Pushing the local Jacquin’s with $3 temptations

W/Byko30c. Fogg arranges bottles of Jacquin's on the shelf of a state store. Daily News Staff / Stu Bykofsky
W/Byko30c. Fogg arranges bottles of Jacquin's on the shelf of a state store. Daily News Staff / Stu Bykofsky
Posted: May 01, 2012

IN A WIRED WORLD of buying and selling online, eBay, social (and antisocial) media, Jacquin’s assistant national sales manager is a throwback to Willy Loman, the dogged character imagined in “Death of a Salesman.”

Loman was a “man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine,” Arthur Miller wrote. Jason Fogg rides a Jacquin’s-supplied Black Grand Cherokee packed with posters and giveaways, but his method is as old school as his attire. Keeping with Jacquin’s philosophy, he wears a dress shirt and tie, neatly knotted at the neck.

Since I couldn’t sell matches to a pyromaniac, I admire sales people like Fogg, 31, who insists that his job is to sell customers something they need (even if they don’t know they need it). The current thing Fogg wants them to need is Jacquin’s line of flavored vodkas (blueberry kicks ass in Philly).

His gimmick: Posters offering a sale of $3 flavored vodka drinks (aimed at women) for two hours during televised baseball games. The promotion is his baby and he’s proud of it.

Anything to make the sale.

Bars are as comfortable to Fogg as his soft shoes, since the Drexel grad (degree in business marketing) “grew up in my father’s bar since the age of 3.” That would be Pat’s Pub, an Irish-stew bar at M and Erie, in rice-and-beans Juniata Park.

His sales pitch is also comfortable for the tall, athletic Fogg, who has dabbled in acting and remains a weekend warrior in local independent films. (Biggest brag: Standing next to Bradley Cooper in a police lineup in “Limitless.”) A loud and proud homeboy, one of his strongest selling points is that Jacquin’s is “born and raised in Philly since 1884.” He beats vodka’s “big boys” — Pinnacle and Three Olives — on price, but likes hammering (he says “educating”) bars to support the home team.

Unlike other face-to-face sales people, he sells indirectly because Jacquin’s plant in Kensington — it employs about 150 people — can’t ship booze to customers. Bars have to order from state stores, and many bars promise Fogg that they will, but not all do. It comes with the territory.

When bars order something new, that’s a “placement.” Fogg does about 10 to 15 placements a day.

On the sunny day I spent with him, driving around Philly in his Cherokee, he made 14 stops, missing the owner or manager in about one-third of them. In others, his pitch fell on deaf ears. He can’t let disappointment paint his face.

Every sales person’s constant companion is rejection.

“They’re rejecting you today, not tomorrow,” Fogg philosophizes. “You go back and try again. You talk, find out their needs. If they don’t want one product, you go into another direction.”

Less entertaining but as necessary as selling were the several times he ran into state stores to tidy up Jacquin’s bottles on shelves. He hung $5 rebate coupons on $10.99 bottles of flavored vodka — mandarin orange, vanilla, raspberry pomegranate, strawberry shortcake — a hard-to-resist bargain, he hopes.

The past year was a big one for Fogg. He started a new career with Jacquin’s and a new life with his wife, Kim, a special-needs teacher in the suburbs where they live.

Earlier in his career, Fogg spent five years as a salesman for a beer distributor, and the contacts he made then serve him well today. Between growing up in a bar and the beer-pushing job, he’s as well-known in some neighborhood bars as Norm was in “Cheers.”

While Fogg likes driving around making calls (he puts more than 25,000 miles a year on the Cherokee), he’s more than a mere product pusher.

In addition to his $3 “baseball special,” he handed out copies of a menu he created showing about 30 new drink recipes made with the flavored vodkas. He did that on his own authority, showing off his creative streak. Anything to make the sale.

“Every week I feel I am on the brink of changing the way bars do things,” he told me. “I’m probably not, but you have to give it a try, one bar at a time.”

Also from “Death of a Salesman:””A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.” n

Email stubyko@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5977. Join Stu on Facebook. For recent columns: philly.com/Byko.

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