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Prospecting using a new passion

Bryce Sanders

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How wine tasting and clubs can get you into high-net-worth circles.

You are a financial advisor in the United States, an insurance agent in Asia or an estate planner in Canada. You want new clients, ideally within the high-net-worth community. You want to rub shoulders and socialize. How are you going to do that?

Here’s one way: Become a wine enthusiast. Learn about wine. Join some clubs and tasting groups. Meet the right people. Share their passion.

Why should this work? Consider three reasons:

  • It’s a crossover area. Many wealthy people are wine collectors. You don’t have expensive gear to buy or big checks to write. Buy some wine. Drink it. Share it.
  • Big money is involved. Do you live in Asia? According to CNN, in 2010 Hong Kong surpassed London in the wine auction market. The three major world auction markets are New York, Hong Kong and London.
  • It’s hugely popular. Young people are learning about wine. Successful business owners are collectors. Interest bridges the generation gap.

Breaking into the wine world

1. Discover what you like. Wine is produced in many places. The world of serious wine comes from fewer places with lots of subcategories.

Do: Pick a grape type and style you prefer. For example, maybe it’s pinot noir. The spiritual home of this red wine is in the Burgundy region of France.

Don’t: Pick a style just because it’s what everyone else likes if you can’t stand it.

2. Learn about the category. In your business, you might sell investments, but your area of specialized knowledge is insurance. If your specialized category is red burgundy, learn the names of the villages. What makes the soil special? What makes one vintage better? Who are the top producers? The up and comers?

Do: Find the right books. Take notes. Like your elevator speech, have an answer for: “Why do you like pinot noir?” and “What’s your favorite red burgundy?”

Don’t: Be vague — it says you aren’t serious. “I like them all” marks you as an amateur.

3. Buy good wine glasses. Wine tastes different depending on the glass. You are going to be studying. Do it under ideal conditions.

Do: The glasses should be crystal, thin lipped and larger at the bottom, tapering to a slightly narrower top. This helps capture the aroma.

Don’t: Use cut crystal. It distracts when examining the wine prior to tasting.

4. Find a good wine merchant. You want to find a good wine store and make friends with the staff.

Do: Ask for recommendations and buy what they suggest. Be specific about your specialist category.

Don’t: Expect information to be free. Let this relationship be profitable for them. Don’t say: “It’s cheaper at the warehouse store.”

5. Explore your category in detail. If you have an insurance specialty, you know it inside and out. Try wines from different vintages. Different villages. Different producers. Buy one of the super-expensive bottles and discover what all the fuss is about. That’s the flavor you will try to find again, at a cheaper price.

Do: Open and drink these wines with friends. Take notes. Ask for opinions.

Don’t: Drink and drive.

6. Join a wine club. Your wine merchant can tell you about clubs for local enthusiasts. Do online research.

Do: Learn which ones draw serious collectors and enthusiasts. Serious equals wealthy.

Don’t: Swagger around, telling people you know all about wine.

7. Enjoy your hobby with your new friends. By keeping a low profile and showing a serious interest, you should be accepted by the group. Like high school, find some like-minded people and hang out with them.

Do: Go wine shopping with your new friends. Visit wine bars. Suggest getting the spouses together.

Don’t: Keep info private. Sharing is good; secrecy is not. Tell them about good deals. The wealthy love good deals.

8. Entertain around wine. Invite your wine club friends over for dinner. Or plan dinners at a bring-your-own-beverage restaurant.

Do: Initiate getting together. Bring out the good stuff. Get drawn into their social circle.

Don’t: Be the guy who always brings the cheap bottle, then drinks everyone else’s good stuff.

9. Visit your specialist wine region. Your understanding will improve if you visit and meet the people who make it.

Do: Plan a vacation to your wine region. Do research beforehand, booking appointments at the major vineyards.

Don’t: Be unprepared. This requires planning. If you fly over with no plan, you’ll only get into the touristy places.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for financial services professionals. Contact Bryce Sanders at


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