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Insights to Accelerate International Expansion
Distributor Search Guide for
Export Solutions Customers
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 the Essentials of
Distributor Search 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 Essentials of Distributor
Search Guide helps brand owners “Spend
Time Selling to Distributors, versus
Searching for Distributors.”
Distributor Search Tips 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 2
Distributor Search 2022
Page 3
10 Step Distributor Search Process
Page 5
Distributor Types:
Different Experts for Different Situations
Page 6
Contacting New Distributor Candidates
Best Practices
Page 10
Export Distributor Data Sheet
Page 12
Export Solutions Distributor
Assessment Grid
Page 15
What Distributors Want to Know?
Page 17
Ten Tips: Converting Promising Leads
to New Partnerships
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.
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
____ FAQ’s/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.
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 br
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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 Other
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)
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.
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
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?
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.
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
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 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.
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
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*
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
Where Do You Want to Grow?
Asia/Africa/Middle East
Europe Americas
Use Export Solutions Database
to fill in the Gaps in your
Export Coverage Map
Australia – 274 Distributors
China – 160 Distributors
Hong Kong – 177 Distributors
India – 109 Distributors
Indonesia – 78 Distributors
Japan – 176 Distributors
Korea – 146 Distributors
Malaysia – 128 Distributors
Philippines – 109 Distributors
Singapore – 163 Distributors
Thailand – 94 Distributors
Vietnam – 49 Distributors
Israel – 61 Distributors
Saudi Arabia – 115 Distributors
U.A.E. – 195 Distributors
South Africa – 106 Distributors
Plus 14 more countries
Austria – 68 Distributors
Belgium – 85 Distributors
Croatia – 78 Distributors
France – 125 Distributors
Germany – 188 Distributors
Greece – 90 Distributors
Hungary – 68 Distributors
Italy – 105 Distributors
Netherlands – 155 Distributors
Poland – 90 Distributors
Russia – 108 Distributors
Spain – 157 Distributors
Sweden – 103 Distributors
Switzerland – 100 Distributors
Turkey – 82 Distributors
U.K. – 274 Distributors
Plus 19 more countries
Argentina – 61 Distributors
Bolivia – 52 Distributors
Brazil – 135 Distributors
Canada – 205 Distributors
Chile – 92 Distributors
Colombia – 82 Distributors
Costa Rica – 73 Distributors
Ecuador – 55 Distributors
Guatemala – 61 Distributors
Mexico – 193 Distributors
Panama – 63 Distributors
Paraguay – 57 Distributors
Peru – 82 Distributors
Uruguay – 52 Distributors
USA – 598 Distributors
Venezuela – 38 Distributors
Plus 14 more countries