Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 15 min.) or download it.
Graduated in 2009 with a degree in Professional Music. Principal instrument: drums.
Position: Sales Representative for Breakthru Beverage Pennsylvania, a major distributor of alcoholic beverages. Jeff works for the fine wine division, selling to restaurants, bars, and festivals where wine is consumed on-site. His job involves building and maintaining relationships with the people in these places and getting them to order fine wines from among the 500+ varieties his company distributes. He earns a base salary + bonus according to whether he meets or exceeds his target sales quota.
Overview: While at Berklee, Jeff had a work-study job at the admissions office. After graduating, Jeff moved to Pennsylvania and married his high school sweetheart, who was still in college. For the next 18 months, he worked full-time at Starbucks while also gigging heavily, earning decent money but putting in truly insane hours. He also had fun volunteering at a local craft brewery. Jeff reached out to his former boss at Berklee, hoping for a job. As luck would have it, soon afterward there was a shake-up in Berklee’s Admissions Office and Jeff was hired to design and manage the campus touring experience.
For three years Jeff did that, along the way feeling that his career path was going to be in higher education rather than music. However, he continued his passion for craft beer at a local brewery. By 2013, he was ready to move on, and started looking for other jobs. His wife noticed a job ad for a marketing director at Bauer Wine and Spirits in the Back Bay. A friend of Jeff’s worked there part time and put in the good word, and Jeff was hired. For close to three years, Jeff worked there successfully, selling wine to customers as well as developing marketing strategies and campaigns. Eventually, he and his wife decided to move back to Pennsylvania, and he started looking for work. A colleague passed his resume along to someone he knew in that area, and Jeff got a call from his current employer, which led to and interview and him being hired into his current job.
You can see Jeff’s LinkedIn profile here.
Choice Quotes: “My job has two pieces: wine and selling. Wine is the gas the fuels the engine. I’m extremely passionate about anything fermented. I love the experience of different flavors and new things. I’ve met incredible people who make it or sell it. When it comes to selling, this is my first sales job in this way. It was a risk–I’m not a very aggressive, pushy person. But building a relationship slowly and being genuine and caring about whether my accounts succeed has been very effective and is satisfying. I’ts a real rush to close on an account that you’ve been working on for a month or two.”
“One theme that I’m sure you’ve heard from every salesperson you have spoken with is that all that matters in sales is the relationship and the trust. What it really comes down to is people buy from people they like. I have to be technically proficient, but to make a sale I really need to make a friend or at least a good business relationship.”
“Maybe 10% of people I meet in the wine industry at all level came to wine through music! The industry isn’t as glamorous as it seems from the outside. It is hard, hard work, but it is so rewarding if you’re passionate about it! I get to drink things and meet people I never could afford to otherwise.”
“If you’re trying to figure out your career, you need to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks you should be doing and think about what you’re spending your free time doing. If you’re spending it on a non-music hobby, consider exploring that as a career path.”
Jeff with his wife, touring a vineyard. “One thing I love about wine is you can never master if fully. You always can find something you haven’t had before if you look hard enough. Large winemakers want their products to taste the same, but the fine wineries which I deal with want their product to vary by year. Wine enthusiasts want to study and appreciate the distinct experience of what’s in their glass. It’s almost sad that these days I mostly stay within my portfolio, though it’s still over 500 products, and they’re amazing.”
Jeff playing the drums, during the time he was working at Berklee and still gigging. “”As a Berklee student I learned that you always take care of the guy at the door and the sound guy. Similarly, in my job I try to be on good terms with every person at the restaurant–you never know who’s in a position to help.””