Does Your Brand Need an In-House Sales Staff?

How do you make sure that if you have an in-house sales staff along with a wholesale partner, are they maximizing their time in making sales for your brand?

A discussion that took place based on that question happened at the Michigan Brewer’s Guild annual meetings during an open panel discussion on Taproom Management.

Instead of having a salesperson sell a few cases to a new account only to find out after delivering that news to the wholesaler, when it came time to deliver the beer that account balked and said no since they were just being nice to get the brewery’s salesperson to leave, knowing they would only have to deal with the distributor later.

Jason Spaulding of Brewery Vivant said he’s heard that happen. He instead feels that creating a “champion of your brand” in the distributor’s house can be vital.

With a roundabout number of 40,000 CEs needed (about 3,000 barrels of production for on- and off-prem sales) to justify the cost of having a salesperson on staff, financially, it’s hard to do.

READ MORE: How This One Item Could Solidify a Relationship with an On-Prem Account

“But when you do make that commitment to grow your sales and hire someone like that, they need to be out there doing it and you’re not going to grow without a salesperson,” Spaulding said. The Grand Rapids, Michigan brewery has one salesperson, and they cover the whole state.

“You can’t get to that many accounts and you can’t do it without the distributor,” he said. “So personally, get one ally, one ambassador in that distributor’s house. They can cover a lot of territory. If you can get two or three people who are fans of your brand, with your salesperson working, bugging, emailing, and texting those salespeople, you can cover a lot more territory, rather than trying to go direct to every single endpoint and every on-premise account. If you go into the bar, you’re actually working against your wholesaler. If you can go in sync with them, it’s way better.”

It’s going to be so different for every brewery in what your goals are and what you do, whether you self-distribute or you are with a distributor, explained Witch’s Hat’s Ryan Cottongim. The brewery doesn’t self-distribute and began working with a wholesaler around seven years ago as an events-driven decision to alleviate time constraints for Cottongim and his wife. They have used in-house sales and opted to go with using their distro partners to help push sales more recently.

“We realized that the events aren’t really driving so much,” he said. “Our distributors really are our salespeople. It’s almost like we were paying another wage, it would get us into some places that we really wanted.

“But at the end of the day, I don’t necessarily know if it really grew our brand in how we wanted it to. We had more control over it, but at the same time, it still ended up with the distributor and what they were going to do and the sales they were going to make. So with us, it’s been better to work closer with our distributor, and build that partnership, more than having an in-house salesperson.”

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