The secret is there is no secret
Pretending what other's don't know is privileged information is a favorite industry ruse
The wine industry loves its secrets. Nothing sells like the promise of being let in on the best thing the rest of the world has yet to discover. Not a year goes by without some new book goading potential readers (aka customers) to pick up a copy so that they can learn what they’ve been missing out on.It’s evident in the constant stream of titles and subtitles of books like:
Wine Secrets: Advice from Winemakers, Sommeliers, and Connoisseurs by Marnie Old
Wine Sales and Distribution: The Secrets to Building a Consultative Selling Approach by Paul Wagner, John C. Crotts, and Byron Marlowe
Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World's Best-Kept Secret, with Cocktails and Recipes by Talia Baiocchi
Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World's Top Wine Professionals by Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay
Wine salespeople play the same game with their customers. They push bottles on the premise that “this juice is the best-kept secret in our portfolio.”The tactic of using “secrets” to sell is common because it appeals to our desire for shortcuts. No one wants to do the hard work, nor should they if there’s a secret way to gain an edge.
There’s only one problem.
There are no secrets.
There are hard-learned and hard-earned lessons. There’s trial and error. There’s the experience gained over years of study, tasting, and work. Books might offer advice, but it is the practice of that advice that makes all the difference. Bottles might be sold as secrets, but they can’t be understood as anything more until you pop the cork, talk with the winemaker, or visit the vineyard. That is work. It is fun work. It can be indulgent work, but it is work nonetheless.
Of course, there’s a much smaller market of people who are willing to put in the time. Fewer people will accept the idea that there is no fast track to success. Reading James Joyce is work. Reading the Cliffs Notes of Ulysses gets you there quicker, but it’s a shallow victory.
Secrets often fall flat because even when they make good on the promise of an outcome, they rob us of the experience that would’ve provided insight.
We thirst for hidden truths but rarely do they provide the satisfaction or edge we believe they’ll deliver. Ask yourself the last time the discovery of a secret fulfilled its potential.
So why does the secret continue to be such a pervasive sales tool? First, it’s easy. All one needs to do is say they’ve got a secret and that’s the pitch. Second, secrets make the people who possess them gatekeepers. To admit there are no secrets means resigning that privilege.
When someone tells you they have a secret, what they’re really saying is that they are selling something. Knowing what you don’t know guards you against those most willing to exploit a gap in your knowledge. Not knowing something is not a weakness; it’s part of our humanity. The best salespeople celebrate curiosity. The best salespeople guide, share, and mentor. The best salespeople know the secret is there is no secret.
Beer people and spirits people also love secrets, but fewer published examples come to mind.
Another technique used to sell wine books is to add the word “new” to the title as in The New Wine Rules, The New California Wine, and The New Wines of Mount Etna. Nothing makes wine professionals so unsure of themselves as to be told there’s something else, something new. To not be aware of the latest and greatest is often considered an impropriety beyond reproach. Best to buy the book even if you don’t read it and keep it on your shelf or coffee table to let any visitors (real or virtual) know that you know what’s up.
Rule #1 of Secrets. Secrets are good; best-kept secrets are better.
There are corollaries in get-rich-quick schemes with investing and weight loss techniques with exercising.