CBC16: Firestone Walker’s Macon on How to Improve Sales

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To grow a brewery’s brand, a sales team needs understands the culture, whether that sales rep works in the brewery’s market or across the country.

After helping build Colorado’s New Belgium’s brand for 14 years starting to 2000, David Macon moved on to California and joined Firestone Walker in 2014 as the company’s VP of Sales and Marketing.

Macon spoke Wednesday, May 4, at the 2016 Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia to a large and very engaged audience that peppered him with an array of questions after he presented his “Training Successful Sales Reps” seminar.

Firestone Walker is 13th in the country in terms of volume sold with markets in 21 states. Most recently the brewery added Montana.. He stressed that sales is the conduit between you and your brewery.

“Remember there is a lot of mediocre beer sold by great sales teams,” he noted.
There can be bad reps, he said, and some reps are born sellers, but you can create a beer rep that doesn’t have a beer sales background by teaching them the industry.

“They can be anybody. They can come from many walks of life,” he said, “Personality, can’t be taught. Your mom and dad and how you were raised does that. Beer can be taught.”

Teaching how to sell isn’t as easy.

With now 640 breweries in California, Macon said it can be tough to standout in the crowded marketplace. He helped create a new vision for Firestone Walker nearly two years ago and laid out his game plan to share with the crowd full of brewery marketing managers, owners and sales reps.


DavidMaconOf his eight points that he touched on, a few came with budget concerns: adding a sales manager or hiring a consultant to fine tune what the brewery wants to be about in terms of what to present to buyers. Defining a strategy, and then sticking to it to the end, was also key. That was especially true for those that have multiple hats where sales is only a part of the daily job.

“We are all so busy running a “small thing” like a business that this can get left behind or dragged on for weeks or month,” he quipped.

Macon spoke about having a living document that can be updated and includes everything that a sales manager has researched, such as how many reps are needed, where to put them, sales goals, a selling philosophy, the sales process and the follow up.

Macon spoke of UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” as a way to map out how a brewery could grow. And, he pointed out, it takes a team.

“It’s important to me this is not a one-person process,” he said, noting that it needs to start from the top with ownership to buy in and work through the sales and and newest sales rep. “It’s a critical phase in your development and a culture change as well.”

Macon also fielded questions and gave his thoughts on many brewery’s quandaries with topics like how to deal with an under-performing sales rep (“Make sure you are giving feedback. Are you clarifying expectations?”) or what he felt was the best metric to determine a strong sales rep. Macon said its distribution, in terms of placements, tap handles or packages, even display execution and promotional activities.

The velocity of number in selling units, he said, was “the blocking and tackling of sales.”

He also said stepping out of a comfort zone and making calls on non-buys versus current accounts needs to happen more for craft breweries to thrive.

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