Where are hard cider consumers purchasing your product? In a 2015 Mid-Atlantic survey, more than 50 percent of consumers reported purchasing product at bars, restaurants and tasting rooms. Tasting room assistants, bartenders, pouring experts and waitstaff – those who work directly for you and those who do not – are, in many cases, your sales force. How well do they know your product, how often do they recommend it and are they attuned to your sales goals? Who, behind the scenes, are you depending on to champion your business?

Owners, partners and employees of craft breweries, wineries and distilleries often constitute the primary sales force. They know the product – how it is made, where the ingredients come from, the process and the backstory. When the product leaves your premises, who trains the secondary sales force behind your product and how does that translate into promotion and sales? Spending time to develop a working relationship then with your non-employee distributors and salespeople should become an essential part of your overall business strategy.

Some business owners prefer to offer trainings and tastings at their own facilities and invite bar and restaurant staff to learn more about the product by first-hand experience. This presents the opportunity for tours of your facility as well as passing along product information, establishing talking points and discussing sales potential. If point-of-sales training is not available, informational brochures, training downloads, webinars, podcasts and other tools can be developed and provided to those salespeople representing your product. The key is to share the philosophy about your business as well as product information. The more your secondary sales force knows and cares about your product, the more they will be able to pass along to consumers.

What sets a craft beverage apart from competitors? Consumers have identified the following: Quality ingredients, use of local products, hand-crafted production and cooperation between the seller and their community. In other words, a good-tasting product is important, but the story of development and your unique business commands just as much attention.

As you develop the training program for your own primary sales force, do not forget about the others out there who will be influencing and offering your product. This group constitutes a vital factor in outside sales – they are your off-site promotion, advertising and sales crew – your important influencers in a crowded and competitive marketing environment.

Consider how you train your direct employees and then develop good materials and methods to do the same with your secondary sales force. Consumers learn about new products in a variety of ways – many times with craft beverages it is through tasting events, festivals, fairs, farmers markets and special events. The person pouring should be knowledgeable and informed when it comes to answering questions and recommending your product. Launch a new performance level by establishing and implementing a great sales strategy along all key points of your sales force – make the secondary become the primary and see how it benefits your return on investment!

The above information is provided for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business or legal counseling.