Sales Leaders Interview: Driving Growth With Creativity And Technology
Oct 31, 2018
Written By: Matthew Bruner
Category: Craft Beer Sales Interview Series

Lilypad Sales Leaders Interview Series

“It gives our sales managers the opportunity to take their passions and their culture beyond beer to their job.”

In just six years since their inception, Two Roads Brewing has grown to produce 60,000 barrels annually. The woman who has been leading the charge in sales since day one is Meghan Zachry. From knocking down doors in the beginning to creating some of the most clever sales initiatives we’ve seen from a Lilypad client, Meghan has set an example for other craft beer sales pros. In this interview, she spoke with Lilypad about evolving your sales efforts as you grow, creative ways to empower sales reps, and how their team is using tools like Lilypad to refine their approach. We hope some of Meghan’s wisdom inspires you to be more creative in your efforts, it certainly inspired our team.

The Interview:

Lilypad: Before we start talking about Two Roads, let’s talk a little bit about you. Can you tell me how you arrived at Two Roads and when you did?

Meghan: I started in the craft beer industry when I was in college working at craft beer bars. I worked at a local bar in New Haven, Connecticut, called Delaney’s, which was very well known for its craft beer scene. Then I went and started working at The Ginger Man in South Norwalk, Connecticut, where I worked for about three and a half years. They (The Ginger Man) were very focused on education and training their staff to properly serve and talk about beer. That’s where I really fell in love with beer and decided that I wanted to make a living out of it and that I wanted to work for a brewery on the supplier side.

What year did you join Two Roads?

We became a brewery on December 18th, 2012 and my official start date was December 1st, 2012. So I’ve been there since the beginning. Basically, I started banging down doors when we had our first product and trying to tell people, “hey, we’re going to be a big brewery, we’re going to be something.” So I started to hit the streets hard and help grow the brewery. Fortunately, we had some, and continue to have some great products and a great team that’s been able to help support those efforts as well.

Meghan in Two Roads’ brewery

As you know, this interview series is all about the different stages, how to get from one milestone to the next. What do you think were some of the most important activities that you and the team did to get to 10,000 barrels and how has that changed as you’ve grown?

I think that the most important factor is quality and making sure that we’re putting out a product that we’re proud of. We have a very talented brewing team and we put a huge focus on quality assurance. Every brewery should put quality first to ensure that their best beer is getting to the consumer.

In terms of the team, it is very important for us to support the brand in the market. When we first started I looked at any bar as an opportunity – any off-premise and any on-premise as an opportunity. As our footprint grew, we knew that we had to back up our efforts at the brewery with additional sales team members. Every market that we go into we put a salesperson to support our distributor and account relationships. If you are not there representing yourself and having a passionate person in the market to represent the brand then I think you’re doing yourself a disservice.

At what point did you make the first sales hire underneath you? How many barrels do you think?

We made the second sales hire in Q2 of 2013, when we were still only distributed in Connecticut. Year one we realized that we were starting to gain some ground and we needed more than one person just to hit our home state. Our next sales team member joined the team when we launched Rhode Island in October of 2013. We did not want to put our brand out in a new state without providing the additional support. That is the way that we continue to look at our expansion.

So would you say that the path to 10,000 really just had a lot to do with making sure you had passionate people hitting accounts? Was there any particular strategy that helped you get there other than that, like maybe certain programs or initiatives?

The programs and initiatives came together as we grew. At first, it was finding those passionate people who could tell the story, represent us well, and make sure that we were visible. We made sure that we were visible in accounts, but also visible at festivals and in-store tastings – anywhere there was an opportunity for sampling we made sure that we were out there sampling. As we hit year three when we really started to implement procedures, such as data collection and individual goals. At first it was just, “let’s all get out there and sell some beer.” Then we were able to take a step back and get the procedures in place to really drive success. At that point, we were probably at seven to eight salespeople.

“Anywhere there was an opportunity for sampling we made sure that we were out there sampling.”

When do you think is the right time to get more people, procedures, and tech in place?

The earlier the better. The more organized you can be and the easier it is to stay on top of things the better. We’re very big on distributor communication. I think that’s very important. I think that we understand that our distributors are some of our most important customers. To get share of mind with them and to stay collaborative and organized is incredibly important. And the earlier that you could do that, the better.

Learn more about Cross Tier Communication in Lilypad.

Can you share some best practices around distributor communication?

Sure – one of my favorite procedures is our monthly calls. Every month we got on the phone with our brand manager and we have an agenda that we go over each month in terms of where we are with sales and where we should be. We make sure that we’re tracking the way we should be, that inventory is where it should be, that there are no code issues, and that there are no out of stock issues. We also make sure that we review the trucking and packaging schedule to make sure that they are aligned. The team sends a list of our in-market events at the beginning of every month to our distributors so they are aware of everything and they can make sure that their delivery will be on time and that they can have representation there. That is also reviewed in the monthly call. In addition to our release schedule, events, and general sales, it is a great time to regain the focus. I’ve had distributors telling me that too. I think that’s something that, surprisingly, a lot of breweries aren’t doing. Don’t just let your beer go out there and hope for the best. Make sure that you’re as involved as you can be with your distributor and partnering with them.

“Don’t just let your beer go out there and hope for the best.”

So if I’m tracking correctly, to get to 10,000 barrels, it was really about hiring passionate people, hitting the road, and getting in front of the accounts. Then once you were in that seven to eight rep range, you began to think a little bit more critically about data, goals, and initiatives. So can you tell me about the 15,000 to 30,000 barrel range? Did you start to roll out some more sophisticated programming then?

We did. We started to work collaboratively and as a team to set goals for ourselves. We are involved in a lot of great festivals throughout the country, so those have always been a great way to incentivize our sales team. We also have group goals. Specifically, in 2016 the sales team hit a goal that allowed us to go as a group to Germany and the Czech Republic. It was a great team effort to hit that goal and we were rewarded with a once in a lifetime educational trip, where we visited 19 different breweries. We also went to Weyermann Malthouse and learned about malting. Beyond the educational aspect, it was a great way for us to become a closer family as well. Lilypad has been a tremendous asset for us in tracking these goals. We are able to create goals specific to each sales person, but also track group goals that can serve as a rallying cry for the whole team.

Two Roads’ Sales Trip to Germany taken from Two Roads’ Instagram

In just six years you’re producing 60,000 barrels annually. That’s remarkable. As the Director of Sales, are there certain things that you think makes Two Roads special? Is it the people, is it the process, is it coaching techniques that you’ve used? What do you think has helped you guys grow at such an incredible pace?

It’s certainly the people and the processes, but also the total company mentality. We have an amazing company and every department really is the best at what they do.

We also have four partners who have been in the beer industry for 30 years a piece that came in with the experience of knowing what works and are able to guide their team and their company towards success because they’ve seen in their careers what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and they’ve been able to really hone in on that. Two Roads is also a very supportive workspace, creatively. We’re very communicative and we offer the opportunity for each person in the company, whether it be a salesperson, cellarman, tasting room person, or the head of quality assurance to have a say in what kind of beer we make and what we name it.

Communication is great, plus innovation. Brewing innovation is a huge part of what we do. If we don’t have a great product to sell, there’s really no chance for success. We have an amazing brew team, led by our incredibly talented Master Brewer, Phil Markowski. The approach that we take to our beers has really been able to bridge the gap between accessibility and craft beer enthusiasts.

We make beers for people who come home from work and may not be obsessed with the latest craft beer style but they know they want something more flavorful than a domestic lager. In that case, they may go with something that tastes good for a good value and drink Lil Heaven – our session IPA – and they’ll stay loyal customers. On the other end of the spectrum, we make beers for the craft beer aficionados. For example, at Area Two Experimental Brewing, which is our new barrel and souring facility, we will be making esoteric lambic styles, barrel-aged beers, and really unique Brett beers.

You talked about innovation on the brewing side. In such a crowded market, a lot of innovation is required on the sales and marketing side. Can you tell me about what your team has done to change things up and keep your growth going at the rate it is?

Sure – our mantra is to “take the road less traveled.” That is the philosophy that Two Roads really sells by, lives by, and brews by. That’s something that we look for with our sales team as well. Our sales team and our marketing team are people who like to take an extra step, who like to take the road less traveled and do things a little bit differently. One way we do that is by giving each of our sales team members an opportunity to do an event in their market that brings the Two Roads’ “road less traveled” philosophy to the market. One of our best tools is our brewery, but we can’t bring everyone to the brewery, so we like to think of creative ideas that bring the brewery to the market.

Two Roads’ namesake taken from Two Roads’ Instagram

Each of our salespeople does what we call a “Big Idea.” Each year they have a budget to go into the market and create an event that really brings our philosophy to their market. For example, in Salem, Massachusetts, our Sales Manager does a Witchy Brew Walk. It’s a ghost tour around Salem during Halloween but it’s also a bar crawl where each stop has different Two Roads beer. We have a bunch of people who will learn about the community in Salem as well as learn more about our beers and have the opportunity to try rare beers. For all of these ideas, we look to do something that other breweries aren’t doing. We want to make sure that it’s not just, “can Budweiser do the same event and just put their name on it instead of Two Roads?” We look for something that really brings our personality and the individual personality of each of our sales managers into the market as well. Plus, it gives our sales managers the opportunity to take their passions and their culture beyond beer to their job and be able to really have fun with it.

“It gives our sales managers the opportunity to take their passions and their culture beyond beer to their job.”

You’ve had the unique journey of being with Two Roads from the beginning, growing the team out, as well as growing your markets. Can you tell me about how your processes have had to change, how technology like Lilypad has helped, and the kind of data that you guys are keen to tracking?

Lilypad has been a game changer for us. It just allows more organization. Again, every year we get more organized, more structured, and it gives our team just a better understanding of what they’re doing. They see 15 accounts a day. It’s unrealistic to think that they could remember every person’s name and the last conversation that they had with them, or exactly what they discussed in terms of an event. So as soon as they walk out the door, they take a minute to write down their notes in Lilypad. The next time that they see that account, they can look back and see who they spoke with and what they spoke about. We also have the data that shows past successes right at our fingertips. It is a great way to be able to remind ourselves of the specific details of each account. Also, it is a great tool to help relay information to our distributors. Distributors have many suppliers to handle, so a comprehensive report from Lilypad goes a long was to make their review simple and defined.

Learn more about Activity Management and Execution.

We’re all about trying to make the rep’s life as easy as possible. Can you tell me a little bit about being a manager, how you evaluate your team, create strategic plans, and what kind of data you guys focus on to figure out what you should do moving forward?

It’s a mix of things. We set annual goals, but we also narrow it down even more to give our team individualized monthly goals. Lilypad helps us define these goals and the time frame that they are expected to be completed in. We typically set six-week individualized goals, which are typically brand specific, and build the success into our bonus structure.

There’s a lot of people out there that are in the process of building out the team, building out ways to incentivize their reps, and are trying to make sure that company-wide initiatives get executed the right way. It’s always good to hear from someone who’s doing it, exactly how they’re doing it.

We definitely offer flexibility. We don’t say you need to get X amount of work-withs or X amount of placements. Instead, it’s overarching goals. We set a point expectation and ask our team to build to that expectation with different tasks. Each market is different, so we allow the flexibility to be able to cater to individual markets. Lilypad’s assigned point values have been a huge asset with this.

Well, I’ve got one more question and it’s a personal one. You’ve been with the brewery from zero to 68,000 barrels. What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in growing this quickly?

Communication. It’s just the most important factor when building a team, when working with distributors, and when working with accounts. You should talk to every person as a partner, because we are all partners in this. Every facet of the job, every facet of the company, every individual that works in the company has a role that is vital to the overall success of your brand. So speak to everyone as an equal, listen to what people say, listen to what your distributors say, and listen to what your accounts say. Keeping an open mind, and an open form of communication is, in my mind, the most important thing to success.

“You should talk to every person as a partner, because we are all partners in this.”

Couldn’t agree more. Is there anything you want to say to the readers about Two Roads that they should look out for before we go?

We have a lot of exciting things coming up. Again, Area Two, which is our sour and barrel aged facility will be opening in very early 2019 and there’ll be some very, very exciting things coming out of there. From lambics to barrel aged beers, to Brett beers. But also keep an eye on our core lineup as well. We have a great core lineup that we’ve had since day one and that’s been continuing to grow and continuing to bring on new drinkers every day. We also make sure that our rotating lineup is always staying innovative and always staying relevant. We’re very proud of the work that we do and we’ll continue to take the road less traveled in every way we can.

Awesome. I’m looking forward to trying some of those sours. I appreciate your time, Meghan.

This article is part of the Lilypad Sales Leaders Interview Series.

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