24 February 2015
Alison graduated from Plumpton College’s BSc Hons Viticulture & Oenology course in 2009, but then moved sideways into hospitality, including a stint at the English Wine Centre. Then, in 2012, via a job advertised by Plumpton College’s alumni mailing list, she secured a sales job at H Erben Ltd. This company (www.erben.co.uk) supply packaging materials, corks, bottle closures, and bottling equipment to the wine, spirits, brewing, and soft drinks industries. They employ around 30 people, mainly in the UK, but also have subsidiaries in South Africa and California. Although this type of career may not be the anticipated path for those trained in Wine Production, there are numerous opportunities, many overseas, for people working in support industries, where the employment conditions are more conventional then those found in winery or vineyard environments.
The usual day in the office at Erben may involve replying to customer enquiries, chasing up leads, or producing financial reports, which may require out-of-hours work. However, there are also plenty of opportunities to travel, meeting clients and winemakers in the UK and overseas, as well as general networking at trade fairs, business lunches and brewery visits. Networking and communication is a large part of the job, and building relationships is one of the most important skills in sales. Any technical sales person will need to show enthusiasm, perseverance, commitment, and a good level of self-organisation in order to succeed. Alison’s advice was to keep communicating with potential clients even if they say no the first, second, or third time; eventually you may be in the right place at the right time when another supplier slips up. In the long term, the experience that she is gaining is a good preparation for technical roles with larger firms such as national supermarket chains, where the responsibilities are more demanding but the rewards greater.
Alison gave an interesting and informative talk, showing that if cleaning tanks, pruning vines and 3am frost alarms are not your bag after all, then there are other ways of using the knowledge and experiences gained from a Plumpton wine qualification in a useful and rewarding way.
By Peter Lipscombe 1st year FdSc Wine Production