Jim Dykstra's picture

How To Charm Snakes, Herd Cats, Sell Beer

Green Flash Beer Connoisseur


The meeting feels more like two friends hanging out, and when business is briefly tabled, it is informal, and the “asks” go over smoothly – better shelf positioning and a case stack in the near future. Whether these requests will be met has to be taken on faith, and is ultimately dependent on the strength of Tyler’s relationship with the decision maker. Before we go, he adds some “neckers,” or tags that hang off the neck of a bottle, to four-packs of their beer.

Our next meeting takes us to a restaurant/bar focused more on liquor than beer. We bring tidings of coasters, glassware, and a sample of Soul Style, a new IPA. It more or less sells itself, and Tyler adds a tap to his list.

Once again the meeting is friendly, and it becomes evident that these aren’t clients so much as symbiotic relationships in a microcosm of the craft beer community. So long as the beer sells, everyone benefits.

The day continues in a similar fashion. We stop for lunch at a nice Mexican joint, Elmyriachi, which has Soul Style on tap. We leave coasters and glassware in our wake, having helped the owner remove the labels before we go.Green Flash, Beer Connoisseur, The Porter Beer Bar Cellar

Many of our stops include relationship maintenance, which could include simply stopping in for a beer and keeping those in charge abreast of Green Flash’s new releases. No relationship is the same, and therefore every meeting is handled differently. He calls it “snake charming and herding cats.”

Herding cats may involve working with vendors in the same marketplace to ensure both have enough Green Flash stock to last the week, which happened later in the day. Before we arrived, the two businesses were hardly on speaking terms.

Snake charming is simply tailoring his song to a particular individual’s ear. Not every buyer is concerned with what hops are in the beer. They just want to know if it tastes good.

Tyler has another great aphorism for this: “Treat people like chess pieces, not checkers pieces, 'which is to say – respect the individuality of the buyer, bartender, account, so forth.'"

Later in the day, we attempt to charm a fellow at a bar with 40-plus taps. It’s the equivalent of a cold call, but the amount of opportunity makes it a “honeyhole.” Tyler is brief, courteous, and the vendor is familiar and fairly jazzed on Green Flash beer already. He sets the stage for a tasting later in the week, and we’re out the door in five minutes with another potential customer.

We stop for more beers in more places, and everywhere we go Tyler runs into someone he knows. A local brewer, bar owner or fellow rep. They’re all friends, and talk shop between gulps of local brew.

By five o’ clock, we’ve zigzagged to ten different locations across Atlanta, I’ve shaken countless hands, and had a *few beers. But the day’s not over.

It’s American Craft Beer Week, and the renowned Brick Store Pub is hosting a Sour and Funk Fest. The place is packed and swarming with reps, buyers, brewers, and other industry notables. This is work, but also play. The beer flows. I’m hop-drowsy, but the handshaking, banter and story-swapping only increases.

A high tolerance is definitely a requirement for this job. A degree is not necessarily needed, but a degree of understanding in psychology, marketing, sales and good business practices is key. Having a taxi driver’s knowledge of the city doesn’t hurt either. The roads are rugged, the traffic rough, and we zip in and out of establishments at light speed, dropping off t-shirts and other goodies. Sometimes he just drops in to have a beer after hours on his own dime.