What do manufacturers look for in a distributor?

109For a manufacturer your distributors are the face of your company. They can either enhance your brand with your ultimate customers, or detract from it. In a crowded market, a good distributor can set your product head and shoulders above the competition. Everything they do reflects on you, so it is vital that you develop strong successful partnerships that optimise both organisations’ sales and performance.

A professional, effective distributor can also serve as a profound differentiator for your product. You should look for a distributor who has an established network of clients and a good reputation for results.

Do not assume that distributors are interested in switching existing customers to your brand at the point of sale. Your product should have its own unique selling points.

Be sure your appointed distributors draw a distinction between selling and taking orders. Anyone can answer the phone, take an order and deliver it, but you need your distributor to be out there, doing whatever it takes to build your brand.

What should the manufacturer offer the distributor?

Distributors live and die by the margins they make from the products they sell. They will put the most effort into the products that deliver them the best return on their investment of money, time and people – taking the line of least resistance .They must, to survive and prosper. So make it worthwhile for them to sell your product, rather than someone else’s. They need to cover their costs and earn a profit.

It is important not to take their efforts for granted. A good distributor will find their services in demand and will be constantly offered the opportunity to take on a new range or a new supplier. Keep them interested by offering Distributor incentives and prizes, newsletters and constant support in the form of visits and updates. All of this will help ensure your distributors focus effort on your products.

Managing distributor relationships.

It is sometimes worth looking for a specialist distributor, who will understand the needs of their customers, have an established market and customer base and know where the potential lies in their territory.

Treat your distributor as a partner. Arrange the financials so that you each share in the others success. What is beneficial for one is beneficial for both. Build your partnership.

But also treat them as employees in terms of keeping them up to date with product development, company plans, and marketing plans. They’re your front line, and will have a good idea what clients reactions will be to new proposals

But remember although they are not your customer, they can offer you good feedback about the market and their customers. They are nearer to their domestic market, in every sense, than you are. Listen to their feedback, and act on it.

Give them resources that help them run their business more effectively and help them succeed in the marketplace, especially in terms of staff training

Evaluating and managing distributor performance is often difficult, but is necessary to enable effective performance management and goal achievement. Distributors that underperform may not be fulfilling your brand promise, quality, or service, and are likely to hold back future sales increases.

Ask for end customer feedback to help get an insight into their performance .Make sure they have the best salespeople. They are your brand ambassadors, so it is your business. Offer distributors tools that make it easier for them to employ and train the very best sales management and salespeople.