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Insights to Accelerate International Expansion
Distributor Search Guide
Our Mission: Help Manufacturers “Spend time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
In This Issue
Sell to 96 Countries
Looking for new customers and
distributors in international markets?
Export Solutions’ distributor database
covers more than 9,200 distributors in
96 countries. Our database features
extensive coverage of leading food,
confectionery, and beverage distributors.
New! Export Solutions’ retailer database
now tracks 2,700 retailers in 96 countries.
Order now at www.exportsolutions.com.
Locating a strong local partner to
sell your brand is never easy. Export
Solutions has worked on more than
300 distributor identification projects
in 96 countries. We share every brand
owner’s frustration on the lack of
responsiveness to email and phone
inquiries. The reality is that pioneering
a new brand today is difficult for the
distributor too. As a result, distributors
are searching for unique brands,
supported by investment in marketing
and trade development activities. Your
professional first approach to a potential
distributor makes a big difference in a
creating a positive environment to
conduct business.
The objective of this guide is to share
practical tips for international distributor
identification projects. Export Solutions
desires to add more value to your
company than simply providing you
the lists of distributors for each country
or category. Export Solutions’ goal is to
share strategies, ideas, and best practices
that have helped other brands succeed
in building export sales. Ultimately, the
potential of your brand must attract
the distributor. Our Distributor Search
Guide helps enhance your “Export
Readiness” to target the right type
of distributor to build your brand.
Distributor Search Guide from Export Solutions
3 History of Success pioneering other
international brands
3 Strong retail presence for current brands handled
3 Logical launch plan, category analysis,
and cost structure
3 Positive references from existing brands
and Dun & Bradstreet
3 Enthusiastic about your brand and the business
Greg's Guidance:
Distributor Assessment Criteria
Page 4
Select Your Distributors, Do Not Let Your
Distributors Select You!
Page 17
FAQs – Distributor Database
Page 26
10 Questions for Every Distributor Interview
Page 32
Ten Tips: Getting Better Results
with Big Distributors
Page 43
Export Solutions Celebrates 16 Years!
Page 55
How to Excite Buyers
New Product Checklist
Page 63
Six Questions Regarding your
Distributor Pricing Calculation
Page 80
Big Distributors vs. Small Distributors:
Your Best Bet
2022 marks the fifteen year anniversary of
the launch of Export Solutions’ distributor
database. Many of my friends from export
will recall the story behind the birth. I was
faced with the challenge of identifying
distributor candidates in Italy for a large
multinational. I attacked the project the
“old way”: sorting through business cards,
checking the Embassy, calling colleagues, searching the internet, and after one
month finding five acceptable distributor candidates. Frustrated by the process,
I took six months off and pioneered the first industry database created from the
standpoint of an export manager. Today, brand owners locate names, web sites,
brands represented, and contact information for 105 distributors in Italy and
9,200 distributors across 96 countries in about 10 seconds on my web site.
Below are some important “lessons learned” about finding distributors.
1. 85 Distributors Per Country
Each country offers more distributor options than you think. Every government trade
officer and export manager knows the names of 3-5 distributors per country. Often, we
stick with an underperforming distributor because of the misconception that “there are
no other choices” in a market. Our country lists track an average of 85 distributors of all
sizes and specialties per country. The revelation is that you can instantly find several
qualified distributor options in every country by using our database.
2. Consider Small/Mid Size Distributors
Mega distributors representing 20 or more brands are not usually interested in
pioneering new brands with zero sales. These large distributors are excellent, but are
busy enough with their current portfolio. Many new brands focus their energies on these
“name brand” distributors, but are frustrated with the lack of response. Better approach
is to pursue small to mid size distributors that are hungrier and more entrepreneurial to
launch a new brand. Big distributors are a good choice when you are outsourcing sales
of a brand with measurable existing business.
3. Email Plus Telephone Call
No one speaks these days. We email 100 messages a day and wonder about the lack of
response. Email is a great to tool to communicate news. However, when you need action,
pick up the phone and call. Executives still return phone calls, but will frequently ignore
or delete email messages just to clear the inbox.
4. Rethink Your Trade Show Strategy
Trade shows like Sial, Anuga, Cibus, and ISM are outstanding places to gain visibility for your
brand and contacts with potential new distributors. However, too many brands use the “Hope
and Wait” approach at their booth. Unfortunately, many of the spontaneous visitors at a trade
show are from “time wasters”, incapable of building your brand. Some of our best success
stories come from companies who leverage Export Solutions’ database to create productive
meetings at trade shows. Basically, they pre-screen candidates from the database in advance
of a trade show and invite the most promising ones to scheduled meetings at the show.
5. Avoid Disappointment Visit Each Market At Least Once
There are too many disappointments in the world of export. Frequently, I’ll witness a
distributor meeting a brand owner for the first time at a trade show. Within five minutes
they are discussing pricing, followed by exaggerated projections of market potential. Our
business is fairly straight forward to figure out. Visit each market at least one time. Meet
your distributor candidates at their office. Visit a few stores. Then create your plan. Export
is tough, but you increase your chances for success when you complete fundamental in
market due diligence.
Distributor Search 2022
Greg Seminara
“Spend Time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
Strategic Services
Contact Us for
Export Solutions
1. Identify Best in Class
Distributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor
96 Countries
7. Walmart International
8. Distributor Contracts,
Margins, and Fees
9. Meeting Speaker
10. International
Strategy Expert
Strategic Services
Contact Us for
Export Solutions
1. Identify Best in Class
Distributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor
96 Countries
7. Walmart International
8. Distributor Contracts,
Margins, and Fees
9. Meeting Speaker
10. International
Strategy Expert
1. Determine Brand Ambition for Country
Will your brand be a category leader,
player, or niche participant?
2. Establish Distributor Selection Criteria
Big brand distributor, category specialist,
or smaller entrepreneur?
3. Create a Pool of Candidates
Export Solutions’ database tracks 9,200
distributors in 96 countries.
4. Determine Candidates Preliminary
Interest Level
Send introductory email, followed by
phone call within 48 hours.
5. Introductory Web Interview
One hour meeting to share credentials
and confirm interest.
6. Local Interview at Distributor’s Office
4-6 weeks lead time. 2 hour meetings.
Send advance agenda and samples.
7. Independent Store Checks
Provides category insights and real distributor
performance for current brands handled.
8. Interview Preparation: Scorecard, Samples,
Your Presentation, Key Questions
Export Solutions’ templates: Assessment
Scorecard & Ten Questions for Every Interview
9. Distributor Interviews Target 3 Candidates
Review capabilities, warehouse and interest
in your brand.
10. Cooperation Model
What is the plan? Year one plan, pricing
calculation, and timeline.
10 Step Distributor Search Process
Looking for Good Distributors?
Export Solutions’ database covers
9,200 distributors in 96 countries.
How many emails do you receive a week from “distributors”
wishing to represent your brand? How much of your trade
show time is wasted on impromptu meetings with enthusiastic
“traders” who make bold promises, but never order? Why are
we surprised when you search these companies on the internet
to discover there is no information or a web site “under
construction?” Many companies’ distributor networks contain
these small, anonymous distributors who aggressively pursued
a famous brand, but rarely deliver. Give them an “A” for effort,
but distributor search must include proper due diligence of all
potential candidates, not just the small one chasing you.
Do you believe that the best distributors are waiting in line
at trade shows or speed dialing export managers? The most
powerful distributors are busy building brands for their existing
partners. However, all distributors are open to representation of
new companies. In fact, many of the more strategic distributors
assign a brand manager to new business development. This
senior person is dedicated to evaluating new company
representation inquiries like yours.
Hiring the right local partner is the third most important step
in optimizing your sales. This follows creating a differentiated
product and willingness to invest in marketing support. Listed
below are some practical tips on selecting the right company
to optimize your business in a new country.
Identify a Pool of Preliminary Candidates
Create a large group of potential candidates. This could include
distributors or local producers of related products. Include
qualified candidates that have emailed or visited at a trade fair.
Highlight companies that are specialists in the market sector that
you are aiming at. Export Solutions streamlines this process with
our industry leading distributor database containing an average
of 85 distributors (large and small) per country.
Establish Partner Selection Criteria
What are the key attributes of your most successful distributors?
Category specialization? Multi channel coverage? Synergy with
related brands? Choosing a large “Best in Class” partner versus
a “Small, Hungry” company willing to pioneer a new brand is
an important preference.
Determine Candidates Preliminary Interest Level
Send a brief summary of your product proposition and company
credentials to the 5-10 most promising candidates. An immediate
follow-up phone call to your top candidates is an appropriate
personal connection. Distributors expressing an interest should
complete a brief company overview recapping their corporate
capabilities: Sales, Coverage, Key Principals, etc.
Schedule a Meeting in the Candidate’s Office
Interview 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 3 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.
Prepare Distributor Assessment Grid
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. Contact us for our free
Distributor Search Guide with assessment grids, agendas,
sample questions and templates for every aspect of the
distributor search process.
Independent Evaluation of Candidates Performance for Existing Brands
Visit supermarkets and other retailers 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 on the shelf? Complete these visits to leading retailers
independently, as an accompanied trip may lead you to check
stores which may not be representative of marketplace reality.
What is the Distributor’s Plan?
If selected, what is the distributors Year One plan? Customer
targets, price calculation, marketing plan, volume expectations?
Timeline and benchmarks? Key issues? Resources required?
Does their plan align with your vision and the size of the
market opportunity?
Reference Checks Represent an Important Next Step
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 other type of credit report on leading candidates.
See Distributor Assessment template on page 31.
Companies conduct rigorous assessments before hiring new
employees. A higher level of intensity must be displayed during
the distributor search process When you choose a distributor,
you are selecting a whole team to represent your company in
a country, not just one individual.
Export Solutions’ Motto: Select your distributors, do not let
your distributors select you.
Select Your Distributors, Do Not Let Your Distributors Select You!
Export Solutions’ New Distributor Checklist
____ Contract/Agreement
____ Price Calculation Model
____ Business Plan: objectives, marketing,
spending, key dates
____ Category Review: Pricing, Shelf,
Assortment, Merchandising
____ Label Compliance
____ Shelf Life
____ Order Lead Time
____ Minimum Order
____ Pick up Point
____ Payment Terms
____ Payment Currency
____ Damage Policy
____ Product Registration
____ Forecast: Year 1
____ Pipeline Order & Inventory
____ Brand Facts
____ Product Samples
____ Appointment Letter
____ Brand Specifications in System:
Distributor & Customers
____ Training: Key Account Managers,
Retail, Administrative Staff, Warehouse
____ In Store Standards: Pricing, Shelf
Management, Merchandising
____ FAQs/Handling Common Objections
____ Key Account Presentation
____ Customer Appointment Dates
____ Category/Business Review:
Tailored to Each Key Account
____ Retail Sales Contest
____ Checkpoint Calls
____ Market Audit Date
____ Reporting: Track Distribution, Pricing,
Shelf Positioning, Merchandising, etc.
Talk to an Expert
Find Distributors in 96 Countries
International Strategy Road Map
Fix Problem Markets
Entry Plans
Export Workshops
Motivational Meeting Speaker
Contact Greg Seminara at (001)-404-255-8387 to discuss your business development project.
Distributor Search Best Practices
Activity Bad Practice Best Practice
Distributor Profile No portfolio synergies.
Representing similar size,
premium brands from your
Candidate Model
Agent or third party not based
in destination country.
Distributor of international,
third party brands.
Web Site None! Watch out.
Modern/informative site.
Lists current companies
Candidate Selection Evaluate one candidate only.
Consider 3-5 candidates,
depending on complexity.
First Contact
Random solicitation by
unknown company.
Trade show or formal phone
meeting with respected
Market Visit
Start partnership without
market visit.
Local assessment: office
meeting, warehouse inspection.
Store Check
No store check to validate
distributor capabilities.
Full day store check to measure
results for existing brands.
Reference Check
No financial or commercial
Check current principals plus
financial institutions (D & B).
Year I Plan No plan. “Buy and ReSell.”
Logical plan with targets,
activities, timelines, costs.
Price Calculation
Sell at dead net price.
Arbitrary mark-up.
Transparent price calculation
from factory to store shelf.
Exporter Data Sheet
What Distributors want to Know about Your Company
Key Contact: Telephone:
Web Site: Email:
Founding Date: Ownership:
Annual Sales: Total Employees:
0-$50 million $50 million - $250 million $250 million- $1 billion $1 billion +
% Sales International:
0-10% 10-25% 26-50% 50% +
Exporter Classification/Description:_________________________ (#1-10, based upon Export Solutions’ scale)
Core Product Range:
Unique Selling Point:
Market Share:
Home Country: Country A: Country B: Country C:
Current Business in Distributor’s Country: Yes/No: Size $:
Current Customers (Distributor’s Country):
Investment Model: Listing Fees*: Yes/No *average $35 per item,per store
Trade Promotion Budget: Dead net price: 10% of sales: Mass:
Marketing: Digital: Sampling: 360 degree:
Ambition/Size of Prize: Sales: Market Share:
Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Exporter Data Sheet
What Distributors want to Know about Your Company
New Business Opportunity: _____________________________________
(Company Name/Country)
Big Brand Distributors
Large distributors supply an economical
alternative for leading brand manu-
facturers versus operating their own
subsidiary. Normally, they handle
multiple categories and offer critical
mass. A potential issue is the struggle
for attention among brands all vying
for focus from one sales team.
Category Expert
Buyers value partners that serve as
category experts who can share insights
and innovation for the sector. Distributors
dedicated to one sector provide logistics
efficiencies and capability to share best
practices from complimentary products.
Managing product conflicts is a frequent
problem with distributors concentrated
on only one category.
Channel Expert
Many distributors built their business
platform centered on servicing the
supermarket channel. Incremental growth
today is dependent on penetrating under-
served channels such as foodservice,
small shops, or pharmacy. In larger
countries, it’s possible to maintain one
organizational approach for supermarkets
and then appoint a specialist for a
different channel. Alternate channels
normally feature smaller store footprints
which can provide a barrier to entry for
all but the leading brands.
Country Expert
Some distributors have created viable
businesses as the source for brands from
one country. These distributors supply
brands to consumers “homesick” for
their favorite brands at a premium
price. A benefit with this option is
the distributor who can consolidate
shipments from one country and
is connected with the retailers and
consumers for this “expat” segment. This
approach works well for niche products
or brands focused on availability without
marketing investment.
Fine Food Importer
Food enthusiasts everywhere are
passionate about the gourmet experience.
Fine dining restaurants are dependent on
unique products and ingredients from
around the world. The classic fine food
importer fulfills this role. Fine Food
importers seek brands of the highest
quality, with unique attributes and
reputation. Not an option for
commodities or “me-too” type products.
Niche Entrepreneur
Pioneering a brand with no existing
sales is tough in any country. While many
brands would prefer partnering with a
prestigious specialist, the reality is that
a smaller distributor may be your best
option to start. Niche entrepreneurs are
hungry and flexible to work without
significant resources supplied by the
brand. It is important to calibrate your
expectations when working with a niche
entrepreneur and conduct due diligence
on their financial situation.
Evaluate Your Current Distributor Mix
A valuable exercise is to evaluate your
current roster of distributors “by type.”
Which models are delivering superior
results? Which models are lagging
behind? Are there any universal
conclusions which may apply when you
expand to new markets or considering a
distributor change? One type does not fit
all scenarios. However, it is important to
segment your partners and understand
the inherent strengths and issues with
different types of distributor partners.
All distributors are not created equally! Most exporters recognize obvious differences based upon the size of distributor and breadth
of service offering. Export Solutions has identified six common types of distributor business models. Global brands maintain a mix of
distributor relationships. Some partnerships are new while others have evolved for thirty years or more. With time, requirements for
servicing our industry have changed. While some distributors have remained generalists, handling many brands and channels. Others
elected to focus against a specific market segment. Which model delivers the best result for your brand?
Distributor Types: Different Experts for Different Situations
Distributor Types: Different Experts for Different Situations
Distributor Type Model Application
Big Brand Distributor
Large Distributors.
Handles # 1 or # 2 brands.
Multiple categories/channels.
Outsourcing solution. Option for
Latin America, Middle East, Asia,
Europe (excluding large countries)
Category Expert Dedicated to one category
Specialists for Confectionery, Frozen, OTC,
Beverages, Natural Foods, Dairy, Beauty
Channel Expert Dedicated to one channel
Specialists for Foodservice, “small shops”,
or Pharmacy channels
Country Expert
Represents brands exclusively
from one country/region
Specialist for Brands from USA, UK, Germany,
Asia, Italy, or Spain
Fine Food Importer
Represents leading international
gourmet/niche brands.
Handles brands like Tabasco, Maille, Bonne
Maman, Twinings, Bahlsen, Ryvita
Niche Entrepreneur
Small distributor.
Willing to pioneer new brands
with limited marketing support
Option for small brands or countries where
brand does not want to invest.
Export Passport
Strategic Export
Development Program
Strategic Export
Development Program
Export Passport
Export Passport
Distributor Search Challenge
Some distributors are too big…
Other distributors are too small!
Export Passport identifies
Prime Prospect distributors
that represent the Right Fit
Exporter Classification*
Type Description
Export Profile
10 Multinational Strong market share everywhere across multiple categories.
9 Global Multinational. Mix of leading countries and niche participation.
8 Category Champion One core mass category. Strong performance globally.
7 Icon Well known, niche leader. Global availability. Example: Tabasco.
6 Regional Leader Strong share across one continent/region. Some export success.
5 National Hero National treasure, #1 brand. Exports to homesick expats, tourists.
4 Player Respectable share in home country. Opportunistic exports.
3 Participant “Me too” product. Opportunistic exports. “Trader”/private label.
2 Challenger Innovator. Some listings in home country. New to export.
1 Start-up Trying to get traction in home country. Export “dreamer.”
*Export Solutions’ classification system
Distributor Classification*
Stars Title Description Prime Prospects
Massive distributor.
Handles multinational/#1
brands across many
Brand leaders.
$$$ marketing budgets.
Exporter types: 6-10
Category Captain.
Handles leading brands in
one segment.
$$ marketing budgets.
Exporter types: 5-9
Mid-size distributor.
Handles #2/3 brands or
niche leaders across many
premium brands.
$-$$ marketing budgets.
Exporter types: 4-7
Respected local.
Diversified product
Results equal to investment.
Flexible, challenger brands.
$ marketing budget.
Exporter types: 2-4
Small distributor.
Entrepreneurial, open to
innovative new companies.
Start-up brands.
“Pay as you go” marketing.
Exporter types: 1-3
Need more information? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
*Export Solutions’ classification system
Distributor Search Helper for:
Can We Help You?
Recent Distributor Search Projects
Asia Europe Middle East Latin America
Australia Germany Israel Argentina
China Ireland Kuwait Brazil
Indonesia Netherlands Qatar Colombia
Japan Nordics Saudi Arabia Costa Rica
Malaysia Spain UAE Ecuador
Philippines United Kingdom North America Mexico
Singapore Africa Canada Panama
South Korea South Africa United States Peru
Call the Export Accelerator!
Contact Greg Seminara at greg@exportsolutions.com
to discuss your business development project.
Distributor Selection Road Map
Export Solutions Performs Distributor Search in 96 Countries
Most companies maintain diverse distributor networks: A mix of large and small distributors, category
specialists, and those focusing on brands from your home country. Export Solutions recommends performing
a distributor model analysis of your current distributors to determine which type of distributor is delivering
“Best in Class” results. An important consideration is your brand ambition and investment level for a country
when evaluating distributor performance. The results of your distributor model assessment can be used to
guide new distributor selection or upgrade your current distributor network. Export Solutions can help!
Brand Ambition
Country Importance Strategic Priority Opportunistic
Brand Market Share
Leader Player Niche
Brand Investment Model Mass Marketing 10% of Sales Dead Net Price
Distributor Selection Criteria
Preferred Distributor
Large Medium Small
Channel Specialization Supermarkets Foodservice Pharmacy
Category Specialization All Food
& Snack
Gourmet Natural Food Health & Beauty
Ethnic Food Frozen/Chilled Household/Non Food
Country Specialization USA France Germany
Italy Spain United Kingdom
Asia Latin America Middle East
Benchmark Brands
Pringles Barilla Tabasco
Export Solutions recommends creating your own one page Export Distributor fact sheet template. Insist that all candidates
complete the template 100 percent prior to a phone interview or trade show meeting. Pay particular attention to the annual
sales number, brands represented and manufacturer references. Qualified candidates will enthusiastically complete these
sections. “Pretenders” or time wasters will leave these sections blank or disappear saving you time and money!
Export Distributor Data Sheet:___________________________________
Key Contact: Telephone:
Web Site: Email:
Annual Sales: Total Employees:
Employees, by Function:
Key Account Sales Logistics Marketing Merchandising
Company Owned Warehouse: Yes No
If Yes Warehouse Size: Location:
Channel Coverage (percent sales by channel):
Supermarket Convenience Foodservice E-commerce
Top Five Manufacturer Clients:
Company Name Brands Represented Years Service
Manufacturer references:
Company Name Contact Name Contact Telephone Contact Email
Why are you interested in distributing our brand?
Why is your company the best candidate to represent our brand in the market?
Feel free to attach your company credentials presentation.
(Distributor Name)
Coverage: 96 countries and 9,200 distributors
Confectionery & Snack
Gourmet/Ethnic Foods
Beverage (Ambient & Hot)
USA, German, UK, Italian Food
Health & Beauty
Tracking Distributors for more than 300
of the world’s most famous brands.
Example 1: Who are Beverage Distributors
in Germany?
Example 2: Who is the Pringles Distributor
in Saudi Arabia?
Distributor Search Made Simple
Search by Brand NameSearch by Country
Search By Category
Combo Search
Why did you create the distributor database?
Export Managers dedicate a lot of time to
networking, always searching for good
distributor recommendations. We waste
precious time at trade shows speaking to
“pretenders” with no hope of adequately
representing our brands. I thought that
the supermarket industry could benefit
from a global distributor database to
instantly find the leading distributors
in any country.
How did you compile the distributor database?
Export Solutions sources distributor
candidates using six specific strategies.
This includes having access to the global
distributor lists of more than 300 brands
and store checks in at least 25 countries
per year.
How accurate is the contact data?
Export Solutions’ distributor database is
updated every day! Distributor company
names, web sites, and specialization rarely
change. This makes the database 98%
accurate at the company level. The
distributors’ key contact for new product
inquiries and their email addresses may
change as a result of job moves. Email
address accuracy ranges from 80-90
percent depending on the country. We
employ three separate mechanisms to
keep up to date with changes.
What’s new?
Our database has expanded to 96 countries
and 9,200 distributors. It’s now searchable,
supplying country and category filter
inputs or brand names! (see details on
page 16). We also offer 90 day access if you
purchase a country or category list. This
allows you to work online and enjoy “one
click access” to distributors’ web sites.
Naturally, we prefer that you purchase an
annual subscription with unlimited access
to the entire database for one year.
What is the difference between
Export Solutions’ distributor database
and other “lists?”
1. Created by industry export
professionals, not directory aggregators
or other online companies with no
relevant food/consumer goods
industry experience.
2. Each distributor is personally validated
by Greg Seminara. Distributors can not
self register or pay to be in our database.
We know the difference between a “best in
class” distributor and a “one man show.”
3. Our distributor database is designed
for manufacturers of branded products
normally sold through supermarkets,
pharmacies, and food service channels.
We do not include distributors of
commodities or ingredients.
4. Call us! Our specialization is
distributor search, with 300+ projects
completed. Contact us for a free copy
of our 84 page Distributor Search Guide.
5. Our database is searchable by country,
category specialization, brand name, or
combination of all three filters.
Which type of companies use our database?
Database clients range from small start-
ups to the largest companies in food
and consumer goods. Export Solutions’
database has had more than 3,000 clients
including brand owners from all over
the world. Leading government trade
organizations from USA, Italy, Germany,
and Brasil also develop special
agreements to gain access.
What product categories are covered?
Distributors include specialists for
branded food products, confectionery
& snacks, beverage, natural foods,
gourmet products, ethnic food, health
and beauty care products, household
products, and general merchandise.
We offer oustanding coverage of Italian
Food distributors. Many distributors can
handle any product that is normally sold
through Supermarkets, Convenience,
Foodservice/Catering, or Pharmacy
trade channels.
What are best practices in getting the most
productivity from the database?
Successful companies use the database
to screen companies to develop a top 5
list of high potential candidates. They
send a short introductory email with
a web link to their company site. Then,
the export manager follows up with
a phone call within 48 hours. The
database is an excellent tool to invite
potential candidates to an international
trade show like Sial, Anuga, ISM or
Sweets and Snacks. Note: mass mailing
distributors usually generates less than
desirable results.
Does Export Solutions provide any
additional information on the distributors?
Export Solutions knows many of the
distributors in our database. Clients
of our Premium Subscription or Talk
to An Export Expert Services can gain
access to our insights via phone on the
best distributor candidates in any of
the 96 countries we cover.
How do I access the distributor database?
Visit www.exportsolutions.com and
click the distributor database page.
You can place a subscription or country
or category access into a shopping cart.
Register and check out via credit card.
The process takes two minutes and we
automatically send you an invoice.
FAQ’s Distributor Database
Every export manger has performed
the time consuming function of reaching
out to potential distributor candidates
in a new country. The process is usually
successful, but requires patience and
perseverance. Top distributors are
overwhelmed with new representation
inquiries. These requests must compete
for attention with the hundreds of emails
in the distributors inbox from his existing
brands. Export Solutions has worked on
more than 300 distributor search projects
across 96 countries. Below are our Best
Practices for contacting new distributors.
Email Plus Phone Call
Email candidates a short, fact based, note.
You may receive an immediate response
from a few hungry and motivated
candidates. More likely scenario is the
need for an immediate phone follow-up.
Work with the contact’s assistant to
schedule a phone meeting or ask to speak
with the person in charge of “important
new business” projects. Periodically, I will
also contact a distributor through
LinkedIn, as that often routes through a
different email address. Lack of response
after several attempts means that the
distributor is not interested. On the other
hand, you must persevere as frequently
the boss may be busy or not glued to
email like the rest of us.
Avoid Mass Mailing
Distributors recognize an email blast from
miles away, guaranteeing a low response
rate. Better to send a personal email,
mentioning the contact’s name, how you
found him and your rationale for contact,
i.e., “we are looking for a partner with a
strong track record building other USA
brands.” Target distributors which may
be a good fit based upon your investment
level and brand ambitions. For example,
large power distributors prefer brands
with strong marketing plans, while
smaller distributors appear more open
to pioneering promising new products
without giant spending budgets.
Company Credentials Information
Do not bombard a candidate with
attachments and PDFs of lovely
brochures prepared by an ad agency.
First, many people automatically delete
emails with attachments from people
they don’t know. Send PowerPoints
and project details only after you have
established contact.
What Distributors Want to Know
Distributors want to know who you
are: what is the size of your company,
brand USP (why are you different?)
international success, and plans
(investment strategy) for their market.
Distributors’ mindset is to quickly
calculate how much money they can
make representing your brand and how
tough will it be to sell to their customers!
Market Visit
Distributor response will be improved
if you request an introductory meeting
at their office. This demonstrates that
you are serious about the project and
interested in brand building, not just
selling a few containers. Try to visit at
least three distributors on your trip, more
if it is a large country or you anticipate a
“tough sell.” Schedule your visit at least
6-8 weeks in advance to guarantee
distributor availability.
Distributor Search Guide – Export Solutions
Export Solutions’ web site contains a free
84 page Distributor Search Guide. This
guide is jammed with strategies, ideas,
and templates to guide each step of the
distributor search process. Export
Solutions completes distributor search
projects for leading brands worldwide.
Contacting New Distributor Candidates Best Practices
Sample Introductory Email
Subject: New Business Opportunity – CerealCo* – USA
Dear Alexander:
CerealCo is a popular cereal brand from the USA.
Founded in 1960, 2022 sales will exceed $300 million
dollars. Our point of difference is that CerealCo offers
high quality gluten-free and organic cereals popular
with many modern consumers. CerealCo exports to
25 countries, including several in Asia.
We are now beginning the process of considering
partners for Indonesia. I understand that you have a
successful track record building other well known USA
grocery brands. Can we arrange an introductory web
meeting for Wednesday at 900 am? I am based in
Atlanta, Georgia, -12 hours versus Jakarta.
For more information, visit our web site at
Kind regards,
Greg Seminara
Export Manager
*Note: CerealCo is a fictitious company. Any resemblance to an
actual cereal company is coincidental.
Annual Sales:
$300 million US dollars in 2022
CerealCo founded in 1960…62 years old
Core Product Portfolio:
Breakfast Cereals – “Leader in Organic/Gluten-Free Cereals”
Web Site:
International Overview:
Direct sales to 25+ countries. Indirect sales to 50+ countries.
2021 International sales + 25%!
Southeast Asia Status:
CerealCo products available across Asia through a hybrid model
of partnerships, distributors and indirect sales through USA
consolidators. Current net sales of roughly $2 million dollars
in Asia Pacific.
CerealCo Objective:
Align with a distributor with strong brand building capabilities.
Develop a collaborative plan to grow business to comparable
levels to of our successful business in other Asia Pacific countries.
August Market Visit
CerealCo will visit Jakarta the week of August 1.
We will visit stores and meet potential partners to discuss
CerealCo plans.
*Note: CerealCo is a fictitious company. Any resemblance to an actual
cereal company is coincidental.
Company Fact Sheet (add your logo)
CerealCo* Summary Indonesia Example
Best Practices Contacting New Distributors
Do Don’t
Email Content
Short introductory email.
Company facts plus web link.
Lengthy email with
generic claims on
“why your brand is the best”
Email Delivery
Send on Monday.
Distributor has week to review
Send on Friday.
Email lost over the weekend.
Email Timing
Should arrive to distributor
at 2:00 pm his time.
After the morning rush.
8:00 am/9:00 am emails are
reviewed quickly and deleted
Phone Contact
Start calling 24 hours
after initial email.
Wait a week to call.
No attachments on first email.
Web link only.
Send PowerPoints or
pricing on first email
Constantly, if you believe
its a good candidate.
Wait for distributor to
contact you
In Country Meeting
Best opportunity to review
your brand proposition.
Create relationship without
market visit.
Breakthrough Contacting New Distributors
Looking for Good Distributors?
Export Solutions database covers
9,200 distributors in 96 countries.
Strong distributors are inundated with lengthy emails from brands searching for a qualified
partner. Distributors check their emails every ten minutes just like the rest of us. Brand owners
are frustrated by the lack of response to their generic, mass emails. Export Solutions works on
around 35 distributor search projects per year. This requires us to be experts at breaking through
the clutter to reach the distributor owner or manager in charge of new business projects.
Breakthrough Techniques
• Call immediately after email. Before 9:00 AM and after 4:00 PM are prime time.
• Receive an introduction from one of distributor’s existing suppliers.
• Request your local government trade officer make an introduction.
• Connect with distributor team members through LinkedIn.
• Stimulating subject line: New Business Opportunity – Leading XYZ Brand.
• Try mobile phone, WhatsApp, Skype, or better yet…a FedExed Letter!
• Work through managing director’s assistant to facilitate contact.
• Initiate contact through a distributor’s junior level team member.
• Hire local to handle contacts: Russia, China, Japan.
• Follow up: use at least 3 of the above tactics.
If no response after 3 days, this signals a clear lack of interest.
Are Distributors Interested in Your Brand?
High Interest Low Interest
Email Response
Immediate reply Delayed or no reply
CEO Engagement
Active participation Delegated to middle management
Scheduling Meeting
Flexible and easy Difficult. Conflicts.
Airport/Hotel Pick-Up
Offers to pick you up Take a taxi!
Meeting Presentation
Tailored. Prepared for you. Standard presentation
Category Research
Obtains data None
Competitive Review
Shares photos: store sets Informal comments
Store Visits
Organized/led by CEO Office meeting only
Obtains and tries samples Waits for you
Team Participation
3-6 people at meeting One person
Cell Phone
Shares private number Email address only
Addresses key issues No questions
Meets due dates Delays
Post Meeting Follow-up
Immediate and frequent None
Proposed Plan
Detailed and fact based Brief topline
Results Winner Second place?
I have conducted hundreds of distributor interviews for multinational companies: P&G, Nestle, General Mills, Duracell, Lindt, Tabasco,
Barilla, J&J, etc. Distributor candidates all claim enthusiasm and high interest in your brand. See Export Solutions’ checklist of clues to
measure true distributor interest level.
Americas Favorite Brands
Executive Board
Export Solutions Smuckers Tabasco
Greg Seminara, CEO Danny Berrios, President Megan Lopez, Vice-President
General Mills Sun-Maid
Eric Saint-Marc Carsten Tietjen
Advisory Board
Bazooka Candy Blue Diamond Bob’s Red Mill
Santiago Ricaurte Dale Tipple Jan Chernus
Bush Beans Campbells Church & Dwight
Dave Bauman Julio Gomez Arun Hiranandani
Ferarra Candy Heartland Idahoan
Daniel Michelena Tom Theobald Ryan Ellis
Johnsonville Sausage Kao USA Keurig Dr. Pepper
Cory Bouck Julie Toole Billy Menendez
Mizkan Reynolds Welch’s
Noel David Chris Corey Marc Rosen
19 Companies | 200+ Top Brands | $80 Billion Combined
View our activities for export managers – www.usafoodexport.com
What Distributors Want to Know ?
Strong distributors are overwhelmed by calls from brand owners looking for new partners. Distributors assess each opportunity
carefully, as any new brand must add incremental sales and profits and not distract from priorities from existing brands handled.
What is the “size of the prize” for the distributor?
Assessment Criteria Facts Rating (10 = Best)
Your company: size/reputation
Existing business: sales in distributors country?
If zero “current sales,” what is realistic expectation?
Brand’s USP…your point of difference/innovation?
Size of investment plan: Marketing and Trade?
Potential distributor revenues?margin?
How does the product taste? (or peform)
How attractive/compliant is the packaging?
Pricing relative to category?
Brand success story in an adjacent country?
Competition intensity in category?
Brand range complexity?Product shelf life?
Local market research? Syndicated data?
Will brand invest in marketing and social media?
Will this be a tough product to launch?
Can we grow with the brand owner?
Your brand: core distributor category or adjacency?
Will the export manager be good to work with?
Will we be proud/excited to represent this brand?
What is the “size of the prize?”
Distributor interviews can be compared to a first
date. There is no second date after a bad first date,
even if both parties are interested in each other.
On the other hand, a good distributor first
interview can lead to a lifelong relationship.
Listed below are Export Solutions’ ten tips on
enhancing the productivity of your distributor
interview process.
1. Schedule Interview With Four to Six Weeks Lead Time
This allows you to program several candiate
interviews on your preferred timeline. Long lead
times enhance the chance of distributor senior
management availability and provide sufficient
time for motivated distributors to research
your category.
2. Meeting Agenda
Send a meeting agenda three weeks in advance
of meeting. Typical discussion topics include
Distributor credentials, organization model,
coverage by channel, success stories, category
insights, and distributor margin philosophy.
3. Store Visits Pre-Interview
Export Solutions always conducts independent
store visits prior to our distributor interviews. This supplies
a snapshot of distributor’s performance for other international
brands. It also permits us to quickly become familiar with local
category dynamics, competitive activity, and pricing.
4. Distributor Assessment Grid/Questions
Prepare an assessment grid template highlighting and
weighting core assessment areas prior to your first interview.
Create a list of potential questions to be asked during the
meetings. Export Solutions provides free sample Distributor
Assessment grids and “10 Questions for Every Distributor
Interview” on our web site.
5. Distributor Presentation: Template or Tailored?
A key indicator of distributor enthusiasm is whether they
created a personal, tailored presentation for your meeting
or swapped brand logos and provided their “standard pitch.”
Best in class presentations allocate equal time for Distributor’s
CEO, functional heads, and your proposed first point of contact.
6. Your Company Presentation
Be prepared to share a 10-15 page presentation on your
company credentials. Stick to the key facts: company metrics,
product point of difference, export success stories, and plans
for the market. Bring plenty of samples for everyone to try.
Note that the distributor will ask for your presentation, so keep
it brief as you do not want a lengthy strategic presentation in
the hands of a distributor that is not selected.
7. Tour Distributors Office and Warehouse
Would you buy a house without visiting it? Distributor offices
and warehouses offer valuable clues to distributor activity,
head count, size, and professionalism. Your quick inspection
will validate that the distributor’s activities match claims from
their presentation.
8. What’s Their Plan?
A core question in a positive interview is “What would the
distributor’s plan be if we awarded them the business starting
next Monday?” This provides insights on their plans, timelines,
and process for transitioning and building new brands.
9. What Do You Like About Us?
A good way to measure distributor interest is to ask their
feedback on your opportunity towards the end of the meeting.
Framing the question from a positive point of view allows the
distributor to express interest or concerns.
10. Provide Homework Assignment
Conclude each positive meeting with a request for distributor
to provide a deeper category assessment and a suggested entry
or transition plan. Distributors should supply references for five
of their existing clients. An important insight will be the quality
and response time for completing the “homework.”
Ten Tips: Distributor Interview Preparation and Insights
Need more information? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
Agenda: New Distributor Interview
1. Distributor Capability
History, organizational model, coverage,
Companies represented.
2. Category Insights
Distributor observations and analysis
of your category? Category sales data?
Store check photos?
Gaps? Recommendations?
3. Success Story
Request example using a brand of similar
size to your brand. Success story could be
“Pioneering a New Brand” or Taking an
Existing Brand” to a higher level of sales.
4. Distributor Cost to Serve
General model of financial cost to serve
the market. Retailer costs for listing fees,
trade promotion plus everyday category
margin. Distributor margin estimate and
services included in margin.
5. Warehouse Visit
Check companies represented and
inventory, by brand, for accurate view.
6. Year 1 Action Plan
If distributor hired, what would be their
Year 1 action plan?
Note: More relevant for existing brand
looking to grow.
7. Brand Owners:
Company Credentials Presentation
Company History, product portfolio,
point of difference.
Share product samples.
8. Brand Owners:
Status/Plans for Country
Brand Ambition for the country.
Current distribution levels and pricing.
Planned investment level.
9. Next Steps
Determine mutual interest level.
Establish timeline, point person for
distributor and brand owner.
Prepare category review, year I plan,
and price calculation model.
Looking for Good Distributors?
Export Solutions’ database covers
9,200 distributors in 96 countries.
10 Questions for Every Distributor Interview
1.Company History
How long have you been in business? Who are the owners?
How many direct, “payrolled” employees do you have?
Approximate annual sales volume?
2. Company Brand Portfolio
What are your top 10 companies/brands represented?
For which channels do you represent each brand?
How long have you represented each brand?
Can you provide senior level references at each “brand owner”?
3. Key Account Buyers
Who is the buyer for our category at the largest retailers
in your market? What other brands do you sell to our buyer?
How frequently do you visit each major customer?
4. New Product Launch Success Story
Provide a recent example of a new brand launch success story.
Key retailer acceptance? Cost of entry? How long did it take?
Key elements of the success strategy?
5. Creative Selling
Provide an example where you took an assigned
marketing/brand support budget and created a successful
local program. How do you measure success?
6. Retail Servicing
How many full time employees do you have visiting retail
stores? Are they located countrywide or just in the capital city?
How do you measure a “good store” in terms of brand presence
versus a “bad store”? Describe your retail reporting system.
7. People
Who would be our point of first contact? Would our contact also
“sell” our brands to major accounts? What other brands is our
contact responsible for? How do we insure that we get our fair
share of attention from your sales force?
8. Business Planning Model
What would your action plan be if we made an agreement to
start with your company? First steps? 90 Day Plan? Reporting?
9. Cost to Serve
How do you model your distributor margin? Range of margin
for our brands? Are you open to promotional spending
split (50/50)?
10. Enthusiasm for our Company
Why is our brand a good match for your company?
Why are you the best partner in the market for our brand?
What commitment are you willing to make?
Talk to an Expert
International Strategy Road Map
Fix Problem Markets
Entry Plans
Find Distributors in 96 Countries
Export Workshops
Motivational Meeting Speaker
Contact Greg Seminara at (001)-404-255-8387 to discuss your business development project.
Distributor Search Made Simple 96 Countries
Contact Greg Seminara at (001)-404-255-8387
to discuss your distributor search project.
“Spend time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
Recent Distributor Search Projects for Export Solutions
Global distributor search across 26 countries supporting sale of 1 billion dollar food brand
USA entry strategies and importer/broker search for 70 million dollar European ethnic food brand
Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines & Singapore distributor search for global snack brand
Global strategic assessment: Europe, Asia, Middle East and Latin America for leading USA food company
Brazil: “next level” business development for famous global food brand
Europe and Latin America distributor search supporting spinoff of leading non-food brand
Peru & Ecuador distributor search for 6 billion dollar food company
Mexico distributor search for global biscuit brand
Export Solutions serves as a phone consultant on more than 50 distributor search projects every year.
Why use Export Solutions as a distributor identification consultant?
Export Solutions has the unique ability to leverage our proprietary database of 9,200 distributors in
96 countries. Distributors everywhere respect Export Solutions as a valuable source of new business leads.
Our nine step distributor selection process is a proven system to identify and hire the best candidate to build
your brand. You provide us the brief and we facilitate the rest within 60 days!
Strong consumer goods distributors are
deluged with representation inquiries
from around the world. The emails
are usually supplemented by a product
catalog and promise to mail a price list! In
a best case scenario, this type of approach
may lead to a request for more informa-
tion from a good distributor. More likely,
the distributor will skip your inquiry
and move on to the next opportunity
in his mailbox. Listed below are Export
Solutions tips for “breaking through the
clutter” and providing the right informa-
tion to generate excitement and interest
from the distributor community.
1. What is your Brand USP
(Unique Selling Proposition)?
USP defines your competitive edge
versus all other brands battling for the
same shelf space. The USP can revolve
around quality, value, assortment, or
packaging. However, you need to
validate your claims. For example, a
statement such as “tastes better than
competitors A & B” should be supported
by market research of consumers or blind
tests of a sufficient panel group that backs
your quality claim. Similarly, a retail price
review can demonstrate a “better value”
position. Your USP must also pass the
litmus test: Is your USP relevant to the
purchaser and consumer? For example,
you might offer the only coffee with
orange and lemon flavors, but is anyone
really looking for this product?
2. Have you done your homework
on my market?
The food/consumer goods industry is
relatively transparent. Typically, brand
owners simply need to visit the leading
supermarket chains to obtain a “snap-
shot”of local category assortment, pricing
and merchandising practices. The assort-
ment and shelf space allocation will
provide clues regarding consumer
preferences from a taste/usage stand-
point and potential gaps in the market.
Syndicated data providers such as
Nielsen and Euromonitor supply reams
of data tracking category sales and trends.
New brand representation offers to dis-
tributors that demonstrate a degree of
understanding of local category market
conditions will always receive an
appreciative response.
3. What will the brand owner invest?
The most important consideration after
the USP definition! A distributor believes
that he needs the right financial spend
levels to aid him in achieving the results
that he is capable of. The correct spend
level usually reflects an appropriate
mix of trade development funds (listing
fees/shelf space/flier participation)
and consumer awareness activities
(sampling/pr etc.) The brand owner
must acknowledge that there are fixed
fees to enter virtually every market.
Some distributors are willing to split
these fees. It’s usually not enough to case
rate spending unless you have a very
strong proposition. Bottom line: If you are
unwilling to invest in your brand…why
should the distributor invest his time and
resources building your brand?
4. Where has your brand been successful?
Your track record at building brands
counts! Share your record proudly,
particularly if the target country or
retailer are well known or reside in an
adjacent country. On the other hand, a
“Made in the USA” success story may
not be impactful if you don’t intend to
duplicate the conditions that brought
you success such as local production
and measurable marketing investments.
5. How tough is the job to launch your brand?
Are you attempting to enter a competitive
category dominated by heavy spending
multi-nationals? Or are you aiming at an
attractive niche? What are the brand
owners expectations in terms of product
availability and sales volume?
6. Can the distributor make money
with your brand?
Distributors seek to obtain a fair profit
for their activities to support your brand.
Profit must be measured in dollars
contributed versus percent of sales.
Distributors rarely make money during
year one of an introduction as they
allocate a disproportionate share of their
resources to launch a brand. On the other
hand, new brands in current categories
for the distributor can bring new profits
with minimal incremental effort. Globally
recognized brands bring prestige to a
distributor’s portfolio and may serve as
a magnet to attract other brands. Brand
owners must present a convincing case to
the distributor on the incremental profits
that your company can deliver to the
distributor’s bottom line.
Brand Owners: What Every Distributor Wants to Know
Distributors are flooded with requests
for representation of brands from
around the world. Normally, these
presentations are jammed with pretty
photos and long stories about the
company’s history. Brands will receive
better response with a fact based,
company credentials presentation
focused on “what distributors and
buyers really want to know.” Export
Solutions recommends that brands
create two versions of your credentials
presentation: a ten page detailed
presentation and a one page summary.
Recapped below are our ten tips
on developing a strong company
credentials presentation to attract
interest from distributors and
buyers anywhere.
1. Just the Facts:
Page 1 should include basic company
facts. Annual sales, ownership, number
of employees, and key categories
and brands.
2. History
Tell the story of when and how the
company was founded. This is your
chance to seduce the audience with a
captivating story. Learn to tell the story
in one page with no company videos
or DVDs (boring!). Provide a longer
version of your history and milestones
on your company web site for those
who want more information.
3. Brand USP
This is the place for pretty pictures
of your brand and the opportunity to
demonstrate your category expertise.
Why is your brand different? How do
you compare with current category
assortment? List any awards or
recognition for your company.
4. Current Export Markets
Share countries where your brand is
currently available. Segment between
core markets where your brand is
strong and others where you maintain
niche status. What is the rationale for
entering the distributor’s country?
5. Distributor and Retailer Partners
Highlight well known distributors
currently serving as your partners. List
retailers who currently sell your brand.
Logos work well.
6. Success Stories
Focus on recent examples of your brand
building results. Mention specific retailers
or distributors if examples are well
known retailers or in adjacent countries.
7. Investment Strategy
Distributors and buyers demand
critical information on how you plan
to generate consumer awareness, trial,
and repeat purchase of your product.
Their interest will match your level
of financial commitment.
8. Team Resources
Publish photos of your export team.
This includes marketing, finance,
customer service, and logistics experts.
List years of service for each team
member to demonstrate that you have
a strong support organization to build
the business.
9. Sync With Web Site
Your credentials presentation should sync
with information on your web site. In
reality, your web site is the first place that
a potential distributor will visit. Modern
web sites, with crisp graphics, minimal
text, and no music will receive attention.
Do you have a page dedicated to
international export? When was the
last time you updated your web site?
10. Why is your Company a Good Partner?
This represents a one page summary of
your company credentials. What value
does your company bring to the
partnership? What is the “size of the
prize?” How will your brand make more
money for the distributor or buyer?
Export Solutions can help!
Export Solutions has participated in more
than 300 distributor identification projects
and reviewed web sites of more than
10,000 distributors and brand owners.
We are available to review your company
presentation or web site to provide timely
ideas and suggestions to improve your
visibility. Contact us in the USA at
(001)-404-255-8387 for more information.
Ten Tips: Your Company Credentials Presentation
Need more information? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
All your distributors express enthusiasm
and commitment for your brand. True
passion for your partnership is measured
by what distributors do, not by what they
say. Listed below are ten tips to consider
when measuring distributor enthusiasm
for your brand.
1. CEO Commitment and Involvement
The CEO steers the distributor ship
and sets the tone for your business
relationship. Best in Class distributor
CEO’s reach out via phone to touch base
periodically and spend time with you
when you are in town. They keep up to
date on your priorities and key issues
and ensure that his team is delivering
good service and results.
2. Responsiveness to Problems
Urgent situations erupt in every market.
Currency devaluations, product recalls,
or missed budget numbers require
immediate attention. What is the distributor
response time? Does the distributor share
your sense of urgency? How long does it
take to get problems fixed?
3. Customer Introductions
Most distributors maintain good
relationships with leading retailers.
Enthusiastic distributors are happy to
introduce you to the leadership of their
customers. These distributors will use
their personal relationships and “favors”
to benefit your brand.
4. Best People Assigned to Your Brand
The distributor functions as a team.
Every team has superstars and
developing players. How does the
distributor allocate “talent”? Are the
stars working on your business?
5. Web Site Prominence
A distributor’s web site offers important
clues to distributor professionalism,
services, and core brands. How
prominently is your brand featured on
the distributors web site? Is a case study
using your brand results mentioned?
Is your brand logo listed at the top of
the page or buried at the bottom?
6. Distributor Visits to Your Headquarters
How often does the distributor travel to
your headquarters or factory? Does the
distributor have a relationship with your
CEO, vice president of international,
or other leaders? Many distributors are
interested in visiting companies based
in San Francisco or London, but true
enthusiasm accompanies meetings in
Chicago or Hamburg during the winter!
7. Creative Ideas
Distributors can be magicians at
developing “new ways to solve old
problems.” Good distributors bring
innovative ideas to adapt your plan
and funding budget to the local market.
How often does your distributor apply
their brilliant new idea to your brand?
8. Distributor Awards and References
Successful distributors proudly display
their awards in conference rooms and
lobbies. Is your award visible? I always ask
distributors for references from other brand
owners. Does the distributor use your
name as a reference or request a testimonial
from you on their performance?
9. Love Your Brand
I have written an entire article on
getting a distributor to love your brand.
There are many ways to feel the love.
Does the distributor sales team wear the
shirts with your brand logo or use the
pens that you handed out at the last
sales meeting? Is the distributor able to
secure a customer meeting for you on
one week lead time? Are they happy to
see you arrive or just to see you depart?
10. Exceed Expectations Everyday
The most enthusiastic distributors
exceed your expectations everyday.
This includes shipment results in excess
of overall market growth and total
organizational support behind your
new product introductions. Enthusiasm
is not measured in words and weeks,
but in actions carried out over many
years by a Best in Class partner.
Ten Tips: Measuring Distributor Enthusiasm for Your Brand
Need a hand? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
Criteria (weighting)
Rating Evaluation Factors
Corporate Credentials 30%
Size, sales force, logistics, # employees.
Reputation (reference check existing brands).
National coverage.
Multi-channel coverage.
Category Expertise 20%
Sells brands in my category.
Shelf space for existing brands.
Current brands selling to target retailer.
Category analysis and insights.
Brand Building 15%
Ideas to build or launch my brand?
Marketing plan, cost, timing.
Success stories.
Cost to Serve 15%
Fair, transparent model relative to size
of business, brand investment, and
work required.
Enthusiasm for
My Brand 20%
Advance preparation, CEO involvement.
Follow-up on commitments.
Alignment with your vision.
X Factors: People, Admin.,
Professionalism, etc.
CPG/FMCG background for leaders.
Efficiency of scheduling meeting.
Office environment.
Do you enjoy the people?
Rating System
Rating Score
Excellent 5
Very Good 4
Average 3
Fair 2
Poor 1
Contact Greg Seminara at (001)-404-255-8387 to discuss your distributor search project.
Export Solutions Distributor Assessment Grid
I admit it: I like big distributors.
They feature more critical mass which
allows them to invest in people and
technology. Retailers and large
distributors are “co-dependent,” leveling
the playing field. Also, big distributors
get paid first during financial crisis
and usually offer better multi-channel
coverage and retail services. However,
many small/mid-size brands feel lost at
a big distributors, securing mediocre
results and failing to access the massive
distributor’s resources. Listed below are
Export Solutions’ Ten Tips for “Getting
Better Results with Big Distributors.”
1. Develop a Personal Relationship
With Your Distributor’s CEO
Call him a few times per year. Invite him
to dinner or a high profile sporting event
when you are in town. Send him a good
business book. Stay top of mind.
2. Focus on 2-3 Priorities
Provide a limited number of specific,
measurable objectives that are critical
to the delivery of your annual business
plan. Many companies bombard their
partners with a myriad of priorities,
forms, and requests diluting focus.
Instead position communication,
reporting, and activities in context
of the 2-3 tasks that must happen.
3. Invest in Distributor Sponsored Events
Large distributors offer the possibility
of co-promotion with their other brands.
Frequently, a mid-size brand may be
able to gain promotional activity at a
reduced cost due to the scale of their
distributor partner.
4.Evaluate Your Distributor Brand Manager
Your distributor brand manager is your
primary point of contact. If your business
is not growing, this could signal a need
for a change in brand manager. Two
scenarios exist. In some cases, you
may have a senior brand manager with
too many brands and no time for you.
In these cases, it may be better to shift
to a junior brand manager with more
bandwidth. In other cases, your contact
may be too junior, with limited
organizational clout to get things done.
In this example, you may fare better
by changing to a more veteran
brand manager.
5. Spend Time With
the Field Representatives
I am an advocate of escaping distributor
conference rooms for the hustle of the
stores. Spend time with the sales
representatives visiting their customers
and stores. The field team is frequently
ignored by export managers, but serves
as the engine of the distributor. Take
them to lunch, listen to their problems,
understand their business, give them
a gift with your company logo and they
will be your dedicated warriors for life.
6. CEO Market Visit
Invite your CEO or other senior
executives to visit the market. Distributor
CEO’s love to “rub elbows” and solve
the world’s problems together. You’d be
surprised at the number of market issues
that will disappear in advance of your
CEO visit. It’s also a good idea to invite
your technical experts in information
technology or supply chain to visit. Big
distributors love to learn best practices
from their overseas suppliers.
7. Create a Distributor Advisory Council
Invite a select group of large distributor
CEO’s to advise your company on
international development. Meet twice
per year a year, with at least one event at
a resort location. This allows your large
distributors to build relationships with
your senior team in an intimate setting.
All members of your Distributor
Advisory Council will achieve their
annual objectives!
8. Sales Contest
Create some excitement with a sales
contest for the entire distributor
team.Make it fun and structure it to
maximize winners. Find a way to include
all the “non-sales” people if you can.
9. VIP Visit to Corporate Headquarters
Treat your distributor as a VIP at your
corporate office. This trip creates a
memorable bonding experience and a
chance for you to serve as a good host.
Take the distributor to a new product
development laboratory and organize a
meal with your CEO or executive officers.
Make him feel like a member of the family.
10. Distributor Awards
Recognize your high performing
distributors with an award. This could
be Distributor of the Year or for achieving
$1 million in sales or for 15 years of
partnership. Some companies sponsor
smaller awards for key account manager
of the year in each market and retail
representative of the year. Publicize the
event by awarding a plaque, hold an
awards luncheon, take photos and share
a press release of the celebration.
In most cases, large distributors have
achieved scale through years of hard
work and success. Most suppliers
maintain a mix of large and smaller
distributors. Veteran export managers
will confirm that good results are possible
with distributor organizations of any size.
The key is to align yourself with a
committed partner who loves your brand
and is delivering shipment growth
consistent with overall market trends.
Ten Tips: Getting Better Results with Big Distributors
Is Your Distributor Best In Class?
Best in Class Distributor Average Distributor
Size Top 10 Supplier to Retailers. Top 100 Supplier to Retailers.
Offices outside Capital.
Major retailers only.
EDI, Web Portal,
Handhelds for sales reps.
Basic desktop capabilities.
Multi-national expertise.
“Home grown” talent.
Covers all channels
and small shops.
Major retailers only.
Marketing Full Brand Management services. Trade promotion only.
Retail Presence
Dominant presence at retail for
distributors brands.
Mixed presence at point of sale.
Cost to Serve Competitive, transparent model. Average cost to serve.
Multiple warehouses.
24 hour delivery.
1 warehouse, 48 hour delivery.
Results Results exceed market growth. Results = market growth.
Distributor Capability Assessment
Export Solutions established 15 assessment criteria to identify “Best in Class” performers as well as “under
achievers.” Many distributor relationships extend 10 years or more. Is your distributor network still a “good fit”
for your current business requirements? Template can also be used as New Distributor Reference Check form
Assessment Criteria Rating: (10 = Best)
Category Expertise/Critical Mass
Focus/Time Dedicated to your Business
Joint Business Plan Development, Execution, Delivery
Alignment with Brand Owners Vision. Relationship.
Cost to Serve (fair margin, extra costs)
Assortment/Shelf Space
Promotion Creativity, Effectiveness, and Efficiency
Key Account Relations (Senior level, buyer)
Leadership/Owner (engaged & committed to us?)
Brand Manager (seniority, clout,creativity)
Multi Channel, Multi Regional Coverage
Financial Stability, Payment Record
Supply Chain Management & Forecasting
Problem Solving: rapid response?
Sales Results versus Budget, Market, Category (CY, PY, 3 Years)
Why do Export Managers Partner with
Export Solutions for Distributor Search Help?
4 Industries Leading Distributor Rolodex
Excellent relationships across 96 countries
Database tracks 85 distributors per country
300+ distributor search projects completed.
4 10 Step Distributor Search Process
Logical, thorough due diligence process
Professional approach yields positive results
Publisher: Distributor Search Guide
4 Independent Expert Assessment
Expert partner to export managers
Focused on all aspects of distributor search
Working for you!
4 Results
90%+ success rate
Align with “Best in Class” distributors
Typical project takes 4 months from project brief to distributor selection
4 Make Your Life Easier!
Identifies 5-8 qualified candidates per country
Organize meetings with top candidates
Sounding board during assessment process
Export Solutions participation sends positive message to distributors.
Export Solutions Can Help!
Distributor Search helper in 96 countries
Contact Greg Seminara at
or (001)-404-255-8387
Small Shops (Traditional Trade)
Capability Assessment
Assessment Criteria Capability – Results
Traditional trade: percent of total distributor sales
Dedicated traditional trade team? Structure?
Top 5 principals: traditional trade
# Vans and DSD trucks? Owned?
# Traditional trade reps. Exclusive or shared?
Sales rep. compensation (fixed/variable/bonus)
Customer coverage, segmentation, frequency
# Customers invoiced monthly
Average order size
# items sold per order
# calls per day
How do you establish call priorities?
Retail reporting capabilities
How do you drive traditional trade volume?
Creative trade marketing ideas?
Sub-distributors or wholesalers used?
Cost to serve?
New item launch process
Traditional trade growth versus market?
10 C’s
1. Case
Manufacturer supplies a business case
confirming brand aspirations” for the
country: Key items in portfolio, estimated
base pricing, volume/market share
expectations, and investment model.
2. Category Review
Distributor supplies a local review
of category competitors, pricing,
and merchandising practices.
3. Capabilities
Distributor shares detailed organizational
capability and customer coverage.
Could include references from existing
suppliers represented. An important step
when there are two or more candidates
under consideration.
4. Commitment and Costs
What is the Year 1 Plan and Forecast?
Targeted listings, marketing activities,
launch budget and volume estimate
associated with the spending plan.
5. Calculation – Value Chain
Line by line, build up from port to retail
store shelf. Include currency assumptions.
6. Compliance
Highlight product registration and
label requirements. Typical timelines
for compliance?
7. Captain of Team
Who will be our day-to-day brand manager or
first point of contact? Which senior executive
will serve as our “Brand Champion?”
8. Contract
Options include formal contract, letter
of understanding, or handshake deal.
Begin this process early!
9. Consumer Marketing
What are planned activities to generate
consumer trial and repeat purchases?
Trade marketing, consumer marketing,
social media, etc.
10.Calendar /Close
Distributor supplies a detailed timeline
of all activities. When can we expect first
order and delivery to support launch?
Frequent checkpoint calls or meetings.
From First Meeting to First Order Cooperation Model
Export Solutions answers the question, “where do we go from here?”
Cooperation Model describes the follow up process from positive initial meeting to launch plan strategy.
Contact Greg Seminara at greg@exportsolutions.com
for a free copy of our Distributor Cooperation Model Guide.
Export Accelerator
Contact Us for Distributor Search Help in 96 Countries
Greg Seminara • greg@exportsolutions.com
“Spend time Selling to Distributors versus
Searching for Distributors”
Why have Barilla, Pringles, Nature Valley, Starbucks, Duracell,
Nestlé, Tabasco, Pepperidge Farm, and other leaders used
Export Solutions as a distributor search consultant?
Powerful distributor network: owner of industry database
9,200 distributors – 96 countries
Professional 10 step due diligence process
Results! We make Export Managers’ lives easier!
Business Case Template Brand Owner
Request for Information New Distributor
Brand Owner Profile
Founding date, headquarter location
Annual sales
Category, point of difference,
international sales
Anticipated Year 1, Year 3,
Year 5 revenues
Market share aspirations
Product Portfolio
Core items from product portfolio
Retail Price Range
Estimated retail price or premium
vs. current category items
Target trade channels, customers
Marketing Budget
Spending range or percent of sales
Any contingencies
Marketing Activities
Consumer promotion, sampling, media
Trade promotion, listing fees
Social media, community engagement
Launch Timing
Launch date
Retail availability date
Information Required
Category Review, Year 1 Business Plan
Value Chain, Team Members
CerealCo was founded in 1960 and is based in Atlanta, Georgia (USA). 2022 sales exceeded $300 million, including more than
$100 million in export sales to 25 countries outside the USA. CerealCo is a leader in organic/gluten free cereals.
CerealCo’s goal is to achieve retail sales of $500,000 in year one, growing to $1 million by year three and $2 million by year five.
Market share objective is 15% of the premium international cereal category. The size of the prize translates to roughly $1.5 million
in distributor sales to retailers and $1.1 million in Cerealco sales to the distributor by year five.
Product Range
CerealCo offers a complete range of more than 30 organic, gluten free and sugar free cereals. For international markets, our six core
items are Organic (Original), Organic with Nuts, Organic Chocolate, Organic with Berries plus Gluten Free, and Sugar Free. All core
items available in a 300 gram size.
Retail Price
Approximate retail pricing is equivalent to $5 US dollars including VAT in local currency. This is consistent with other premium
international cereals and approximately a 20% premium to non-organic cereals. Our price list is attached.
Our year one focus is on the supermarket and natural foods channels. Initial targets are supermarkets catering to middle
and upper income consumers in the major cities. Year three aspiration is to expand to all supermarkets and launch into the
foodservice/horeca channel.
Marketing Budget
A provisional year one launch budget of $50,000 has been established. Ongoing marketing and trade support levels are projected
at the rate of 10% of distributor purchase value.
Marketing Activities
Distributor and CerealCo will agree on a joint business plan. Key components will include sampling and introductory price discounts.
A limited budget is established for listing fees at leading chains. However, it is CerealCo’s preference to offer “free goods” in lieu of a
listing fee. Launch plan will include ongoing social media campaign targeted against online communities appreciative of other organic
and gluten free products.
Launch Timing
Initial shipment – February. Sales Launch – March. Retail Availability – May. Marketing starts – June.
Information Required
Distributor should supply the following information within three weeks:
Answers to key questions
Cereal category review
Year one business plan proposal
Value chain: port to retail shelf
Distributor proposed point of contact for CerealCo
Timeline of key activities
*CerealCo is a fictitious company. Any resemblance to an actual cereal company is coincidental.
Sample Business Case Template- Brand Owner “CerealCo*
Request for Information – New Distributor for CerealCo
Need more information? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
Ten Questions: Developing your Cooperation Model
1. Size of the Prize
What are the distributor’s year one and year three
volume estimates? How big is the category? Is the
category growing?
2. Key Account Listings
What listings can we achieve in year one? Who will
be our biggest customers? Will there be differences
in retailer acceptance by region or channel?
3. Trade Reaction
What will retailers like about our brand? Any potential
barriers? Which retailers will be most challenging?
4. Brand Manager
Who will be our primary point of contact?
Experience level? Workload?
5. Marketing Investment
What budget is requested to achieve our mutual
shipment objectives? Who pays for marketing costs?
Which costs are split?
6. Currency Fluctuation
What assumptions are made in your price calculation?
What happens if the currency fluctuates more than
5 percent in either direction? How do you handle
price increases?
7. Distributor Margin
What is your distributor margin? What services are included?
Any other fees or regular costs if we work together?
8. Trial and Repeat
What strategies are required to generate consumer trial
and repeat purchase? What works? How do you conduct
post-promotion analysis and measure payout and success?
Where will our company rank in terms of volume contribution to
your overall business? How will we secure share of mind during
our critical first year?
10. Issues
What are the biggest issues we will face? Barriers to success?
What must happen to win?
Talk to an Expert
International Strategy Road Map
Fix Problem Markets
Entry Plans
Find Distributors in 96 Countries
Export Workshops
Motivational Meeting Speaker
Contact Greg Seminara at (001)-404-255-8387 to discuss your business development project.
We’ve Got You Covered!
Distributor Database Coverage
Confectionery & Snack:
2,713 Distributors
Ambient Beverage:
1,691 Distributors
Gourmet & Ethnic Foods
3,276 Distributors
USA Importer/Distributor
598 Distributors
Middle East
937 Distributors
12 Countries
2,030 Distributors
17 Countries
Latin America
1,574 Distributors
3,139 Distributors
9,200 distributors 96 Countries
Subscribe now at www.exportsolutions.com
“Spend time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
16 years have passed since a giant USA
food broker decided that international
development was not strategic and my job
was eliminated. Rough day that turned out
to be a fantastic personal move. This event
inspired me to create Export Solutions, a
platform that has allowed me the pleasure of
meeting you! Our Export Express publications
have been read by more than 400,000 people
in 154 countries. Export Solutions database
covers 96 countries and 9,200 distributors and has helped more than 2,700
companies find qualified partners around the world. It has been an honor to work with
our industry’s best companies and trade organizations: P & G, Barilla, Tabasco, Nestlé,
and the National Confectioners Association, to name just a few. As busy as I have been,
I wanted to share some of the changes I’ve witnessed in the last 16 years.
1. Coverage: 96 Countries – 5 Continents
In 2004, export usually meant selling to 10 adjacent countries like Canada and the
Caribbean for USA exporters and the Nordics, Benelux, and Malta for Europeans.
Today, exporters routinely sell to 30 to 70 to 100 countries or more! Strategic export
plans now focus on previously tough to access markets like China,Brazil, and India.
2. Too Many Flags – Not Enough Sales
Track the number of countries where you have the #1, #2, or #3 brand, not the total
countries you sell to. No one is impressed if you sell to 70 countries, but your volume
totals 1-2 small shipments per year to most of them.
3. 85 Distributors Per Country
Each country offers more distributor options than you think. Every government
trade officer and export manager knows the names of 3-5 distributors per country.
Our country lists track an average of 85 distributors of all sizes and specialties.
4. Big Difference: Best in Class Distributors vs. Average Performers
Outstanding distributors exist in most countries. These leaders offer similar or better
capabilities than multinational sales teams. Many top brands partner in some countries
with small, under performing distributors, failing to consider stronger options.
5. Right Fit: Generalist vs. Specialist
In the past, brands were happy just to have a distributor in a country. Today, high
achievers partner with category specialists or distributors with comparable scale. Many
small to mid size brands will secure more focus from a smaller, hungrier distributor.
6. Mexico, USA, India, Brazil – Think Outside the Box
Partnering solutions in these countries normally extends far beyond “finding a
distributor.” My consulting projects in complex countries often considers partnering
with non-compete manufacturers, co-packing, local subsidiaries, or a hybrid model.
7. Winners Focused on In Store Visibility Metrics
Superior results are obtained by companies with a passion for managing in store presence.
Containers sold to distributors are only inventory until purchased from a store shelf.
8. Regionally Based Distributor Managers
Best in Class exporters have established small offices in the USA, Dubai, Shanghai, Sao
Paolo, etc. These companies are “figuring it out” and dominating distributor attention.
My youngest daughter Ciara is 16 years old, so I will be working at least another
10 years. Thanks for your support.
“Spend Time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
Export Solutions Celebrates 16 Years!
Greg Seminara
Strategic Services
Contact Us for
Export Solutions
1. Identify Best in Class
Distributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor
96 Countries
7. Walmart International
8. Distributor Contracts,
Margins, and Fees
9. Meeting Speaker
10. International
Strategy Expert
Strategic Services
Contact Us for
Export Solutions
1. Identify Best in Class
Distributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor
96 Countries
7. Walmart International
8. Distributor Contracts,
Margins, and Fees
9. Meeting Speaker
10. International
Strategy Expert
Distributor Trader Buyer
Brand Builder of
third-party brands
Buys and
sells products
Purchases direct
for supermarkets
Joint Business Plan Core No No
Retail Merchandising Yes No Shelf stocking only
Consumer Promotion Yes No Price reduction only
Focus Brand Building Short Term Profit
Lower prices through
Direct purchase
Many brands
needing attention
A local Distributor
handles most work
How to sell
to other market retailers?
Your Partners: Brand Builders vs. Buyers?
Six Steps Before You Hire
a New Distributor
Reference Check with their existing
brand owners.
Store visit to view in-store presence
for current brands handled.
Call at least one retail buyer for
a reference check.
Conduct a credit check through
Dun & Bradstreet.
Search local legal records for lawsuits
against the company or owner.
Secure independent local legal input
to the validity of your contract.
Create Your Own
Export Library
All Guides available free at
in the Export Tips section.
Distributor Search Guide
Export Handbook
Selling to USA Handbook
Distributor Management Guide
Finance & Logistics
Export Treasure Chest
My Favorite Templates & Forms
People Power
Strong Teams Build Great Brands
Few companies achieve sufficient sales volume to operate offices in every country. Even Procter & Gamble, Nestle, & Unilever regularly
use third party distributors for certain countries or brands. Distributors, Importers, Brokers, and Agents form an essential part of our
industry. Each model provides local expertise in a variable cost model. This frees up valuable company resources to invest in brand
building versus start up costs and complexities associated with managing your own subsidiary. However, all models are not created
equally. Different third party models play unique roles depending on the country.
Pros & Cons: Route to Market Models
Model Advantages Issues
100% of sales force attention.
Direct interaction with customers.
Fixed Cost. Start-up - expensive.
Requires critical mass.
Integrated solution. Variable cost.
Multiple brands drive scale.
Universal. Available everywhere.
Battle for distributor focus.
Margin impacts pricing.
Lack scale in biggest markets.
Joint Venture: Local Manufacturer
Integrated solution.
Local expertise, critical mass.
Lower start-up costs.
Focus vs. in-house brands.
Loss of control.
Not strategic for jv partner.
Efficient, Variable cost.
Critical Mass: USA/Canada.
No logistics/financial services.
Limited scale outside N. America.
Direct to Customer
Cost efficient (no middleman).
Direct interaction with customer.
How to sell all market customers?
Store level execution problems.
Ships small quantities to market.
Few label changes/currency issues.
Another Middleman and expense.
Diverting risk. Small volume.
Local Subsidiary
Companies create their own offices in
large countries and locations where they
maintain factories. All producers require
the same portfolio of logistics, sales, retail
coverage, and financial services. A
manufacturer must generate a certain
threshold of sales volume to provide the
depth of services to efficiently operate a
local subsidiary. The clear benefit of this
option is that your entire team is 100%
dedicated to your brand’s priorities.
Universal Model: Distributors
The global standard for third parties
is the distributor/importer model. Each
country features a variety of distributors
offering an integrated “one stop shop”
of commercial, logistics, and financial
services. Many types of Distributors exist,
ranging from category experts to channel
specialists. Export Solutions’ database
tracks more than 9,200 distributors in
96 countries.
Distributors: Different Services
It is important to recognize that there
are at least three types of distributors
active in our industry. The most
common international model is the
distributor/importer which imports and
sells brands, usually with exclusivity to
one brand per category. In the USA, the
wholesale distributor model plays a
critical role. The wholesale distributor
serves as a logistics/financial partner, but
does not import and markets all category
brands on a non-exclusive basis. Regional
Distributors are common in Brazil, India,
Russia and China. These distributors work
exclusively, but normally handle only one
designated region and rarely import.
USA Supermarket Brokers
Why do most successful USA brands
use brokers to sell to supermarket chains?
Most companies operate factories in
the USA, eliminating the need for
importation services. Logistics providers
are plentiful and retailers are financially
reliable. As a result, most USA brands do
not require the integrated services from a
distributor/importer, only niche foreign
products. Brokers supply essential local
selling services. They maintain excellent
customer relationships and provide
critical store level merchandising. “Big 3”
USA brokers offer tremendous economies
of scale, but are organized to handle
leading brands. Brokers are powerful
partners to the supermarket channel.
Most manufacturers “sell direct” to
Walmart, Costco, Pharmacy, and other
non-supermarket channels.
Problems with Joint Ventures
Joint Venture proposals look good on
PowerPoint presentations in the board
room. Potential value exists in partnering
with a dominant local brand
owner, with built in critical mass.
Unfortunately, my experience is that
most joint venture relationships wind
up in divorce. Senior management may
be committed, but the norm is for the
sales team to default focus to their own
brands which they find easier to sell.
Consolidators: Opportunistic Volume
Consolidators are local customers who
will purchase your brand, comingle it
with other products and ship mixed
containers to foreign distributors or
retailers. Manufacturers with “lean”
export departments view this as
simple, incremental business. These
companies like the fact that they do
not need to deal with label changes,
currency exchange, and foreign
distributors. In many cases, serious
exporters move beyond the
consolidator model to take control
and optimize sales volume.
Direct to Customer Challenges
Walmart and Carrefour sponsor
established global sourcing or “direct
buy” programs. For some countries,
these programs represent an efficient
route to market solution. In other
countries, exhibit caution, as direct sales
to one customer can disrupt distributor
relationships and an entire market.
A Gentle Approach
Changing distributors is never easy, because we usually like the people involved. Best approach is
to accept part of the blame for the failed relationship. Provide the old distributor a believable sound
byte that he can repeat to maintain dignity in the marketplace: i.e. brand owner was looking for a
distributor with more foodservice or small shop coverage. In the case of a long term partner (5 years or
more), it may be appropriate to offer a lump sum goodwill payment, payable 90 days after transition
in return for their cooperation. The good news is that a new distributor will emerge as motivated
partner, anxious to take a “fresh look at old challenges” and deliver on their commitment to you.
Every company includes distributors
that appear as chronic under-performers.
Year after year, management listens to
excuses and we patiently “give them
a little bit more time.” 2021 results are
in and it’s easy to spot the problems:
big country, small shipments. The new
year is the right time to implement a
process of upgrading your distributor
network to a partner more aligned with
your business goals. Listed below are
key action steps.
New Years Resolution -
Preparing for a Distributor Change
3 Secure agreement from management to change distributors
3 Review your original distributor contract
3 Send official letter to distributor recapping disappointing results
3 Obtain current distributor price calculation
3 Document and monitor inventory in the system, by SKU
3 Watch account receivables and bill-backs
3 Confirm in writing 2022 spending and promotion plan
3 Interview and pre-select an alternate distributor
3 Establish realistic transition timeline with new distributor
3 Advise old distributor of change in person
Changing distributors is a messy business, filled with hurt feelings,
business disruption, and legal implications. The good news is that
when you have transitioned to a new distributor, you will benefit
from the enthusiasm and commitment of a highly motivated new
partner. Recapped below are Export Solutions’ Ten Tips for
managing the process of changing distributors.
1. Secure Agreement on Distributor Change from your Senior Management
In many cases, a terminated distributor will reach out to your
company president or owner to appeal your decision. It makes
sense to brief your management on the situation and your rationale
for the change. If they are not aligned with your point of view,
better to learn in advance of creating a disturbance with a
distributor termination notice that could be retracted.
2. Long Term Distributor vs. Short Term Distributor?
Your approach at handling the process will vary based upon
the length of time of your partnership. Dissolving Long term
relationships (5 years or more) requires careful handling,
documentation of situation, and consideration of marketplace
repercussions. Ending short term partnerships is usually less
complex, as it is normally clear that mutual objectives are not
being met.
3. Probation Period
Putting a distributor on probation sends a warning signal that
termination is possible. Normally, probation periods last 3-6
months and include specific objectives to achieve during the target
period. This approach gives the distributor a “second chance” to
meet expected standards. Termination following a probation period
reduces the risk of a distributor complaining that “he didn’t know
that your company was that unhappy with his performance.”
4. Check Your Contract
Distributor contracts outline termination process and procedures.
The contract will guide required steps to make a distributor change.
Contract terms are negotiable, particularly when a distributor
relationship is ending by mutual consent. In certain cases, there
may not be a contract which naturally provides a brand owner
greater flexibility. On the other hand, you still must consider local
laws and business practices which may be in place, even without
a contract.
5. Review Local Laws
Many countries have well defined laws regarding termination
of distributors, brokers or “agents.” These laws often dictate a
compensation formula for payments due to the distributor. The
legal rationale relates to the concept that the distributor invested
his own resources to build awareness and “good will” for your
brand in his country and must be compensated for this investment.
Puerto Rico’s Law 75 applies even when there is no contract signed
and only one direct shipment to a local Puerto Rico distributor
or agent.
6. Document Inventory in the Supply Chain
This includes current inventory, orders en route, and pending
orders. One of the biggest issues in any distributor change revolves
around inventory management. Angry terminated distributors may
attempt to “forward buy” or fill the market with discounted goods.
Or they may refuse to transfer inventory to the new distributor. I
have also seen cases where the old distributor attempts to transfer
damaged or outdated inventory to the new distributor.
7. Conduct New Distributor Identification Activities
These should be in process or completed prior to termination of
the under-performing distributor. This will allow you to minimize
the time between termination notification and transition to a new
distributor. It is likely that your current distributor may learn that
you are “interviewing the market” to understand alternatives. This
is all part of the probation process and may further stimulate the
distributor to ramp up his performance levels.
8. Minimize Notification Periods – Contract Buy Out?
Contracts may specify a 3 month to one year notification period
for a terminated distributor. A Brand owner should not want
a terminated partner representing his business any longer than
they have to. The risk to the brand is too high. I prefer 1-2 month
transition period, even if a brand owner is required to “buy out”
the last few months of a contract. It is better for everyone to move
on for a fresh start as quickly as possible.
9. Trade Notification Strategy
It is likely that some customers will be upset with a decision to
make a distributor change. The good news is that “they will get
over it.” On the other hand, it is important to identify potential
sensitive accounts and for the brand owner and the new account
handler to have a prepared response for an unhappy customer.
10. Fast Start Program Six Months
Your new distributor will be highly motivated to get off to a fast
start to make a strong initial impression. We need to balance this
desire to run fast to “sell” with the critical steps of focusing on the
fundamentals: Sufficient inventory throughout the supply chain,
update new vendor information in customer’s order management
system, education of the sales force on product benefits, etc.
“Crawl, Walk, Run.” Normally, the process takes six months
to successfully complete a transition to a new distributor.
Distributor change used to represent a challenging proposition
due to the lack of information on alternate distributor candidates.
Export Solutions database tracks over 9,200 distributors in
96 countries. This translates to an average of around 85 different
distributors for each market. This has eased the process of
identifying alternate candidates when distributor change is being
considered or required. Visit www.exportsolutions.com/distributor
Directory.aspx for more information.
Ten Tips – Changing Distributors:
“The Right Way”
Suppliers review their Distributor
contracts for two reasons: At the start of
a new distributor relationship or when the
current distributor has resigned or failed.
Most exporters simply revise their
standard distributor contract with a new
name and make a few minor adjustments
when entering a new partnership. Export
Solutions frequently reviews distributor
contracts as part of our distributor
identification process. We do not pretend
to be lawyers but our broad conclusion
is that most current distributor contracts
were written to reflect business practices
of the 1990’s versus the business reality
of 2022. Listed below are points for
consideration as you seek to refresh
or renew your distributor contracts.
Contract vs. Letter of Understanding
A basic question: Do you really need
a contract with all distributors in all
countries? Formal contracts make sense
when the manufacturer plans a strategic
launch, supported by investments in trade
and consumer activities. A contract is
mandatory in transferring an established
business from a direct organization to a
third party or from one distributor to
another. A Letter of Understanding
may suffice in cases dealing with an
opportunistic sale or testing a new
product concept. The Letter of
Understanding simply outlines the
roles and responsibilities of each partner,
expected outcome and plan of action,
and ability for each party to exit the
relationship without much complexity.
In some situations, a “Handshake Deal”
is acceptable, particularly if the volumes
are low and the orders are pre-paid. This
may function in some countries, but in
certain markets such as Puerto Rico (Law
75) a relationship with responsibilities
is created with or without a formal
written agreement.
Termination Clauses
Most distributor contacts are rarely
revisited until the possibility (or
probability) of termination becomes likely.
Long term contracts lasting 5 years, with
one year notification periods do not make
business sense for the distributor or
supplier. More realistic is a three year
contract, with escape clauses for either
the manufacturer or distributor to resign
if minimum sales levels are not attained.
Termination notification periods of
6 months to one year can be harmful for
a brand. A better option is a 3 month
notification period, with
succession plans formalized
at point of notification.
Global Retailer Impact
Retailers such as Walmart,
Carrefour, Costco, and Metro
maintain a presence in many
adjacent countries. Their cross
border sourcing activities
create challenges for
distributors, as retailers buying
practices may interfere with
protected territories. New
contracts should address
the role of global retailers and
responsibilities for each partner
to maintain the integrity of
the territory.
Distributor Price Increases
Pricing is a sensitive topic, as some
countries maintain strict laws to
discourage price manipulation. On
the other hand, contracts should include
clauses that prevent distributors from
taking “unauthorized” price increases
without agreement from the brand owner.
I have witnessed brands being damaged
by a distributor price increase that was
independent of any pricing action by
the manufacturer.
Key Issue: Distributor Loss of a Major Principal
There have been several high profile
distributor bankruptcies. These occur
quickly and result in the loss of
receivables by the manufacturer. It’s wise
to insert a clause stating that distributor
should notify you in writing within 7 days
of notification of any loss of principal that
represents 10 percent of their business or
more. Another clause, is the right for you
to terminate the contract within 30 days
upon distributor loss of principal of
20 percent of their business or more.
Promotion Payment Handling
Trade discounts and promotional
incentives are a standard component
of our marketing plans. However, it
is surprising that many distributor
agreements do not mention promotion
payment handling. We suggest adding
clauses mentioning documentation
required, budgeting, over spends,
and right to audit paperwork.
Information Technology Requirements
Most industry participants would be
utterly and completely lost without our
computers. Yet most contracts do not
specify any Information Technology
requirements for our distributors. New
contracts often specify that a distributor
must handle designated EDI transaction
sets, Electronic Funds Transfer, and online
portal to share shipment and financial
information. Data security and back-up
requirements also warrant inclusion.
Warehouse Audit
Warehouse inventory is central to many
of our business practices: Achieving sales
objectives, minimum stock levels, product
returns, new products, sales promotions
etc. Manufacturers should maintain the
right to inspect distributor warehouses
with 72 hour notice. This is particularly
important during distributor change or
suspected diverting.
Minimum Volumes
It is difficult to forecast volume for a
new brand launch due to many variables.
However, it is fair to establish minimum
volume thresholds, particularly for year
two. If the business is not succeeding,
there must be “escapes” for both
manufacturer and distributor to
exit gracefully.
Next Steps
Respectfully, most suppliers and
distributors desire to avoid frequent
contact with their lawyers. The new
business realities of 2022 reveal that
many distributors and manufacturers
are not adequately protected. A review
of existing contract templates to measure
relevance for today’s business practices
is warranted. Export Solutions advocates
a balanced approach favoring
commercial sensibilities.
Distributor Contracts: Review and Refresh
Have you ever experienced an incredible
first meeting with a distributor? Strong
alignment, good fit, everyone smiling,
timelines agreed. Then, nothing happens!
The export manager may take up to six
months to translate his outlook from
“done deal” to “dead deal.” There are
two reasons why this occurs.
First, distributors are positive,
competitive athletes, always striving
to win new business. However, in some
cases, the distributors wake up after time
to reflect and decide they really weren’t
that interested in the brand after all.
Failure also results when a strong
first personal meeting at a trade show
or distributors office is followed by
a relationship buried in email
communication, with no personal touch.
Below are Export Solutions’ Ten Tips on
converting promising new business leads
into tangible business partnerships.
1. Zoom/Teams – Don’t Depend on Email
Motivated distributors still return phone
calls, but frequently receive up to 200
emails a day, many from existing brand
partners. Top distributors’ business days
are captured by a continuous flow of
meetings with customers, principals,
and their own employees. Best bet is to
call a potential partner or set up Zoom
meetings. Email is okay for routine
correspondence, but too easy to ignore
or delete.
2. Follow Up Immediately & Frequently
Time slips away, as Export Managers
focus on existing businesses and
“problems of the day.” One tip is to
put regular follow up reminders on
your computer calendar.
3. Focus on 10 C’s: Category Review,
Calculation, Cost of Plan, Compliance,
Contract, etc.
Described below are critical elements to
translate a “lead” into shipments.
Category Review: How does your
category look in target country? Category
size, competition,pricing,margins, and
merchandising activity.
Calculation: What is the distributor’s
proposed calculation from your factory
gate to the store shelf? What are standard
costs like duties and taxes? What are
flexible or negotiable like trade discounts
and distributor margin?
Cost of Plan: Each brand needs a plan
to gain market entry. This includes key
account “sell in,”
followed by consumer
and trade promotion
activities. Look at the
distributor’s proposed
plan, as well as several
options with different
price tags.
Compliance: Many
countries feature a
product registration
process and labeling
requirements. In some
countries, this step is
easy with automatic
compliance for a USA
or European brand. Or a
simple solution with a small distributor
applied sticker. In other countries like
Japan or Indonesia, plan on one year or
more to navigate the complex process.
Contract: “Ready, Set, Go” can be delayed
by 3-6 months due to contract negotiations.
Company lawyers demand 20 page
agreements in English that even the
Brits can’t understand. Distributors
prefer two page letters of understanding
or a handshake deal. Do what is right
for your business, but expect delays
and frustration.
4. Request References
A good idea is to quickly request
distributor references from other brands
they handle. Motivated distributors will
send impressive references right away.
Also, have your credit department run
a Dun and Bradstreet or Equifax report
as soon as possible. Many trade show
meetings are with “pretenders” who state
exaggerated claims and are ultimately too
small to handle your brand. Better to
discover this sooner versus later.
5. Move Beyond the Distributor Owner/MD
The distributor owner “writes the
checks,” but frequently serves as a
“bottleneck.” The key is to quickly get
your brand assigned to a “worker” whose
task is to move your project through the
system and produce an order!
6. Establish Realistic Timelines
Sync with category review dates and avoid
holiday periods. Update timelines
frequently. New distributor relationships
always take longer. Plan on six months
from first meeting to first shipment. Be
pleasantly surprised if things move quicker.
7. Distributor Response Time
Signals Interest Level
How often do you check your emails?
Probably every hour. When I work
on distributor search projects for well
known brands like Pringles, Tabasco,
or Barilla, distributor response is
lightening fast. Motivated distributors
will chase you if they are interested
because they are anxious to start selling
your brand!
8. Establish Regular Checkpoint Calls
I suggest every two weeks at a
minimum. Use a common document of
priorities, action steps, and due dates.
9. Visit the Distributor
It’s amazing the amount of progress
that will be made during a meeting
at the distributor’s office. Also, the
distributor will work hard in advance of
your visit as your project moves up the
priority list and they want to guarantee
a favorable impression. A visit to the
distributor’s market signals your
commitment. Beware if the distributor
is reluctant to schedule your visit. Either
he has changed his mind about a
partnership or his office and capabilities
do not match the bold promises made at
the initial trade show meeting.
10. Parallel Path Two Candidates per Country
A favorable first meeting represents an
excellent start. However, there are still
many steps (think 10 C’s in point 3)
before you sign a contract and receive
your first order. Always keep two
candidates in the process, in case your
top choice disappoints. This can be
tough, but represents a better option
than needing to start the entire process
over again.
Ten Tips: Converting Promising Leads to New Partnerships
Field Sales Capability Assessment
Number of sales offices (list locations)
Total field sales representatives (or merchandisers)
Number of sales reps outside capital area
Number of field sales supervisors
# Full time representatives vs. # part time
Average years of service: representatives
Average stores per representative
# stores visited per day
Average time spent per store, per day
Do you have multiple reps visiting each store?
# SKUs handled per sales rep
# priorities per store visit
# sales reps with laptop or tablet
# sales reps with phone with reporting capability
Compensation: percent fixed vs. variable?
Field Sales Coverage Frequency Template
Retailer #/Stores Daily Weekly Bi-Weekly Monthly Never
Sample Chain 200 0 50 100 40 10
Country Listing Map USA Example*
“Required Template for Every Country”
Retailer Stores SKU 1 SKU 2 SKU 3 SKU 4 SKU 5 Comments/Plans
Walmart SC 3,571 x x x
SKU 1, 2, 3 stocked at only
2,000 Supercenters
Costco 575 x Special SKU 5 for Costco
Kroger 2,726 x x x x Category Review March
Albertsons 2,278 x x x New shelf set
Publix 1,300 x x x BOGO Ad November
Ahold-FL 2,050 x x x x New SKU 4 listing
HEB 355 x x x Category Review March
Meijer 260 x x x x Holiday Display Program
*Instructions: List top 10 customers for every country. List all your key SKUs (items).
“X” indicates item stocked at customer. Blank space represents a distribution void.
Brand owners express frustration at the
lack of response from distributors to their
representation inquiries. Qualified
distributors are flooded with emails from
companies looking for new distributors
to handle their unknown brands. It’s
difficult to convince massive retailers
to take a chance on a new brand without
a proven track record. It’s even tougher
to persuade the owner of a mid-size
distributor to write a check for the first
order of your product, particularly if
you are not committed to a significant
marketing campaign. Brand building
from ground zero requires one-two years.
Research reveals that approximately
20 percent of new products are still on the
shelves two years later. Listed below are
Export Solutions’ tips on increasing your
chances that your new brand will be a
“Gold Mine” for a successful distributor.
Distributors: Always Looking for New Brands
Every distributor is looking for new
brands. Distributor profitability rises
exponentially when they add new
business. New business allows them
to leverage their fixed costs of warehouse
space and sales teams. Most distributors
search for adjacent brands that
complement their existing portfolio.
For example, confectionery specialists
look for other snack items that may
be purchased by the same buyer and
are located in the same aisle as their
current brands. Distributors need new
companies, as all distributors (even
the good ones), lose brands due to
acquisition, performance, or direct
models. The key is to position your
new brand opportunity as an attractive
addition to the distributor’s portfolio.
What Every Distributor Wants to Know