By Richard Lawrence-Allen
Knowledge is a key fundamental in any sales position. The more product information that an agent can absorb, the more specific the advice they provide to customers will be and the more confidence the customer will have in their purchase. This leads to both a higher rate of sales and I higher rate of customer satisfaction with their telephone experience.
With this in mind, for several years now, through our wonderful clients at Laithwaite’s Wines, our agents on the account receive training according to the high standards of The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Permanent agents on the Laithwaite’s account are periodically chosen throughout the year to take part in a WSET course. Given over several weeks in the RSVP offices, the course provides agents the opportunity to gain WSET qualifications to take home with them. The WSET is devoted to delivering their qualifications to the highest standard, and achieve this through a quality assurance programme where all course provides must meet the rigorous approval criteria and on-going monitoring requirements. The Laithwaite’s Wine School is one such programme provider and it is under the excellent tutorage of their course leaders that our team study.
Typically, agents on the Laithwaite’s account will undertake the WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits. This course covers in detail the process in which wine is made (including the production of sparkling, sweet and fortified wines), what factors influence the style of a wine, key grape varieties and their characteristics, and important wine-producing regions of the world. The course also goes over wine label terminology, food and wine pairing principles, and how to describe wine using the WSET’s Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine® (SAT) as well as the principal categories of spirits and liqueurs and how they are made. With a minimum requirement of 28 hours study time, including 16 hours of classroom or online delivery time with one of the WSET course providers, this study then culminates in a 50 question, closed-book exam.
Armed with these qualifications our agents can then go on to provide even better services to their customers, a service which keeps people coming back to order time and time again.
Over the last few months, a selective few longer-standing members of staff have been taking this knowledge one step further as they work towards their WSET Level 3 Awards in Wines. While challenging, the WSET Level 3 is a considerable step up in difficulty to the Level 2 qualification. The 5 people chosen to take on the Level 3 course are all WSET Level 2 qualified individuals who showed interest in taking their wine education further. They all completed a short entrance exam question and were accepted onto the course.
The WSET Level 3 course requires students to consider why a wine tastes the way that it does, taking into account which country the wine is from, the climate and the wine making practices (including maturation and bottling processes) and law. The course has been led by the wonderful Guy Watson, an international WSET who works for Laithwaite’s. The course takes place over a minimum of 4 months with Guy providing 90 minute sessions each week, either over Skype, or in person at the RSVP offices for wine tasting sessions and mock exam papers. The exam will be given in 3 parts: a closed-book exam of 50 multiple choice questions, a 2 hour written exam and a wine tasting test where students are asked to identify the style of a wine and where it is from based on taste alone.
Here are the WSET Level 3 team after a great session with Guy. L-R: Richard, Jamie, Davide, Simon and Elliot.
RSVP always aim to go over and above when it comes to making our agents the best around and our Level 3 wine agents are very excited by this challenge. They will be sitting their exams next week, so wish them luck!