Where Does A Proper Sales Force Start?

You have the beer and taproom sales are going well. Eventually, just putting out some kegs to local accounts and getting cans and bottles into retail will need an extra push.

Building toward a sales staff can seem intimidating, but as shelf space can show, marketing your brand takes work to get out in the marketplace.

Having a dependable, relatable sales staff is a key to driving business to your brewery’s brand.

One hope is that a sales team can come from within, but its likely coming from another beer company or industry selling something, explained Tucker Kalberg, the general manager for Bozeman Brewing.

“They can be nurtured, but to some degree they need to have it to have longevity,” he said, noting a salesperson needs to be outgoing, detail oriented, independent, self-driven and a beer knowledgeable individual. “We can teach them about our products and how to sell beer, but you’ve got to have a passion for craft beer, that cannot be taught.”

Ryan Duley at Sunriver Brewing said that they make sure that new sales staff members gets to know the brewery and pub employees.

“Working side-by-side with both, whether brewing beer or pouring beer at the pubs,” he explained. “Clear standards are taught. Working with other sales staff and sales supervisors in the beginning and even follow up after. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are set and explained.”

Understanding the whole story of the brewery is essential, added Billy Thompson, the sales manager for Barrelhouse Brewing.

“You need to know where the roots began, how it went from home brewing in the garage to that decision of ‘let’s do it’ and build a production brewery,” he explained. “You need to understand the stories of each brewery employee and what’s important to them as a member of the brewery team.”

Regardless of role, each member at Barrelhouse learns each person’s’ job. As a sales representative, they will be on the brew deck at 6 a.m. and will feel what it’s like to mash in with a brewmaster. They’ll package on the bottling line with the cellarmaster and see what it takes to build the pallets of six-packs.

“You’ll work your bar shift with our taproom managers, sling beers, bus glass, and stand on the other side of the bar counter with our guests. Ultimately, before you ever sell in one tap handle or your first new placement, you will learn the heart of the brewery and its story,” Thompson said. “Once you have, you can then share it properly and hopefully have people who may have never visited the brewery connect with it.”

And you will be given the permission to fail, he added.

“What makes this possible it the support network surrounding you,” he said. “For anyone of us to be our best, we have to have the humility to own our mistakes, partner with our brewery peer group, and allow ourselves to learn from one another and to be sharpened by others. It’s expected that we will be in a continual state of learning.”

Zak Koga, a co-founder of Karben4 claims no expertise as the Wisconsin brewery has not yet formally hired a salesperson. However, they have hired and developed a brand ambassador role that does most of the event coordination a normal salesperson would do, but they do not attach any sort of sales volume expectation to the day-to-day tasks.

“We have employed the principle that the brewery should exist as a supporting member of the sales team and that our distributors are paid, specifically, to sell our beer themselves,” he said. “This is not an easy task and not even all that effective in the short run, but I think if we force ourselves to truly solve some of the sales channels problems first, then we both are in a better position to properly staff whatever supplemental role is required.

“I have loosely referenced Pareto’s Law with this effort: our distributors should be able to grab 80 percent of the market opportunity themselves with 20 percent effort from us. We are still working on properly acquiring the first 80 percent of our sales in any given market so our investment in sales staff comes from the owners’ time, mostly.”

Photo credits: Barrelhouse Brewing & Sunriver Brewing

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