August, 28th 2020, Marinela Ardelean
My first encounter with Annette Lizotte happened, how else than, to a wine fair. At that time, she was in charge of the export activities of a North-Italian cellar, Tenute Tomasella. In Annette, I have found a dynamic woman, who besides being a wine lover, she is also a person that finds joy in bringing closer wine lovers from around the globe. Now, she lives in Malmö, where she moved with her entire family. Although her husband has Swedish citizenship living there has its challenges when you have Italian roots. Going back to the wine world, the beautiful environment full of stories, tradition, passion, and sensations, can also be a demanding one when you are a wife and a mother. The way of being of Annette manages to embrace each part of her life by treating it with her special traits: generosity and dynamism.
Using wise the extra time that pandemic months offered us, I called her. Because of her knowledge and vision regarding the wine business deserve to be shared, you can read below some insights from our conversation.
Before diving into the central question formulated by me, she felt inspired to present some of her wine business experiences. “In the context of B2B, I saw an approach that can be improved for the benefit of all of us. As a wine buyer, you need short, clear, and precise information from the export managers. If, after this interaction, the person in question wants to know more, is captivated by the taste, the history, and small details, give them your heart open. Otherwise, let the people go. The representatives of export activities need to put themselves in the wine buyer’s shoes, ” says Annette, based on her own experiences.
Somehow, I will interpret her suggestion as an invitation to exercise empathy for the person in front of you.
Now, we move on to the question I often ask my friends, including Annette:
What makes you successful in the wine business?
“You need to be a good communicator, an open-minded, curious, humble and tolerant person.”, is her first sentence. And she is so right. Such advice is essential regardless of your activity domain, but even more in this world where sharing your work, values, your results in the most authentic way is vital. For reaching the customer, either it is an intermediary one or the end one, you must master the communication skills and be proficient in English and even other used foreign languages.
“Building long term relationships is your biggest strength! If you are passionate about wine, food, and people, it is easy to get constantly inspired by the many new insights you get through your networks and your own research.”, she adds.
Then, Annette goes further with: “Keep up to date with what happens in the business. You will have to deal with all sorts of stakeholders from different levels of the business. Each stakeholder has his own interest and level of knowledge, as well as a specific way of looking at the product in front of him. Each person you meet deserves to get a tailored presentation that matches his own requirements and questions.”
“Listen first and speak later. Since you will be traveling around the world, you must know from where you come in terms of cultural background from values and communication style to the reasons behind the business decision. The same thing is required to find out about the country you are going to visit. Understanding the culture you are going to address is the key to be successful. Learn how to conduct to build-up a trustful business partnership.
Expressing these thoughts, I found it evident why often you will find it easier to do business with someone who understands your culture and who knows the market for a long time. I realized the importance of having intercultural training or studies only since I had it for myself. In the end, it made me understood why certain meetings worked out better than others. And please, do not believe it is enough to travel and talk to people! Things are more complex and different than you think at a first (or second) glance.”
Annette believes that knowing and applying this last advice in approaching new markets will be more efficient. Like a confession, she ends with: “I live in Sweden since 2016, and it took me several years to understand, adapt, and accept the different code of conduct. Actually, I am still struggling sometimes.”