• Jim Fanshawe

Getting the best out of your distributors


You've identified your next export market and have established that using a distributor is the best route to market for you.

What now?

This may sound obvious, but first of all don't assume that finding a distributor will mean guaranteed success in the market.

So here are just a few things to consider when working with distributors. If you have any questions about any of this then get in touch and we'll be happy to help.

Before you appoint a distributor:

  1. Draw up criteria of what attributes your ideal overseas partner should have. Categorise them into importance level. This is critical for starting the project off on a sound basis.

  2. Don't be tempted to just go for the biggest.

  3. Lay out clearly what you are prepared to offer the distributor and what you realistically expect from them.

  4. Think very carefully about the Exclusivity issue, weighing up the pros and cons. It WILL come up as a topic so don't ignore it and be prepared for the discussion.

  5. Before spending loads on getting a distributor agreement prepared, think carefully how you would plan to use it.

When appointing a distributor

  1. You can do a certain amount by desk research, Skype, phone, email etc but visiting them is a must. Seeing their premises and meeting other members of staff gives a better understanding of their business. Visiting the market means you can also directly compare your shortlist against each other more meaningfully.

  2. Establish whether they really get your brand - not just your product. There's a massive difference. Are you just A.N.Other product in their catalogue or lined up to represent x% of their turnover within 3 years.

  3. Be fully prepared with all the information, facts and figures a good distributor would expect you to have. Remember this is a two way process and a good distributor will only want to work with the best suppliers.

  4. Remember your due diligence or "Know Your Customer" procedure. How much background information can you get on your potential partner?

  5. Clearly know your red lines for the negotiation phase but also think about how you can make your product as appealing as possible for your potential partner. What's their incentive for pushing your brand a lot harder than anything else they have in their portfolio?

Working with distributors post appointment

  1. Train them, educate them and immerse them in your brand

  2. Get them to your premises and visit them regularly to gain momentum.

  3. Show the overseas market that you are fully invested and supportive of the market by going on sales visits with your distributor.

  4. Have ambitious targets but express them as joint targets and not just the distributors targets. Discuss how you collaborate to make sure the targets are met.

  5. You know your product, brand and capabilities, your distributor knows the local market and has the sales connections. How are these strengths going to be applied together?

  6. Have regular reviews, face to face wherever possible.

  7. Show your human side. It's a relationship - so build it and invest in it by spending time with your distributor and socialise as appropriate with them.

This is by no means a complete list and we understand that there is a lot more to it than this little snippet but hopefully it will get you thinking. For more complete assistance with finding, appointing and developing overseas distributors and to benefit from Your Export Department's extensive experience in this field give us a call on 01394 802046.


Happy Exporting!


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