Getting More From Your Distributors
So the grand day has arrived. After much toing and froing you have landed that massive distributor and you can hardly wait to watch all of that dosh rolling into your corporate bank account. A quarter goes by, then six months has flown by, and before you know it a year has passed. Much to your horror you discover that the performance of your distributor has been seriously underwhelming.
Shock and dismay overwhelm you and you wonder how it is even remotely possible that such a grand alliance has resulted in such a poor increase in your revenues. It might be cold comfort to read this but distributor dysfunction happens with disturbing regularity. There are, however, a few things you can do to minimize the chances of distributor dysfunction keeping you from the growth you desire.
Assume that you are more excited than they
When you formalize an agreement with a distributor that is much larger than your company it’s important to understand that you are likely much more excited than they are about the opportunity. If your company is particularly small or relatively unknown you may well be perceived as dust on their windshield. Don’t be disappointed by this but accept it as reality.
Assume you are number 50 on their line card
It’s wise to assume you are number 50 on their line card and come up with a plan to help you increase your relative importance. If you manufacture Joe’s Drill Bits and your distributor has the distribution rights for Milwaukee Tools it should come as no surprise to you that your distributor in unlikely to be overly concerned about you.
Assume they can’t market your products
One of the best ways to have a distributor market your products is to tell the distributor you will spearhead (and possibly finance) the marketing of your products. I know this may seem counter-intuitive but if you want to control your own destiny and rate of growth you must manage your own marketing.
Assume they can’t sell your products
It’s very worth your while to offer sales training to your distributor’s sales representatives. While they may well have their own sales techniques, they need to understand your sales techniques. To put it another way, if their sales representatives are ultimately an extension of your sales force they must use the same techniques that you utilize in your own company. Additionally, you must be prepared to send your salespeople out with your distributors for pioneering work or for sales calls on key accounts.
I like to tell my industrial marketing consulting clients it can be very beneficial to view distributors primarily as a superior access vehicle on the basis of geography or their pre-existing business relationships and contacts.
Ultimately distributors have access to the contacts you need through the strength of their relationships. If your aim is to grow your business this is a start but the rest is really up to you.