Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Joe Fattorini: The power of ‘no’

Published:  27 March, 2020

Joe Fattorini, head of London sales at Fields, Morris & Verdin

Sometimes the word we want to hear is “no”. We want restaurants to say “no” when we’re selling them wine as merchants. And we want their customers to say “no” when they’re buying wine in the restaurant. But why?

Wine merchants can make a poor case for our importance in our customers’ success. A third of a restaurant’s revenue might come from wine and other alcohol. The profit margins on food and wine are similar – 60%-75%. But the time and resources devoted to preparing food are much higher. People walk through a restaurateur’s door because of a great menu. A restaurateur keeps the door open because of a great wine list.

But that step-by-step, logical case is often rejected by restaurateurs à la Mandy Rice-Davies. Well he would say that wouldn’t he? Or indeed she. So how can we persuade a restaurateur to see the value their wine list adds to their offer? And the value our services offer to their wine list?

Your temptation will be to get them to say “yes” to a proposal. But let’s go for “no” instead. Let’s say you feel a restaurant should have more wines by the glass. Your temptation is to say: “I’ve a great idea, how about you sell more wines by the glass?”

Instead, try: “You’re probably going to hate this idea. But would it be totally pointless increasing the number of wines by the glass?” The answer is going to be “no”. It’s not a terrible idea. And they’re not going to hate it. But now they’re in control of the discussion. They’re also in charge of finding the solution. “So, it’s not a terrible idea, that’s a relief. How many wines do you think we should have?” With “yes” you’re in control. With “no” they are.

It works for the team selling the wine too. Once you have your extra wines by the glass, get the team selling them to try the same thing. “You’re probably not going to like this idea, but I’ll try. Would it be terrible to suggest three different wines by the glass rather than one bottle? No? What sort of wines do each of you really enjoy?”