The distribution handbook

The following article was posted on May 15, 2014. It has been reviewed and updated as necessary by the ProBrewer editorial staff. 

In the current distribution climate, where distributors have many more brands than they are able to adequately and properly attend to, it is imperative for the supplier to take steps to gain and retain mind-share within each distributor. Many times, the distributor needs information about a particular brand, either by request of a sales rep or a retailer. The easier it is for the distributor to access that information, the more likely that information will be passed on as a sales tool to the person in need.

An easy and effective way to make sure your distributor has easy access to the information they need about your brand and company is to provide a “Distributor Handbook”. This is typically provided as a hard copy in a spiral bound binder so that pages can easily be taken out to photocopy and/or in digital form. Managers and sales reps should each be supplied with a copy. Often, it is a good idea to also provide a copy to key internal management such as the inventory and warehouse manger, etc.

Contents should include:

1) The brewery: This section is the story of your brewery – include details that make your brewery and project interesting and different.

  • Without going into extreme detail, include the size of your plant, expansion plans, type of brewhouse, location of the brewery.
  • Include photographs of plant and building if possible.
  • Note any characteristics that make your brewery interesting or different.

2) The people behind the company:

  • Include a corporate structure and/or brief bio. of all key employees. A group photo personalizes your company.
  • Include a “how to contact us” section with extension numbers of each person or department, e-mail addresses and web site. Make it as easy as possible for your distributor to communicate with you efficiently.
  • Talk specifically about the brewmaster( with perhaps a photo of that individual in the brewery brewing beer).
    Emphasize the owner/principles and any interesting background.

3) The products:

  • A page or two specifically on how beer is made and a general discussion of beer styles is a good reference for distributor sales staff.
  • Each product should have both a sell sheet (which describes the style, taste, awards, etc.) that the sales staff can photocopy or download to use in the field and a more detailed page on the specifics of each product including ingredients, alcohol content, specifics about the style, etc.
  • Include all UPC codes on separate sheet.
  • Include all seasonals with production and release schedule.
  • Shelf life, date codes and how to read if applicable.

4) Sales support:

  • A brief marketing plan that discusses price points, where to position on shelves, advantages of unique selling points of your product
  • List all POS available and prices where it may apply.
  • List all wearables, glassware and other items that are available to distributor sales staff. Include brochure if available. Make it easy for the distributor to order these items. Include a price and ordering sheet.

5) Policies and procedures:

  • How to order product; who to contact, lead times for orders, how product is shipped (number of cases/kegs per pallet, pallet weights and how shipped (FOB warehouse or laid in?)
  • Policies on samples
  • Policies on product returns
  • Keg deposits and returns
  • Sales, inventory and depletion reports
  • Product storage requirements if any.

This handbook is intended as a resource for your distributors and should be compiled in such a way so that it is easy to use. Be sure that pages can easily be taken out of book for sales staff to photocopy or provide digital copies that are easy to download. Keep a list of what staff at each distributor has received a book. When changes are made to the content, send each staff member a copy of the new page that they can easily insert into the book. Also make sure that news employees of a distributor receive a handbook.

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