Then for managing the relationships, we have a national sales manager, area sales managers, territory managers, and field sales reps and they all take a role in working with our wholesaler network. It comes from various people, depending on the level of conversation needed. We really have the people that are in the territory work with that wholesalers on a daily basis. We conduct annual planning meetings and then quarterly recap meetings with each of our wholesalers to just make sure that we’re tracking against the goals that we set at the beginning of the year.
Changing gears a little bit here: You mentioned when you first started you didn’t have Lilypad or any data tools and now you’re clearly using a good amount of beer sales technology. Can you tell me how technology has shifted what your role looks like and how the sales team operates?
Oh, it’s night and day. Haha. When I started I used to have ask all my wholesalers for a printout of accounts that they sold beer to because that was the only way to access that information. So, now everything’s at your fingertips. You can think of any question you want to ask about your sales and you can answer it through VIP, which is great. And then having Lilypad with the data feed from VIP you get real-time sales data from out in the trade. You can see what people bought and when they last ordered. I mean, it’s just amazing. It’s night and day.
Do you have certain strategies or certain programs that you’re running with the sales reps on a national level that this technology is enabling?
Yeah. We have various different things that we use it for on top of what I mentioned. We’ve recently started tracking our incentives through Lilypad, which has been nice. Creating target lists has been really useful for really specific points of distribution that we want to incentivize people against. Then we have a robust quality control in the trade program where our sales reps sample the beer and rate it to make sure it’s true to type. Then they also take down the date code of the keg, which is also entered through Lilypad. We bring all that information back and we’re tracking how old our beer is when it’s been consumed in the trade. So it’s been super useful for that.
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Do you spread those responsibilities across the team or do you have a data analyst who’s responsible for keeping up with all of this?
Honestly, it’s everybody’s responsibility to try and hit their goals and also go and do the QC checks. When the data comes back, we do have a sales analyst in the brewery who is great at pulling all that data together, putting it into a format, and then presenting it back.
When did you hire a sales analyst?
Sean’s been with us for a few years. Before that, we had a couple of other people in the role – which was more of a data entry and special projects role at the time. I’d say probably when we got to around 50,000 barrels, as a guess, is when we hired someone in that role.
I’ve had a few other people mention they’re seeing more data analysts and people that are capable of interacting with all these different technologies be brought on earlier than ever before. When do you think a brewery should really start thinking about hiring sales analysts and using these different technologies?
Yeah, I think as soon as possible is when I’d recommend people start using things like Lilypad and VIP. It halves the time that you spend looking for data. You can really track your sales and you can look at trends really easily. We were pretty small when we got VIP and it basically replaced having a data analyst for a while because I could just pull whatever report I needed myself which avoided a lot of manual data crunching. So, absolutely, with any kind of software like that, I would say get it as soon as you can afford it.
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Shifting gears a little bit here: I’d like to talk about the 90,000 barrel growth you’ve experienced. Can you tell me about what enabled you guys to increase production to that extent and get so many new people drinking Allagash?
So, obviously, there are 7,000 breweries in the US right now. That definitely wasn’t the case a few years ago. There was a huge boom in craft beer around the same time that everyone started looking at where their food came from and how their coffee was roasted, etc. There was a real resurgence of knowing what went into your food and what you were putting in your body. I think that enabled craft breweries to really grow a crazy amount each year.