Sales: Beer Knowledge Isn’t the Top Trait Needed

Using a unique interviewing technique along with continual education that helps new hires never get behind the eight ball, Flying Dog Brewery CMO Ben Savage is happy with what his sales staff can do toward growth for the Maryland-based brewery.

“In our stage now, just knowing beer isn’t the only thing we are looking for anymore,” he said. “We need people to be professional, a good cultural fit with a great work ethic and who are going to be effective salespeople. That’s the one big thing that has changed over the last five years.”

With a team of 21, Flying Dog is “at a good place,” with quite a bit of experience across the board, said Savage. Turnover is low while new hires usually come during growth into new markets. Finding the right candidate is key, and with a growing interest in craft beer in the nation, weeding out candidates to find the right fit can be a challenge.

At Flying Dog, Savage said that the brewery like to interview high volumes of people, giving candidates five minutes to sell themselves, much like what it would be like for a salesperson to sell Flying Dog products while working on the street.


Savage said he wants people to tell a story with something that represents themselves, which gives a glimpse into to seeing a person’s personality instead of just reading a resume.

“Humor and personality is a big part of our brand and these people are going to be representing our brand so we want them in tune with our humor and personality and where our brand stands,” he explained. “We usually can get a good sense of that if you can get someone in person to tell a story about something meaningful to them.”

A major roadblock for many stepping into craft beer sales is knowledge. Although many potential reps can come from other areas of sales with beer know-how and sales fortitude, having the ability to understand the three-tier system can be a stumbling block.

“To train someone about wholesaler relationships isn’t something that exists in a whole lot of other industries,” Savage said. “That’s the dynamic that can be a wild card and challenging to find, but easier to find than five years ago.”

Savage added that there is an innate sense of sales that a manager has to tap into, but for his brewery, it looks for candidates that believe that when they walk into a retailer that communicating to them that carrying a Flying Dog product beer is a really good move for their business.

“If they can understand that and take it to heart, that’s the cultural fit we are looking for,” he said. “We want people who can really testify to the fact that once they put our beer on tap and on their shelf that it’s a great business decision for [the buyer]. Is it born or trained? I don’t know, but we try to look for that passion. We want people that want to help grow other people’s businesses.”

Savage said that at Flying Dog, it has invested quite a bit of energy to continually train the sales team, usually once every two weeks for a few hours.

“It’s also a good way to reset since they aren’t based at the brewery and it gives us an opportunity on topics or good bullet points to hit on,” Savage pointed out. “That way new hires can jump in and have an continual education process. No one starts from scratch, they get the training week in and week out.”

In his opinion, Savage said 5-7 years ago it was challenging to find people that were more than just passionate about craft beer.

“Back then you would hire people … and hoped they would develop into great sales people and that didn’t always work,” Savage said. “Now there are more people interested and passionate about beer, so it allows us to focus our attention to find and groom and develop professional sales people and that’s the dynamic we have seen change.”

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