow up questions, we can open the next level of conversation.
A secondary reason to ask how the guests decided to choose our winery is seeing if our marketing dollars are being well spent with direct marketing campaigns such as concierge programs or other marketing and advertising efforts. Referral programs that send qualified traffic need to be measured and nurtured, so asking this question helps on multiple levels.
We can also use the answer to where they are from (and if we can ship there) to ‘silent sell.’ Shipping can be used as a “seed planting” sales tool if the staff is asking the right questions and using shipping in a strategic way. For example, when finding out where guests are from, mentioning that the winery can ship to that state helps put the idea of shipping wine home into their minds so they are subconsciously thinking about purchasing early on in the experience. Other examples include shipping sales, up-selling bottles for the same cost of shipping, using cold packs in the summer, etc.
By asking open-ended questions, we can start to understand who is in front of us and tailor their experience to the maximum advantage, not only for sales but for a memorable, unique experience. How we treat a first-time visitor versus a club member is as different as what those individual guests’ needs are. If we’re not asking the right questions, we will never get anything beyond: “Where are you from?”