Building Thatchers Cider’s Field Sales Team

“Four generations dedicated to our craft. With a fifth generation waiting in the wings. There’s been a lot of change over the years. But one thing remains constant: cider making is our pride and joy.” Thatchers Cider. Now a rapidly growing £129m turnover company, this is Thatchers’ sales apprenticeship story ...   

The Challenge

In 2020 Thatchers Cider reached the third year of utilising apprenticeships for much of their core training needs. Apprenticeship programmes were successful in other areas of the business, so the company decided to focus its attention on the Sales department.  

As Emma Cox, Head of Field Sales at Thatchers Cider points out, “Sales is a really important part of our business and when we reviewed the training that we currently did with the sales team, we found a lot of inconsistencies, a lot of gaps. What we wanted to do was to be sure that every single person who joined the Thatchers Field Sales Team had a really good foundation of quality training to be the best they can be in their job.”  

The Solution

In 2019 Emma attended an Association of Professional Sales (now Institute of Sales Professionals ‘ISP’) Sales Apprenticeship conference in London hosted by the experienced Steve Radford, The JGA Group’s Head of Sales Apprenticeships. JGA’s programmes utilise Steve’s own 7-step sales methodology, previously used by consumer giants such as Unilever.

Emma describes JGA’s Sales Executive offering as “a perfect package. This Standard goes far beyond knowledge as to how to go out and have a sales conversation with a customer. It looks at the softer skills, as well as the commercial skills. There’s a lot in there about time management, resilience, personal safety, the psychology behind selling, communication styles, finance, and understanding balance sheets and cash flow.”

Thatchers Cider views an apprenticeship as a partnership between the employer, the training provider, and the employee. The company recognised that JGA prioritised that partnership, and once JGA had visited Thatchers, and absorbed the company’s ethos and methods of working, they spent a long time working with Thatchers, determining what was needed from the sales teams. Emma goes on to say, “They really understood what we were trying to achieve from this training programme. They understood our culture, understand our values, and listened to what we needed for our team.”

The Return on Investment

As a people-focused, family-owned company Thatchers retained their team through the pandemic and worked with JGA to accelerate their learning during furlough. This resulted post-furlough in a better trained, more motivated field sales team which has continued to increase the company’s market shares.

Emma then added, “Delivering our apprenticeship programme is a huge amount of responsibility, because we’re growing future leaders, we’re growing a Field Sales Team who are out there representing Thatchers… We think that we were very fortunate to be able to find a provider like JGA who were able to work with us in that way and wanted to make this a real partnership, rather than them being a standalone training provider.”

Following the success of the first cohort, a second started during the pandemic and between the two groups averaged better than 80% retention rate. The majority of completers have achieved Distinction grades. In 2021 Thatchers decided that all new eligible starters in their field sales team would be enrolled onto the JGA sales apprenticeship programme with 15 starts expected in 2022.

Steve Radford commented “the consumer goods industry has been the bedrock of JGA’s sales apprenticeships. Thatchers has a great people culture and sees sales apprenticeships as a major contributor to their short and medium, as well as long term sales growth.”