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10 Step Distributor Identification Methodology

Export Solutions has completed more than 300 Distributor Search projects on 5 continents. Below is our process for identifying, evaluating, and partnering with strong Distributor candidates. Read Select your Distributors, Do Not let your Distributors Select you !

1. Define your Ambition for the target Country

Partner selection may vary based upon whether you plan a major investment to gain category leadership or are content with opportunistic, incremental shipments on a low investment basis.

2. Establish Partner Selection Criteria

Does your company enjoy better success with large,power,distributors? Or Small entrepreneurs willing to pioneer a brand with zero existing sales? Do you prefer to work with category specialists representing other brands in your segment: Confectionery & Snack,Beverage,Gourmet etc.? Or do you align with distributors specializing in brands from your home country? Germany,Italy, Spain, UK,USA,France,Brasil,Mexico etc.?

3. Identify a Pool of Potential Candidates

Export Solutions distributor database tracks more than 8,000 distributors in 96 Countries. This translates to an average of 74 distributors per country (ex. USA). Normally, we create a short list of 5-10 distributors based upon our company ambition and preferred distributor model. Click here to purchase access to our Distributor database.

4. Determine Candidates Interest Level

Send a brief summary of your company credentials to the 5-10 most promising candidates. You must follow with a phone call to your top candidates within 48 hours. Distributors expressing an interest should complete a brief company overview recapping their corporate capababilities. Click here for a one page sample Distributor Data Sheet template.

5. Schedule a Meeting in the Distributors Office

Normally, we recommend interviewing at least three candidates depending on the size and scope of a project.Schedule the meeting 4-6 weeks in advance. Provide a specific agenda at least 2 weeks in advance, including pre-work such as category market analysis. Meet the distributor ’s team that would work on your business, as well as senior management. A distributor ’s office provides clues on company culture, scale, and capabilities.

6. Prepare Assessment Grid & your Company Presentation

Create a list of key questions to ask each candidate. Topics could include local category dynamics, cost of entry, and Distributor success stories. Create a standard grid to evaluate and compare all candidates on a common platform. Click here for sample questions for ten sample questions. The distributor will expect a complete presentation from you, especially what your investment plans are for his country.

7. Conduct Independent Store Checks

Visit target outlets for your product to observe category conditions. At the same time, evaluate each candidate’s performance for his existing clients. Do his current brands maintain a strong presence in the market? Or are his brands hard to find? Conduct these visits to leading retailers independently,as an accompanied visit may lead you to select stores which may not be representative of marketplace reality.

8. What is their Proposed Plan ? 

Potential partners should share their year one plan, What is their action plan for developing your brand ? Priority items, size of prize estimates,investments required, price calculations,timelines and success benchmarks.

9. Run Credit report and Check References

Request references of 5 of the distributors top 10 clients. Call at least three references and request insights into performance and capabilities. Acknowledge that these are likely to be positive references, but they always provide significant value. Run a Dun & Bradstreet or Equifax credit report on final candidates.

10. Invite Top Choice to your Corporate Headquarters

The visit should include meetings with senior management, factory tour, launch planning, and mutual commitment. The trip serves as an important bonding and relationship building experience between your company and your new partner.

Click here to access our 74 page Distributor Search Guide.

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