On this blog we’ve always tried to answer the questions that we hear coming up a lot. Out of all the questions we get, one of the most common is “How do I get a job working in a craft beer brewery?” We thought it would be a good idea to address this on the blog in a series of posts.
The two most common areas of the business that we get asked about are sales and brewing. We’ve already given you our take on how to get a job in brewing. So in this article we’ll delve into how to get a job in Craft Beer Sales ..
How to get a job in craft beer sales .. the non-101 version
When thinking about this topic, I thought that rather than provide a bunch of generic responses, why don’t we take a few case studies from current Black Hops staff members.
As the person who oversees the sales team at Black Hops, and having never run a sales team before, this has been one hell of a journey for me and for Black Hops. Luckily we have some great staff!
First we’ll run through what we look for in our Black Hops Sales Reps, then I’ll discuss what I think are some useful ways to get into craft beer sales.
What we look for in Sales Reps
So how does someone go about getting their foot in the door and turning their love of the amber fluid into their vocation? Here at Black Hops we’ve both recruited from outside the company to bring in someone with the best job/person fit, or alternatively we’ve developed individuals internally who’ve excelled in other areas of the business and who are looking for a career transition.
Our Sales Reps are very much all-rounders and have quite a diverse skill set outside of just straight-up sales and customer relations. From setting up merchandise displays and holding tastings at retail venues to running on-premise events or troubleshooting beer system issues for customers – this is all part of what it takes to be a boss Beer Sales Rep.
When we look at who we hire for Sales roles, internally or externally, here are the primary criteria that we consider;
- Previous experience in the role, or in a similar role is obviously great. Sales is not an easy job, a lot of people have gotten into sales at one point only to find it’s not for them. Relationships are also super important in sales.
- Customer service centric skill set (eg. communication and negotiation skills)
- Personal/character traits (eg. friendly, ability to relate to wide range of people)
- Being a suitable job/person fit for the Black Hops culture
Each job scenario will be a unique combination of some or all of the above criteria. When it comes to Sales roles, here are a few particular skills that all of our Reps are required to demonstrate on a daily basis.
The right type of personality is a bottom line lock when it comes to any sort of Sales role at Black Hops. Our Sales Reps interact with existing venues and premises on a daily basis, as well as selling our beer and our business to potential new customers. So you need to be able to hold a conversation. All of our Sales Reps are personable and good talkers. Some are even VERY good talkers haha!
As Sales is an extremely customer-interactive facet of the business, all of our Sales Reps also need to have very strong communication and negotiation skills.
Other essential traits you’ll need if looking to become a beer Sales Rep include:
- self sufficient (require little supervision)
- strong planning and organisation skills
- able to multi-task.
When we choose to bring someone in from outside the company, making sure that they’re a good fit for the Black Hops culture is another non-negotiable.
Oh and having a strong knowledge of and love for beer is rather important too, but that goes without saying.
Diversity in the sales team is also super important. It’s something we’ve really struggled with but something we are very conscious of. There are very big challenges with this, finding experienced reps is super important but there isn’t a lot of diversity in the current pool of super experienced beer reps. Reps from other industries are worth considering and people new to the game should be considered also but keeping in mind the challenges and daily grind of being a sales rep doesn’t suit everyone.
Pathways to a Job in Craft Beer Sales
While previous role and industry experience is an obvious gateway, don’t despair If you don’t have a lot of previous repping experience, as there’s more than one way to crack open a tinnie and step through into the world of beer Sales Repping. Here’s a few considerations..
In all of these examples doing a great job at one thing gave us confidence they would do a great job at repping – which they did.
Bring Something to the Table
Obviously having experience is always the best way to get into something and sales is no different. Our Brisbane Retail sales rep Aaron came to Black Hops with a lot of experience repping for other companies. Our first retail rep Kearnsy, who is now the head of retail sales and key accounts, came to Black Hops with decades of experience across many different facets of the industry. This was hugely valuable for us, especially given that none of us had any experience at all in selling beer.
Still, I didn’t want to make the focus of this whole article on getting experience, because that’s obvious.
Be Very Good at Something Else First
Some of our leading Sales Reps at Black Hops initially started out doing something else within the business. Railo, our first Sales Rep (and now head of On Prem sales), started behind the bar part time and doing sales work part time. None of us had hospitality experience so it was invaluable to have Railo here helping us run the bar and helping us understand the world of ‘hospo’. He made it clear he wanted to get into sales and away from the bar and he was the obvious choice for our first full time repping gig here.
Our on-prem Rep for Gold Coast South and Northern NSW, Cayle, was the same. He worked in our taproom, stood out as a leader, became the manager of the Burleigh Taproom and then after saying he wanted to get into sales it became very clear that he was an obvious choice for our next on-prem Sales Rep job.
Our northern Gold Coast retail sales rep Jesse Goodman was also in the same situation. He was doing a great job managing the taproom at BHII and wanted to get into sales. With some training, Kearnsy was able to bring him up to speed to be great at sales work in no time.
Pound The Pavement
Repping is not an easy job. Most people (myself included) don’t want to spend all day knocking on doors. I did it for a job back in the day and I hated it. Repping sounds like a glamorous job but it’s hard. We track two major things with our reps, sales and site visits. Sales are obvious, if you can sell lots of beer you have a good future as a rep. But sales is a lag indicator of good work. It won’t come straight away for a new rep and sometimes even if you put in a solid month of work, you still won’t necessarily hit the targets. There are a lot of factors that lead to sales of beer and a rep can’t influence all of them.
One thing they can influence is activity, and that’s why we measure site visits. If a rep is prepared to pound the pavement and get their site visits up above expectations, then it’s a good indicator to me that they are going to do well as a rep.
If I wanted a job in sales at a brewery I’d volunteer a few days to hit venues on behalf of the brewery. Hit a bunch of venues and have some good interactions and the brewery owner is sure to be impressed, regardless of whether bulk sales follow. If I know someone has it together to a point where they can visit a lot of venues and keep relationships strong, that’s a pretty good sign they have what it takes to be a rep.
Have Some Solid Friends
Sales is all about relationships and the best reps in the industry have some great relationships in place already. This increases their value tenfold. Kearnsy does a great job with the majors because he has great relationships with the people who make those purchasing decisions, they all love him. Regardless of where he works he would be an asset to the company because he brings those relationships with him.
Our on-prem reps are the same. After a couple of years working with us another of our Northern Reps, Niall, knows every bar owner in Brisbane and they all know him. If he ever moves on (which I hope he doesn’t, even though I don’t always appreciate his average Irish banter haha), he would be a huge asset to another company because he’s walking into warm leads and great relationships everywhere he goes.
A lot of these relationships can be built without being a rep. Our other On Prem reps Cayle and Railo both had great relationships in the hospo world because they worked in bars before working for Black Hops (and they are great people).