Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wine Biz Interview #7 With Sales Rep Michael Parra

I knew when I started this interview series that I wanted to include a sales rep or two. These people are in the unique position of having to sell wines that they didn’t select to people that may or may not want them…super fun right? I have a tremendous respect for these people, (well some of them) and watching the hoops that they have to jump through helped me decide that it is a job that I could never do. Michael Parra is one of my favorite sales dudes, he is not pushy, he never wastes our time and as someone that was “under the tabled” by him I can say….the guy can hold his booze.

How long have been “On the streets” as it were?

5 years with Maddalena, 1 year with a small, now closed distributor.

What would you say is the single coolest part of your gig?

The wine, spend the day in great locations sipping some ridiculous juice, doesn’t suck.
The routine is the same but everyday is different, if that makes sense.

Hardest part?

Staying patient. Sometimes the buyers will drag their feet to buy, sometimes legit other times it’s because their losers and the only thing that makes them feel cool is jerking around a sales rep. Once you get experience you become pretty quick at separating the players from the punks.

Do you have any buyers you hate but are forced to deal with?

Not really, they may not buy from my portfolio but that’s cool, it’s not personal, and if they keep it professional than it’s all good, for the most part I like all my buyers. If they act like an ass I walk away, plenty of business to be done with cool people.

Are you afraid I am going to ask you which one?

No, everybody knows I am straight forward, I’d tell ya.

Hangover cure of choice?

Good old classics, Aleve, water, greasy food, when in doubt, more booze

You tend to stammer when we meet, do I make you nervous?

No not at all. Quite the contrary, your one of my favorites. Probably hungover

You are The Wine Country’s “crack” dealer, (Stella Rosa, sweet sparkling red) and I know how much of that we go through…just how much crack are you selling on the streets?

Its embarrassing, ridiculous amounts.

You ever flirted to make a sale?

Only if he was cute!!!
Guys have to be careful with that. The line between flirting and being sleazy is pretty slim

I’ve heard horror stories from reps about wine buyers, are we really as douchebaggy as we are often labeled?

Some are. Mostly the guys. They find it to be there only avenue to getting laid. It’s never a matter of buying or not as long as it’s handled professionally. It’s like the kid that gets beat up in high school that becomes a cop just so he can be a dick. The Winecountry crew has an excellent reputation, FYI.

Airplane reading: Playgirl or Cosmo?

Neither, I’m a sports guy.

What percentage of the people you sell wine to actually know a thing or two about wine?

Most do, probably 80%, but the good buyers are the ones that know what is gonna sell in there establishment. The jerk offs that annoy me are the ones that only buy wines they like. They just don’t get it.

You have a sort of Jersey vibe about you…are you offended by Jersey Shore?

Mom is Italian from Queens, but I get what you’re saying. I saw part of an episode of Jersey Shore, laughed a lot, I knew a lot of those girls, and they still make me laugh. New York’s equivalent to valley girls or surfer dickheads. They have the “Situation” Cali has “Moondoggie”. The lifestyle is the culture much more than their ethnicity.

Have you ever sneezed while peeing?

Yes, disaster for the guy next to me

Vacation: Texas or Tuscany?


Playing rock star in the car...who do you pretend to be?

I am more of an R&B guy….probably some Marvin,but not opposed to doin some 80's hairbands, look how well things worked out for Brett Michaels.

Which do you find more effective? Dropping off a bottle or opening and tasting with the buyer?

Taste with the buyer, I like to get reaction to the wines good or bad. Leaving a bottle usually doesn’t work. How many of my bottles do you still have lying around?

Have you ever been shitfaced with a customer?

Hell yes! It’s the fun part, plus I’m really good at it.

If yes, did it help or hinder further sales?

It never hurts, although you haven’t bought anything in a while.

Finish this sentence, “I freaking cringe when a buyer says….”

I was hoping it would have more butter.

You sell a good clip of sweet wines, fruit wines and wines with names like, “Velvet” do you find that those wines sell better in certain markets?

Downtown Absolutely. We developed the wines we did in large part due to the wineries location. for better or worse is a cultural crossroads and the sweeter style wines have always done well with certain ethnicities. What we didn’t expect the crossover appeal to be as great as it’s become.

You are aware that just putting “Is” as your status on Facebook is annoying right?

It’s funny because I don’t do it on purpose but I get the most reaction from everybody when it does happen. If I put that I was on “FIRE” nobody would give a shit, but if I put “IS” all hell breaks loose.

You have been known to say things that make me blush, are you trying to get me to buy your “Sweet Berry Wine?”

NO! The Sweet Berry Wine will sell itself, making you blush is for pure selfish reasons.

If I told you that you make me laugh often, your “Just drunk” text split my sides and I think you are one of my most favorite sales people…would you do a chocolate cake shot with me?

As long as I don’t remember it the next day.

I just want to thank Mike for taking the time out of his Stella Rosa pushing day to take part in this interview. Dude you are one cool ass cat, you make me laugh I admire your attitude and I adore you!


Charlie Olken said...

Interesting interview, Sam. Something he said set off an alarm for me.

He said he thinks buyers who only buy what they like and not what their customers want are "jerk-offs".

Yet, my ideal for a wine shop would one that only stocks what they can happily recommend. Let the others go to BevMo or Happy Harry's for their schlock.

So, question for you. How much of what your store stocks is to please the customers versus to please yourselves?

Does the percentage change when it comes to your particular part of the shop?

By the way, depending on how a store sets itself up, it does need to stock lots of what sells so no value judgment implied. The model for my ideal wine merchant simply cannot exist for every store.

Ron Washam said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

At least the guy is candid about the sometimes adversarial relationship between sales rep and buyers. It can get ugly if there isn't some sort of mutual respect.

And speaking of mutual respect, now you're interviewing wine reps before the HoseMaster? Oh Cruelty, thy name is Sans Dosage.

However, anyone who can drink you under the table has my undying respect. And a great view.

I love you!

Your HoseMaster

Samantha Dugan said...

I had to think your question over and walk about the store to give you an accurate answer. I would say we have less that 10% of items that we feel we have to carry...meaning things we would not drink ourselves. Thanks for that question though, had a fun little conversation with Randy about it and it ended up making me feel really proud, (well, I always am) of The Wine Country and the way we do business, by bringing in what we love.

The dance with supplier and buyer can end up leaving one or the other feeling like their toes have been stepped on. I have always been very strict with the staff, we DO NOT treat our reps poorly...those cats are the ones that can save your ass when you really need them. That and it just aint cool. Now I thought I only had to respect in the morning...

Michael Hughes said...

What, praytell, is a chocolate cake shot? And is it something I should be frightened of?

Nice candid interview, seems like a cool guy.

Samantha Dugan said...

Yes Baby....fear them. It is a shot that tastes just like chocolate cake. I hate them for more reasons than one but for some reason I think it's funny to order them, (after way too many drinks) and make people drink's vile. Mike was my last victim, he took it like a man.

He is a cool guy and it is a pleasure knowing and working with him.

Thomas said...

Having done time on both sides of the aisle, I can agree with Michael about there being some jerks out there. But they aren't on only one side of the aisle.

Yes, there were many jerks to deal with when I was on the road as a distributor rep, and many who got their jollies making life miserable for salespeople because, well, because they probably had no lives of their own worth thinking about. In fact, after I quit that job there was one retailer I decided to contact and tell what I really thought of him.

But then: I became a small retailer with the idea that my shop would not carry what every other store carried--the kind of place that Charlie alludes to--my partner and I wanted to carry what we and our staff were excited about.

It was a busy small business for, so busy that I had taken to requesting all sales reps to either call ahead for an appointment or to select a day of the week when they would come and I would see them. I did not want them dropping in and interrupting me if I were busy. At least 30% of them didn't understand what I told them and they would drop in on me, only to be escorted out. And while I considered them jerks for not doing what I asked, I am sure that they considered me a jerk for throwing them out.

Incidentally, as a sales rep, it isn't smart to call your customers jerks--either to their face or online. For that, you should wait until you quit or become rich--or unless you are the Hosemaster and can blog a parody of them.

Jerks come in all sizes, shapes, and jobs.

Nancy Deprez said...

Mike is awesome and this interview was fun. I liked the comment about him cringing if the customer (the buyer) sayshe was hoping for more butter in his wine, LOL!

Everyone loves a cool wine rep!