Wine telesales firm doubles staff with demand

SANTA ROSA -- VinoPro is sprouting new salespeople almost as fast as the spring shoots supplying grapes to the company's growing cellar of clients.

[caption id="attachment_56112" align="alignright" width="324" caption="Lori Adams, vice president of operations, and Jeff Stevenson, chief executive officer"][/caption]

Formerly called Provino, the wine telesales outsourcing company now develops and maintains consumer relationships for 50 brands, selling several million dollars of wine annually. To do that and accommodate a client waiting list stretching through October, VinoPro (707-396-5000, vinopro.com) has grown to a staff of more than 50, with 20 "personal wine stewards" joining just this month, doubled the size of its Santa Rosa offices with a lease of 4,000 more square feet.

"I can't hire fast enough," said Jeff Stevenson, founder, president and chief executive officer. Yet finding candidates who are socially intelligent for this kind of work is challenging, he said.  (The company recruiting website is sellwinenow.com.)

Since picking up new investors in early 2011, the 4-year-old company has signed a number of long-term service contracts, including Treasury Wine Estates' portfolio, St. Francis in Sonoma Valley and returning customer Benziger Family Winery also in Sonoma Valley, according to Mr. Stevenson. Existing customers include dozens of brands in the portfolios of Jackson Family Wines and Constellation Brands.

The business continues to expand as more and more wineries discover incremental profits in a professional approach to selling over the telephone. 

"We're outselling the tasting rooms and websites of the brands we work for," Mr. Stevenson said.  

In the past year, VinoPro claims to have tripled sales for its clients. The key to garnering discretionary sales in the "high-touch" ultrapremium and luxury wine business is connecting people with people, Mr. Stevenson said.

Using proprietary customer relationship management software developed the six-person programming staff led by Chief Technology Officer Erin Loy, VinoPro "personal wine stewards" handle up to 400 calls a day. Each call shows the proper Caller ID for the winery on outgoing calls and connecting the incoming caller with the correct "steward," all without 2,500 dedicated phone lines that could be needed for 50 brands and 50 salespeople.

VinoPro "stewards" reconnect clients' customers with the brands they tasted on a trip to Wine Country, update them on winery news and new releases and recommend other brands within a company's portfolio that fit a consumer's taste preferences.


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