Who would have thought that you could be successful in sales by insulting your customer? A company produced an entire line of products, and then called anyone who bought the product a dummy. You would think in order to sell a customer on a product you would at least compliment them for being smart enough to recognize a great product. Not Wiley & Sons. They publish the popular book series, “____For Dummies,” which began with the first book published in 1991.
In 1995, they published Wines For Dummies, a book for, well, those who don’t know anything about wines. In an article in Bloomberg Business Week, “For Entry-Level Snobs, Try A Bottle Of Wine For Dummies,” Vanessa Wong reveals how in addition to the book, they have licensed a line of real wines with the Dummies Books signature yellow and black labels.
There are four wines in the collection. Two reds and two whites—the pinot grigio and chianti are from Italy and the cabernet and chardonnay are from California. True to its brand, they don’t leave anything to chance. The names of the wines are even spelled phonetically on the labels, just in case you haven’t seen or heard of them before. This makes it easier to seem less of a dummy when you go to the wine store to pick up a bottle and have to ask for it.
Wiley and Sons may have hit on something here. There is a lot of anxiety about ordering wines. What wine goes with what food? What is a good year for cabernet? What are the best brands? Wineries. Ordering wine at a restaurant can be as intimidating as ordering coffee at Starbucks. The books and the wines themselves take the pressure off.
So much of wine drinking, tasting, and purchasing wine is serious business. Who wouldn’t be serious about buying a pricy bottle of wine at an important business dinner? Are you going to impress the boss or look like a wine dummy? Armed with the knowledge gained in the Wines for Dummies book, you can feel confident. If not, you can just admit that all you know about wines came from this book for new wine sobs and share a laugh instead of being laughed at.
You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to enjoy wines. Wine sales were up by 4%, and the best-selling brand was Barefoot Wine, sold by E. & J. Gallo Winery. The Wines for Dummies book is now in its fifth printing, remaining a best-seller.
What can sales professionals learn from the success of the “Dummies” book series? Certainly not to insult your customers and clients. Branding is important. Name and logo recognition is important, too. A sense of humor, a catchy slogan, product name or advertisement makes it easier to sell. Customers can be intimidated by sales persons who come across as experts. Wine enthusiasts seem to belong to an exclusive club, with a membership consisting of wine “experts.” When approaching a customer as the expert in your field, you need to be approachable in order to make the customer feel at ease.
The beauty of the “Dummies” series is that many of the authors confess to being “dummies” themselves until they learned, through experience or education, everything they share in the books. The knowledge that the sales person had to learn from the business himself lets a customer see that it’s possible to go from “dummy” to expert.
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