There are few things more critical to your brewery's long-term success than the sourcing and servicing of licensee accounts.

When deciding how to empower your sales team, it can be difficult to find tools and systems that fit current needs and consider future plans. In this article, we’re going to explore the various Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools available to your sales team – from cheap to expensive, basic to comprehensive – so that you can equip them with everything needed to build meaningful customer relationships.

Excel Sheets or “Winging It”

Prior to establishing a formal brewery CRM system, most teams will build their foundation using a spreadsheet. It’s a secure location for most day-to-day items – notes, ideas, to-do’s – and it can quickly become a central hub for sales account information and record keeping.

As teams grow, the functionality and usability of these ‘wing-it’ type systems begin to deteriorate quickly. Managing sales accounts – including the likes of follow ups, interactions, and notes – will become increasingly difficult, and scaling these tools to meet expanding demands will be virtually impossible.

As a first step into the customer relationship management space, spreadsheets can be an impactful, affordable solution. As team size and responsibilities grow, however, they will quickly become more of a liability than an asset.

If you’re in the market for a bare-bones customer data management tool with no core CRM functionality, automations, or scalability, an excel spreadsheet should be at the top of your list.

Pros: Free, easy to use

Cons: Lack of scalability, minimal functionality, day-to-day inefficiencies

Note-Taking Applications

Moving one-step forward from a spreadsheet tracking system – in terms of both functionality and feature set – we find non-CRM note-taking applications. Note-taking tools include the likes of Evernote and OneNote, allowing users to create custom notes, share them with teammates, and collaborate. They offer the ability to log interactions, photos, and notes, housing a semi-detailed record of all things sales.

Although helpful for small-scale account organization and record keeping, note-taking apps become rather complicated and inefficient over time. Consider that sales reps will need to create hundreds of notes, all dedicated to various accounts and contacts, with no real way of organizing or filtering them. Additionally, note-taking apps don’t offer the ability to schedule follow ups, create action items, or automate important tasks.

Free at most starter levels, note-taking apps will often charge a monthly fee for account features such as photo-logging and unlimited storage.

If you’re in the market for a better way to manage sales accounts and interactions, and are OK with a system that lacks organization, scalability, and a sales-focused toolset, a note-taking application should be at the top of your list.

Pros: Relatively free, mobile collaboration

Cons: Lacks sales functionality and scalability, difficult to organize

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software

At the top-end of the functionality and effectiveness range we find formal customer relationship management software, designed to help your sales team thrive. These systems are designed to allow for efficient, detailed, organized customer and account management, ensuring no tasks go incomplete or contacts unengaged.

The CRM software space is quite large, with solutions offering a variety of feature sets and prices that range from dollars to hundreds-of-dollars per month. At the core of every brewery’s sales needs is the ability to log interactions and notes, schedule follow ups and reminders, and proactively sell products and manage orders. Most CRM systems will offer this functionality in one way or another, but there are two distinct system categories that you must keep in mind as you explore the space: Craft Beverage Specific and Non Craft Beverage Specific CRM software.

Craft Beverage Specific (CBS)

CBS Customer Relationship Management software is developed with craft makers in mind. Unique to the craft space, sales have a heavier reliance than usual on personalized relationship management and recurring sales. From closing a new account to ensuring that tapped product remains a licensee staple over time, successfully managing personal relationships is vital.

CBS CRM software empowers brewery sales reps to find such success. With an in-office and on-the-road toolkit that focuses on the collection of regular customer interactions, management of follow up tasks and reminders, and organization of sales and promotional material, keeping a personal connection with tens – or hundreds – of accounts becomes easy.

With tools like Kegshoe CRM, sales reps are able to view live inventory integrations, offering order history and inventory level insights, and allowing for proactive product refills. This is just one example of how CBS CRM software is tailored to help brewery sales reps in an ever-evolving space.

If you’re in the market for a comprehensive solution that is tailored to the craft beverage sales cycle, a CBS CRM software is where you should focus your attention.

Pros: Industry-specific feature set, relatively affordable, scalable

Cons: Reduced feature set compared to NCBS alternatives

Non Craft Beverage Specific (NCBS)

NCBS Customer Relationship Management software is designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of sales reps, regardless of their industry. NCBS CRM systems – like Hubspot and Salesforce – offer comprehensive toolkits that allow teams to manage accounts and contacts with ease.

These feature-rich software tools provide the most functionality of any option on this list. In addition to the interaction logging and follow-up scheduling available in CBS CRM software, NCBS tools will also often allow for sales forecasting, process automation, marketing tools, and more. That said, more may not always be better – especially if the features available don’t align with brewery workflows, sales cycles, and budget capacities.

If you’re in the market for a comprehensive, feature-rich, scalable CRM tool that offers endless customization and automation opportunities, NCBS CRM software is probably right for you.

Pros: Expansive feature sets, automation opportunities, scalability

Cons: Expensive, complicated, not industry-specific

So What’s the Brewery CRM Answer?

As with any brewery tool, no two craft teams will have the exact same circumstances or requirements. Deciding on a CRM system will depend on the current needs and future plans of your team. Whether you’re actively using spreadsheets, note-taking apps, a formal CRM system, or no system at all, our hope is that this article will help you find a system you can grow with.

Kegshoe CRM was designed to help brewery sales teams build better relationships. It’s a powerful, mobile sales tool that makes customer management easy with the help of a comprehensive feature set – including interaction logging, follow-up scheduling, live inventory integrations, and detailed reporting. To learn more about how our CRM is assisting breweries around the world in growing their sales, contact us today!