Going beyond the “golden rule” was a reoccurring theme at the 13th annual Napa Valley Hospitality Symposium, hosted by Napa Valley College and Napa Valley Vintners at CIA at Copia on May 2.

The annual event provided training for hospitality professionals from wineries, hotels, and restaurants, plus hospitality educators and students planning to work in the industry.

Keynote speaker, Justin Dragoo, co-founder of Latitude 38 Entertainment, producer of BottleRock Napa Valley, shared his strategies for the phenomenal success of the premiere music event.

“When you can’t get bigger, get better,” Dragoo said. “Other festivals have more space—Coachella has 300 acres. We have 23 acres.”

BottleRock differentiates itself from other festivals by being cleaner, providing more shade, better food, fine wine and an “outstanding visual experience.”

“What matters is a better environment,” Dragoo said. “Every year I want people to feel like their experience is not a repeat. I want to make sure there is always a reason to return.”

Dragoo formed Latitude 38 Entertainment with partners Dave Graham and Jason Scoggins and acquired the BottleRock Napa Valley brand. Since becoming owners and producers of BottleRock Napa Valley, the festival has gained both national and international acclaim. Dragoo is also president and general manager of Gargiulo Vineyards and is a level 11 certified sommelier.

“Promoting Napa Valley with Napa Valley Rocks,” was presented by Brett Van Emst, domestic marketing manager for the Napa Valley Vintners. Emst pointed out that knowledge about Napa Valley is an asset to those in hospitality and is appreciated by guests.

“The most renowned winegrowing region in the U.S is also one of the smallest and most diverse in the world,” Emst said. Only 4 percent of California wine grape harvest comes from Napa Valley and 95 percent of Napa Valley wineries are family owned.

Napa Valley is a small area, just 45,000 acres under cultivation and the climate is ideal, Emst said. “Dry Mediterranean climate, like we have, covers only 2 percent of the Earth’s surface.”

The Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve established 50 years ago, was the first of its kind in America to set land aside specifically for agriculture.

Emst recommended “Napa Valley Rocks,” a program by Napa Vintners, for an engaging education about the Napa Valley—America’s premier winegrowing region.

You can explore the geological formation of the valley, why it is the ideal climate to grow grapes, historical milestones and more.

“You can download Napa Valley Rocks as a .pdf from Napa Valley Vintners’ website,” Emst added.

“Accelerating Customer Rapport” was presented by Steven Steinhart, principal of Steinhart & Associates, recognized as one of America’s leading sales consultants.

“A barrier to developing rapport is giving people a script,” Steinhart said. “Don’t script.”

Learning how to quickly size up a guest’s personality is effective as a relationship strategy because people want to be treated as individuals. Steinhart said that people fall within four categories: relaters, socializers, thinkers and directors.

Relators react favorably to compliments describing how others feel about them. Socializers favor compliments to them as individuals. Thinkers appreciate compliments about their efficiency, timeliness, details and process. Drivers prefer compliments for what they’ve accomplished.

In two sessions on “Cracking the Sales Code,” Lesley Berglund shared strategies to help hospitality employees hone their sales and customer service skills. Berglund is co-founder and chairman of the Wine Industry Sales Education (WISE) Academy.

She traced the selling process from building rapport through gaining a committed guest in the first session and effective ways to engage guests and increase their satisfaction through storytelling and brand sound bites in the second.

Berglund talked about the platinum rule. “The golden rule is to treat others as you would want to be treated,” she said. “The platinum rule is to treat others as they would want to be treated.”

The platinum rule requires more dialogue, less monologue, relevant open-ended questions, tailored guest engagement and memorable “surprise and delight.”

Berglund shared five-steps for building rapport. Greet guests with eye contact within 15 seconds, because there is only one chance to make a great first impression. Use an icebreaker beyond “where are you from” such as “How did you decide to come to our winery today?” Follow up with open-ended questions, use analogies and provide great story telling.

Storytelling techniques can make the brand come to life by building emotional connections that resonate with guests long after their initial visit. This builds loyalty and increases sales.

A session called “Creating the Customer Experience” was presented by Don Rickard, founder and president of Platypus Tours; Jim Treadway, hotelier, consultant and advisor who recently served as general manager of Bardessono in Yountville; and Joseph Foss, senior hospitality manager at the Rutherford Hill Winery.

The trio shared their insights about creating an “unsurpassed customer experience.” They agreed that it starts with understanding your customer and a clear vision of how to plan the experience.

“The golden rule – treat others as you want to be treated—is a little narcissistic. We went further than that at Bardessono,” Treadway said. He had the same advice as Berglund. “Our rule was to treat everyone the way ‘they’ want to be treated.”

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