Brewers & Sales Reps

Brewers and Sales Reps; two sides of the same coin or opposing fundamental forces?

Brewers and Sales Reps; two sides of the same coin or opposing fundamental forces?

From the perspective of brewers, sales reps are lechers that trivialise our precious creations into quantifiable constructs with tangible value and proceed to discount that value to venue owners, who are tantamount to second hand car salespeople. From the perspective of sales reps, brewers are precious adolescences that have lost their grip on reality, being overtly arrogant, aloof and mentally fragile in their dungeons of shiny gewgaw. Is there a universe where both creatures can work harmoniously to the greater good of the brewing company? I doubt it, as that would require more than infinite possibilities.

In the land of the corporate giants it has been noted that brewers from competitive companies are often verbose with their experiences and insight. Concomitantly, it is the reps, marketers and managers that assume battle poses, firing shots across the chasm and fiercely guarding their precious value propositions. In the parallel universe of craft people taut the “community” that exists and the openness and acceptance portrayed by competitive brewers, reps and venue owners alike.

What a great point of difference between “craft” and “not-craft” whatever those terms may mean. I’ve had numerous people tell me they were surprised with the candid nature in which I discuss the mechanisms that govern Newstead Brewing Co. My surprise of their surprise is equal in magnitude. Why would you talk about it any other way? Why sugar-coat a piece of crap, you’ll notice on the first bite. Why be arrogant about something that is not perfect, or requires improvement or was only good a couple of times. Why pretend like we have never screwed anything up or that we don’t screw something up on a weekly basis, because we do. And when I talk to my peers around Brisbane and surrounds I am equally impressed with their candid nature. We talk freely, discussing ideas and admitting failures and nobody cares. We all work bloody hard and love what we do.

Can the same be said for the men and women who get our products to the masses? I wonder. Who knows what really goes on at those “rep lunches” (insert joking emoticon). I guess their perspective is different. They are, perforce, confronted with the competitive nature of our industry. Let us not be ignorant of the fact that peoples livelihoods are at stake here. Success, advantage, being better and bigger than the next guy are all-important here, correct? I have heard much slander and disingenuous invention from people selling beer, it makes me sad. I have, however, also been privy to seeing how much the reps help each other out and are genuinely friends, something that would never happen with the bigger guys. There is genuine potential there, I just think it gets muffled a little by shortsightedness.

Some people have proposed that microbreweries are not, between themselves, competitive. Of course they are. Education and macrobrewery guzzlers are also large, untapped segments of the craft market. They do, however, require more resources, time and effort to engage. So what happens? We go chasing the seasonal tap over there, or hit the next craft beer festival with shiny new oversized decals. We do 10+1 deals, we purchase taps (we and most microbreweries in Brisbane offer incentives to have a permanent presence in a venue, make no mistake), we do t-shirt combos and light boxes and flizmufflers and trinkets and bright shiny things to sell our product. And then we talk about hand crafted and small batches and supporting the community. Are these conflicting? Can we be collegial and competitive? I think so, I think that’s a fundamental part of a healthy industry. I am not talking about snipes, about insidious gossip and whispers or contrived garbage to secure a keg sale. But if we can focus our energy on making a great product and presenting that product to the consumer in an attractive manner then goal achieved, we obtain both reach and education.

There seems to be a solid correlation between brewery size and a sales force that is comfortable in their products’ place in the market (in craft, this obviously excludes corporate giants). Do they attract a certain type of sales person or is a sales person just more confident in their role with their backing and support. The best reps I’ve had the privilege of hanging out with all come from bigger regional breweries, with the exception of a few. 4 Pines, Stone & Wood, Mountain Goat, Little Creatures (shut up) – great people, enthusiastic about beer but most importantly they add value to their brands. They don’t diminish the product or anyone else’s for that matter. Brewers and salesers can work together. Common goals and principles exist, we just need to talk the same language. Maybe all of us can take ourselves a little less seriously, show a little more gratitude to our co-competitors and remember the hard work of many hands that goes into making great beer.

Mark Howes