However, either more retail stores and bars haven't embraced the idea or they aren't aware of the great success that's going on with the craft beers plus the extreme craft beers and the increased customer traffic and sales from having a larger beer selection. Again, why? I happen to have some inside knowledge on this phenomenon. You see working in the industry at a large wholesaler and talking to many craft brewers and craft brewery market reps places me in a position to see some holes in sales strategy.
The first point of this and why this is part one of a series is my greatest pet peeve, under-trained brewery market reps. Having worked with brewer reps in my work history I was always struck by their lack of actual sales knowledge and today I sometimes sit in on sales rep interviews at work and I interview sales reps from corporations that were effected by the recession and were laid off that know much more about selling than any craft brewery rep. Professional sales/market people really need to have a complete knowledge of solution selling and the consultative selling process but if you talk about it to a craft brewery rep today they either tell you it doesn't work or that what they're doing is just fine.
And that comment from them and their view isn't that far off because of where they go fishing is always at the best and favorite fishing holes so you don't need to explain what is going on in the craft beer industry. In that type of fishing they have to compete head to head with competitive craft brewery reps and win the retailer over to their brand. Their focus is more on branding than solution selling which limits their ability to fish outside of their favorite fishing holes, they don't have the right lures in their tackle box.
Is it the brewery reps fault? Not entirely, I've been at craft beer conferences and heard two different presentations on training your craft brewery rep and I left both shaking my head. The first one said just give their sales reps a small amount of basic sales training and focus on product knowledge and the ability to discuss their beers. Great, they should be able to talk about beers as well as they can discuss the great encounter with a customer they met the night before, however there is a reason why they need to be able to discuss their beers and that's to be able to explain to the retailer why those beers are a solution for the retailer. Old fashioned solution selling works with all customers!
The second presentation on training craft brewery reps was more inclusive of all of the duties and procedures but still didn't dive into the proper sales training. Plus, he made the comment that it takes a year for a new brewery rep to be running at full speed. OMG! I can only imagine the yelling and screaming if we told our suppliers that the reason your sales are down is that we have a new sales rep in the area and it'll take a year to get him running at full speed, ridiculous. I never see a trainer with these new people after the first two weeks. They do what they think is best to try and increase sales without further direction from the craft brewer. If you're a craft brewer with regional or national sales, you need a trainer that travels to the markets to train on-the-job.
As you can see there is a basic problem in increasing the number of retail sales outlets that sell craft beer. You have a bad habit of blaming the big brewers on why that's happening but the truth is the craft brewers are not in tune with selling beer just brewing it. There's a reason A-B can produce a Brewmaster's Project 12 variety 12pk. and get vast distribution in chain convenience stores and supermarkets; solution selling from an expert with a distribution network that is trained in solution selling.
So the challenge is having brewer/owners understand that they aren't fishing everywhere they can because they don't train their people in being able to do that. If you get a chance to see an ad from a craft brewer for a sales/market rep in a territory notice the job duties or expectations and they don't include anything like what I'm describing, and that is expanding distribution to non-traditional craft beer accounts which is why I have to drive so far to buy them. As a result. I love Total Wine and More and local independent liquor stores but I have to drive too far.
Next, regional and national craft breweries trying to increase distribution without being pushed out of the market by local craft breweries.