Creating a Top-Notch Craft Brewing Sales Force Starts Internally

Some say you have to be born a salesperson to do the job. Others contend that a salesperson can be crafted and molded for the job. In craft beer, having the same passion and knowing the cultural base in the sales team as the brew team and the ownership can go a long way in finding the right salesperson for your brewery.

“If a strong company culture and structure (with planning, vision, and professional development) are in place, great things can be accomplished as a sales person within the sales team foundation for most anybody with ambition to become a sales professional,” said Rahr & Son’s Brewing’s Vice President of Sales, Jim Prince.

“Cultural fit is extremely important,” said MadTree Brewing’s Mike Stuart, the brewery’s Director of People and Social Strategy, “We want to uphold our specific organizational values over just making a sale. It’s about doing things the right way for the right reasons.”

So can a top sales person be created? Or does it have to come natural?

Prince said at Rahr & Son’s, it looks for people that are trustworthy, energetic, passionate and outside-the-box thinkers.

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“For MadTree, we generally look for someone that has worked in the industry and that is a clear cultural fit for our brewery,” Stuart added. “Having industry experience is key in understanding how the supplier/distributor/retailer relationship works in terms of compliance and sales strategy.”

Finding that fit can start at home. Prince said that internal candidates are always a valuable option for breweries.

“If they are already a part of the company culture that is built and ready professionally for the increased responsibility it is a win for everyone,” he said.

Meeting with the individual one-on-one and having an honest conversation about their passion for the industry and for the brewery is key during the interview process.

Prince said he asks questions such as: ‘How did they get involved with craft beer?’, ‘Why would they be interested in working for Rahr?’, and ‘What was the first craft beer they ever experienced that made them want to continue drinking craft beer?’

“Ask questions that are not robotic interview questions, then sit back and really listen to what they have to say,” he said. “If the passion is there, it will come through loud and clear.”

Internally, breweries need to self-reflect on its own strengths and weaknesses as well to help in the growth of sales.

“[You have to] understand that there is always room for growth in the things you are strong at, and always explore better ways to approach them,” Prince said. “In the areas that may be weaker, continue to challenge on ways to overcome these weakness. Establish goals to help gauge how these areas are being overcome. [And] always understand nobody does everything perfectly.

“Success comes from when you challenge the things that hold you back and overcome them.”

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