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Insights to Accelerate International Expansion
People Power 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.
Brand building is a team sport,
requiring a deep organization of
functional experts. A key issue is not
only the strength of your distributor
team, but the time dedicated to
your company’s priorities. Every
distributor in the market sells to
the same customers and claims great
trade relationships and results. For
me, the true measures of distributor
performance reflect sales growth
relative to customer’s internal growth
and my brand’s share of shelf versus
market share. Ultimately, a good
signal of a great team is a strong
leader (owner/MD) who is committed
and involved daily with his people
and principals.
This new guide from Export Solutions
is titled “People Power: Strong Teams
Build Great Brands.” Our goal is
to share insights and templates to
understand your distributor’s team.
Included are Distributor assessment
grids and questionnaires to evaluate
the difference between a “Best in Class”
player and an “under-achiever.”
Brand owners form an essential part
of the distributor’s business team.
All distributors have achieved success.
A good brand partner serves as a “coach”
to help lead the team to the desired
results. The coach secures the required
resources and shares in the victory as well
as the periodic setbacks. Export Solutions’
goal is to serve as a helper to companies
looking to expand internationally
through the use of international
distributor networks. Our work extends
to 96 countries. Contact us to learn how
we can help your team achieve your
international sales objectives.
3 Owner: committed and enthusiastic about your brand
and the business?
3 Who is your Brand Manager? Gamechanger or “rookie”?
3 Category experts or new students?
3 Winning new business or losing brands?
3 Conduct reference check on all new distributors
3 Do you enjoy the people?
Key Issues Your Distributors People Power
People Power:
Strong Teams Build Great Brands
Page 2
Ten Tips: Getting a Distributor to
Love Your Brand
Page 5
Ten Tips: Connect with Distributors CEO
Page 9
Who is Your Brand Champion?
Page 16
Ten Tips: Measuring Distributor
Enthusiasm for Your Brand
Page 27
Boots on the Ground
Page 41
FAQs – Retailer Database
Page 44
“Best in Class” Distributor Standards
Page 50
Ten Tips: Converting Promising Leads
to New Partnerships
The classic industry question is: “How do you maintain
distributor focus on your company priorities once you leave the
market?” There is no easy answer, but a solution is to encourage
a distributor to “fall in love” with your brand and company.
Falling in love is based upon an attraction to a person and
enjoyment of spending time with them. The same feelings
can apply to a brand. I regularly witness super human efforts
by distributors for small and medium sized brands just because
of “Brand Love.” Listed below are Ten Tips to romance your
distributors to superior results.
1. Master Chef Endorsement
The first step is convince the distributor team to be passionate
consumers of your product and enthusiastic brand ambassadors.
For food products, invite all of the group to lunch at a popular
local restaurant. Pay a well-known chef to prepare a meal
featuring your products. Or cook lunch for them yourself.
For candy and snack brands, provide samples to share with
the distributor’s children’s sports clubs. Provide frequent
and generous samples to all of the distributor team.
2. Fun Sales Meetings
Every distributor has sales meetings for their entire company.
These are usually a repetitive drone of Powerpoint slides.
Why not hire an agency to create a fun presentation module
which may include audience participation, games, or costumes?
Or sponsor a local motivational speaker or training workshop
using your products as the case studies. Break the mold of
boring meetings!
3. Provide Great Customer Service
Respond to requests quickly. Ship complete containers to keep
the pipeline filled. Pay all bill-backs promptly.
4. Distributor Awards
Recognize your high performing distributors with an award.
This could be Distributor of the Year or for $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.
5. VIP Visit to Corporate Headquarters
Treat your distributors as VIPs 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 product
development lab and organize a meal with your CEO or
executive officers. Make him feel like part of the family.
6. Support Local Events and Charities
Creative distributors drive incremental sales through local
marketing events. Display a willingness to support their
ideas and invest in new programs. Events that sync with
the distributors (or retailers) special charity build substantial
goodwill and appreciation.
7. Annual Incentive Trip
Many companies sponsor trips for distributor executives who
attain their annual sales quota. Mid-size brands source added
focus by sharing the benefits of a good year by inviting achievers
(and spouses?) to trips in resort locations like Hawaii or
international cities such as Rome. Everyone works hard
to qualify and vow to return “year after year.”
8. Holiday Baskets
Send baskets or gift packs to distributor employees that include
your product and other adjacent holiday items. The idea is to
extend your brand’s relationship to your partner’s homes.
9. Distributor Advisory Council
Form a small elite group of distributors to advise your company
on international development. Meet twice a year with access to
your companies senior management. All members of the
Distributor Advisory Council will meet their sales target.
10. Treat Distributors as Your Best Customers
Be nice. Say “thank you” frequently. Send handwritten notes to
people to recognize a nice display or a fixed problem. Have fun
while you work.
Distributors may work with twenty brands or more, each
shouting for attention. Distributors support all their brands, but
there is no magic science to allocate time equally. Naturally, we
all spend more time and effort for the brands and people we like.
What can you do to make your distributors “Fall in Love?”
Ten Tips: Getting a Distributor to Love Your Brand
Need more information? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
Recipe: Best in Class Partnerships*
Ingredient Brand Owner Distributor
Realistic expectations based upon
investment/market conditions.
Achieve sales increase in excess
of overall market growth.
Category Expertise
Share knowledge, trends,
and category analysis.
Serve as local category expert.
Educate the buyer.
Contantly deliver important
new product ideas to market.
Successfully launch new products
into the market.
Appropriate Investment levels:
marketing/trade promotion.
Optimize return on investment.
Store Presence
Create clear, realistic guidelines
for in-store presence.
Share of shelf exceeds market
share. Maximize visibility.
Support market driven ideas
to build the business.
Relentless pursuit of new and
better ways to grow sales.
Concentrate on Basics: Listing
Map, Pricing, Merchandising Plan.
Complete reports accurately
and on time.
Periodic market visits and “rapid
response” to issues.
Appropriate level based upon
brand size and opportunity.
Cost to Serve
Remember that distributors need
to make money too!
Fair margin based upon brand
size and complexity.
#1 Fan. Frequent recognition of
good results by all team members.
Strong commitment to exceed
expectations everyday.
*Mix Well for Best Results
Who Is My Team?
Big distributors feature large teams with strong capabilities.
Manufacturers want to know who is their functional contact and how much time do they dedicate to my business?
Sales Manager
Brand Manager
Field Sales
Digital Marketing
Supply Chain
(order placement)
Accounts Payable
Service Manager
How well do you know your distributor’s CEO or MD? Many
exporters spend 80% of their interaction with their “brand
manager” at a distributor. Contacts with the CEO or managing
director may be limited to a 30 minute meeting during a market
visit or a phone call when something goes wrong. Brand
managers represent the day to day master of details for your
business. However, the CEO controls the purse strings, strategic
direction and resource allocation for the distributor’s stretched
sales team. Creating a good personal relationship with the
distributor’s leadership is critical to sourcing attention for
your brand’s priorities. Export Solutions shares our Ten Tips
to develop a good relationship with the distributor’s CEO
or senior decision maker.
1. Quarterly Phone Meeting
Check in at least every three months to establish regular
dialogue, not just when a problem erupts. Phone topics can be
strategic as well as tactical. CEOs love to share perspective on
their outlook on the retail business in their country, successful
programs being executed by other brands, and planned capital
investments in distributor’s infrastructure and organization.
Your agenda is to leave the CEO with a clear message on the
overall state of your business and 1-2 top priorities to meet
budget expectations.
2. Form CEO Advisory Council
Create a small, elite, advisory board of several of your distributor
CEOs. Meet two times per year, once in a resort location and
another time at your corporate headquarters. Meetings could
include outside speakers and access to senior industry leaders.
Establish a two year term, with rotating membership. Other
distributors should view this as an honor to be invited to be
on your CEO advisory council.
3. LinkedIn
Are you LinkedIn with your distributor’s CEO? LinkedIn
counts almost 600 million participants worldwide. A LinkedIn
relationship keeps your name “active” in the CEO’s bandwidth.
LinkedIn connections see your updates, activities, and news.
A well managed LinkedIn profile allows you to share articles
and insights to your network. Over time, this will allow you to
learn more about the distributor CEO and vice versa. Reminder:
distributors get nervous when they see their competition listed
as a new LinkedIn contact for you! Any distributor or CEO not
on LinkedIn may be “old school” or failing to network very hard
which in itself is an important insight.
4. Meet your CEO
Distributors love to conduct “top to top” meetings with your
CEO or leadership team. Invite your CEO to visit a market
and request the distributor owner’s full participation. It will
be amazing to see the market issues that get solved prior to
the arrival of your CEO.
5. Speaking Invitation
Distributor executives can share broad perspectives on industry
observations sourced from a variety of suppliers. Most would
be flattered by an invitation to speak at your company’s annual
sales meeting or local industry conference. Suggested topics are
the distributor’s own success story, trends and innovation or
another area where the distributor has demonstrated a unique
capability. Organizing and hosting the speaker normally requires
significant interaction on speaking topics and logistics supplying
further personalized contact opportunities.
6. World Cup, Wimbledon, or World Series
Every country has a “hot ticket” for a big sporting event. Many
brands have sponsorship relationships for local teams. Find
out the distributor’s favorite sport or pursuit and find a way
to connect. Some distributor CEOs may appreciate an invitation
to the opera or a rock concert more than a Formula One race.
Make sure that it is a VIP experience, as a poor seat can
breed disappointment.
7. Ask for Advice
Distributor CEOs love to provide feedback. Share with them
prototypes for a new product or advertising campaign. Seek
to benchmark with the distributor’s other non-compete brands.
Ask for examples of other companies that they represent who
serve as “best in class” in supply chain, information technology,
or other functional areas.
8. Factory Tour
A well executed visit to your production facility represents
a perfect opportunity to demonstrate your category leadership
and commitment to quality. Couple the factory tour with a
meeting with your research and development team to impress
the distributor with your plans for the future. Finish the day with
a dinner with your company president or other senior executive
from your team. This will provide an excellent opportunity for
you to serve as a “host” and create lasting impressions of your
brand beyond numbers on a price list.
9. Annual Tradition
Create an annual event where the distributor’s CEO always
participates. This could be an invitation to your company’s
annual meeting or an activity linked to your brand’s big
promotion or peak seasonality. It is a normal request to have
the CEO’s full attention for at least one day per year.
10. Dinner & Golf
Golf still represents a great five hour bonding experience. Invite
the distributor to play at a famous course in your country. Dinner
at a first class restaurant with the CEO and their spouse may be
a treat.
A personal relationship with the distributor’s CEO is good for
both parties. This eases business problem solving and sends a
message to the distributor’s organization that you have open
channels to top management. In times of career turbulence,
distributor’s CEOs can be great references for your job search.
Ten Tips: Connect with Distributors CEO
What Makes a Great Distributor CEO?
CEO Assessment Considerations
(10 = Best)
Achieves Joint Business Targets • Committed and dependable.
Dedication to Your Business • Knows details. Visits your HQ.
Willing to Invest
• People, technology, brand building.
Strong Customer Relations
• Senior contacts at top retailers.
Relationship With Brand Owners
• From export manager to CEO.
Response Time
• Same day to one week?
Thinks Like A Marketer • Creative, brand building ideas.
Frequent Visits: Retail Stores
• Good grasp of retail conditions.
Problem Solving
• “Hands on,” responsive.
Compound Annual Growth Rate • Flat to 10% or more.
Cost to Serve Transparency
• Detailed understanding of costs.
Celebrates Team Success
Awards, promotions, raises.
CPG/FMCG Background • Senior level external experience.
Years of Service
• New to 20 years or more.
Local Industry Leader • High profile in community.
Work Ethic
• Office time vs. overseas trips?
Information Technology (IT)
• Invests in “best in class” IT.
Ethical and Trustworthy • Principled, respected partner.
Respects Manufacturer’s P & L • Sells profitable cases.
Relationship: Entire Team
• Finance, logistics, adminstration.
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!
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.
Successful distributors may represent
twenty companies or more, with each
brand shouting for attention. Exporters
should identify, develop, and applaud
a Brand Champion at each of your
distributor partners. A Champion is
someone who is passionate about your
brand and values leadership results for
your company as something deeper than
just selling another case. At some point
your company and distributors made a commitment to work together. This
decision was based upon a sense of shared company values and belief that your brand could
make consumers happy and the distributor money. As time progresses, this initial enthusiasm
fades, and partners forget the fundamental reasons why they decided to work together.
Recently, I was in the Middle East for two distributor search projects. We hitched a ride back
to our hotel with the “purchaser” of imported brands for one distributor. This person had
not participated in our meeting and maintained oversight for at least 40 companies. We
exchanged pleasantries in the car, then introduced our brand. This manager immediately
exclaimed, “That’s my baby” and spouted out movement figures, category insights and
sales by store for each of our core SKUs. His spontaneous enthusiasm was based upon
the fact that he felt personally responsible for the success of our brand in his country, even
though we had never met him before.
Listed below are Export Solutions ideas for promoting the importance of Brand Champions
at each of your distributors.
1. Who is Your Brand Champion?
The champion is not just your assigned brand manager who you deal with everyday.
I prefer senior people of influence who originally supported the idea of partnering with
your company. The ideal champion is the distributor CEO or National Sales Manager. Brand
development is a “team” sport and you need someone who can inspire the entire group.
2. How Do You Develop a Champion?
As with sports, it takes years of training to support natural ability. Invite the Brand
Champion to your corporate headquarters. Organize factory tours and meetings with the
global brand managers. Introduce him to the CEO or head of international and treat him to
a meal at your home. Spend time with your Brand Champion visiting stores in his country
to secure his ideas to take your business to the next level.
3. A Champion Delivers Year After Year
A Champion is defined by leadership results. A true champion is not a “one year wonder.”
It is someone with a long term commitment and personal investment in your brand’s success.
4. How Do You Treat A Brand Champion?
Champions thrive on recognition. Give them an award as “Distributor of the Year” or for
serving as a member of your company’s Brand Champions club. Invite them to serve on
your company’s “Distributor Advisory Board,” if you have one.
5. Brand Champion Responsibility
Challenge the Champion to deliver exceptional results. The Brand Champions are “true
believers” and are aligned with your vision. Many distributor sales teams are filled with
Brand Champions. Distributors have favorite brands, based upon the prestige of the
brand and personal characteristics of the people working for the manufacturer. One
of my mid-size clients has many Brand Champions. How? They offer a great brand,
inclusive corporate culture, and some of the nicest, most genuine people you will ever
meet. Brand Champions are essential for your brand to elevate from just playing in the
export game to category leader.
“Spend Time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
Who is Your Brand Champion?
Greg Seminara
Strategic Services
Contact Us for
Export Solutions
1. Identify Best in Class Dis-
tributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market Prioritiza-
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor In-
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 Dis-
tributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market Prioritiza-
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor In-
96 Countries
7. Walmart International
8. Distributor Contracts,
Margins, and Fees
9. Meeting Speaker
10. International
Strategy Expert
Distributor 2022: New Skills for New Times
Priority Comments
Treat as major channel, not niche.
Social Media
Hire digital marketing team, link with local influencers.
CEO Engagement
Regular Zoom calls with overseas brand owners.
Promote young, energetic spirit. Embrace change and new channels.
Category Specialization
Laser focus on core categories vs. products in every aisle of the store.
Use Zoom tools for regular training events with brand owners.
Hire under 30's for social media and e-commerce sales roles.
IT Investment
Upgrade platform: E-commerce, retail reporting, sell out data.
Cost to Serve
Measure profitability by brand and customer.
Realign based upon 2022 reality.
Market Your Distributor Brand
Promote your distributor brand to leading
companies in your core categories. Export Solutions can help!
Aggressive investment in this A+ tool. Explore new sampling vehicles.
Invest in a “Best in Class” web site. Create modern company profile.
Incorporate e-commerce metrics: Page 1 results, consumer feedback, etc.
Brand Managers
Reward creativity and marketing excellence, not paperwork completed.
Promote meal solutions, not just brands.
Be positive. Think, “why not?”
Results Exceed expectations everyday.
Export Manager 2022: New Skills for New Times
Priority Comments
Treat as major channel, not niche.
Social Media
Create content library for distributors to “plug and play.”
Management Engagement
Zoom with distributor leadership team: CEO, CFO, VP Sales, etc.
Promote young, energetic spirit. Embrace change and new channels.
Category Specialization
Share category trends. Deliver product innovation, not “me too.”
Use Zoom tools for regular distributor training events.
Make your corporate functional experts available to your distributor team.
IT Investment
Upgrade platform: Brand portal, syndicated data, shipment status.
Cost to Serve
Measure contribution to distributor profit.
Look at pricing and margin vs. agreement.
Marketing Your Brand
Invest to adapt your global marketing plan to local conditions.
Aggressive investment in this A+ tool. Explore new sampling vehicles.
Invest in a “Best in Class” web site. Robust export resource page.
Monitor pricing/assortment at retailer web shops.
Incorporate e-commerce metrics in your distributor scorecard.
Brand Managers
Demand young digitally savvy brand managers.
Promote meal solutions, not just brands. Look for co-promotion partners.
Be positive. Think, “why not?”
Results Exceed expectations everyday.
Brand owners demonstrate significant due diligence in selecting
a new distributor. This includes lengthy negotiations with the
distributor’s owner and development of a marketing plan with
their senior management. Typically, you sign a contract and then
they introduce you to “John” (example), a 30 year old Brand
Manager who will be your first point of contact. In reality, most
brands are in daily contact with “John,” but do little up front to
evaluate, select, or define “John’s” role in building your business.
Role Definition
Normally, the title of Brand Manager is assigned to your primary
point of contact at the distributor. This person serves as the
central switchboard of all elements regarding your brand’s
business at the distributor. Problem solving, logistics issues,
promotion planning, and chasing payments are just a few of
the everyday tasks assigned to the Brand Manager.
Can your Brand Manager “Move the Organization?”
A key issue is the seniority of the person assigned to your
brand. Are you working with a top manager who has a close
relationship with the CEO? Or are you working with a junior
person who works hard, but basically maintains the flow of
paper? In most cases, I look for a person that commands the
respect of the distributor organization. Many distributors have
multiple brand managers, all lobbying for share of voice from
the team. “Best in Class” Brand Mangers possess the tenacity
to motivate the sales organization to achieve the results and
priorities required for your brand.
Brand Manager workload is always a key issue. A Brand
Manager may be shared by 3-5 brands. This approach may
be acceptable if you are a niche brand and you are achieving
desired results. On the other hand, it is frequently preferable
to secure a dedicated Brand Manager who spends 100% of their
time working on your business. Exporters need to recognize that
Brand Managers cost money, so your contact’s workload is
directly proportional to the income generated by your brand.
Marketing Versus Sales Background
Brand Managers typically come equipped with a marketing
degree. This background is helpful if your brand requires a
“classic marketer,” combining creativity with deep focus on
the consumer. In other situations, Brand Managers with sales
expertise prove to be adept at participating at key account sales
calls and understanding the best methods for working with the
sales force.
Do you like your Brand Manager? Most companies spend
extensive time working with their distributor Brand Manager
contact. You must be aligned and develop a healthy working
rhythm. This can be difficult, as you share common objectives,
but report to separate bosses and perhaps different incentives.
In many cases, a brand owner develops a strong personal
relationship with their brand manager. This can be unhealthy
if they like their contact, but let this relationship continue even
if results are poor.
People Power: Next Steps
A strong Brand Manager serves as your “Brand Advocate” at
the distributor. Export managers need to include assessment of
their potential Brand Manager as part of the Distributor selection
process. Ask “Who will be my day to day contact? Why? Other
choices?” Avoid “paper pushers” that are nice people and can
complete forms but offer few new ideas, complain about being
overworked and fail to capture the attention of the sales force.
Winning Brand Managers bring energy, new ideas, and results to
your brand. Recognize Brand Managers who maintain the skill set
to take your annual plan, add creative ideas appropriate for their
market, and drive the sales organization to deliver the results!
People Power: Distributor Brand Managers
Greg’s Guidance: Export Strategy 2025
3 What are your Lessons Learned?
3 What are your Core Competencies?
3 Which countries offer exceptional growth for your category?
3 How much is your company willing to invest? Marketing, People, Promotion
3 What will our organization need to do differently?
3 What are realistic measures and benchmarks?
Brand Manager Assessment
Your distributor Brand Manager represents your key day to day contact. Successful Brand Managers are good
partners and deliver results, not excuses. Is your Brand Manager an experienced veteran or new hire (rookie)?
Assessment Criteria Rating: (10 = Best)
Years industry/distributor experience
Years sales/commercial experience
Reports to owner or senior leadership team
Workload: dedicated or shared with many brands
Responsiveness: gets things done quickly!
Category knowledge: technical, competition
Analytical skills: shipment trends, Nielsen data
Problem solving
Develops creative promotions
Reports: accurate and on time
Enthusiasm for your company and the business
Participation on customer calls, store checks
Forecast accuracy
Influence distributor team: focus on your priorities
Delivers/exceeds shipment objectives
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
For many exporters, eighty percent or
more of their distributor interaction filters
through a distributor brand manager.
If you are lucky, this energetic university
graduate completes your reports and
serves as a capable advocate with the
distributor sales team. Brand owners
frequently demonstrate excessive loyalty
to their brand managers as local heroes
that rescue the export manager from periodic emergencies. In reality,
the distributor brand manager is a “middle man,” communicating with
the generals that deliver the results at key account and store level.
International brand building is a team sport. Winners are companies that form strong
relationships with all functional leaders in a distributor organization. Web meeting tools
like Zoom and Teams facilitate easier direct linkage with key distributor personnel.
Discussed below are Export Solutions’ tips for moving “Beyond the Brand Manager”
to accelerate your business to the next level.
1. Key Account Managers (KAMs) Are the Power Players
KAMs are the major account experts and own the buyer relationships. Direct feedback
from them provides valuable, realistic insights. Most distributors have weekly KAM
meetings that are worthwhile to join to discuss a key priority. Roll up your sleeves
and become visible with the sales people “carrying the bag.”
2. Field Sales Teams Control the In-Store Show Room
Typically, a distributor’s store-level merchandising team reports to the sales director, a
few “hand-offs” away from the brand manager. Retail stores represent the place where
export dreams are translated to cash in the register. Field managers juggle a large basket
of priorities for their sales army. Fund a sales contest and you will build loyalty.
3. Follow the Money to the CFO
How well do you know the CFO at your distributors? The finance department is the
cash hub, approving orders, handling payments, and guiding the distributor’s financial
health. Establish a relationship with the CFO when all is well, as it will pay dividends
when a financial crisis erupts.
4. Meet the Digital Team
E-commerce development represents a growth initiative everywhere. Many distributors
hire a small, young team. Create “First One in Benefits” by partnering with this group at
this early stage of team evolution.
5. Treat Distributor CEO as a VIP
CEOs are busy, stretched by brand owners, customers, employees, and shareholders.
Find ways to engage the distributor CEO in your business. Consider quarterly Zoom
dates and extend an offer to join your distributor advisory board. Invite him to visit
your company headquarters for a first-class experience and a meeting with your CEO.
A favorite part of any market visit is “management by walking around.” I love to visit
every department. Smile to everyone, handing out a small gift with your company logo,
and say thanks for your help. Today’s travel guidelines limit these trips, but challenge
us to adapt this practice in a virtual way.
We appreciate our brand managers, but must remember that our partnership service
agreement is with the entire distributor, not just one person.
Good luck!
Greg Seminara
“Spend Time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
Beyond the Brand Manager
Strategic Services
Contact Us for
Export Solutions
1. Identify Best in Class Dis-
tributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market Prioritiza-
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor In-
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 Dis-
tributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market Prioritiza-
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor In-
96 Countries
7. Walmart International
8. Distributor Contracts,
Margins, and Fees
9. Meeting Speaker
10. International
Strategy Expert
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.
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.
1. Respect For Their Right
to Make a Reasonable Profit
Distributors have profit targets just like
manufacturers do. Distributors measure
total supplier contribution, defined by
sales multiplied by gross margin. How
much value do you receive from your
distributors relative to your contribution
to their profits?
2. Investment in Brand Support
Distributors love companies that
invest in above the line activities such as
television advertising, radio, social media,
print, and sampling. Distributor volume
is proportional to your investment in
brand support activities. More marketing
dollars usually translates to greater sales
and profits for the distributor.
3. Awards
Most distributors proudly display their
Distributor of the Year awards in their
office lobby or executive conference room.
Recognition can be given for distributor
of the year, or achievement of $1 million
in sales, most improved store conditions,
or ten years of service.
4. Market Visits (But Not Too Often)
Periodic market visits allow you to share
ideas, monitor progress, and discuss
issues. These trips serve as motivational,
relationship building events, particularly
if you can spend time together “out of
the office.”
5. Endorsement of Local Marketing Events
Best in Class partners maintain the ability
to create unique local programs to build
your brand. Voting with your marketing
dollars stimulates the team to deliver and
continue to bring you their best ideas.
6. Trip Contests – Quota Makers Club
Many believe that achieving your annual
target is a job standard. This is true, but
watch distributors ship cases like crazy
when trying to qualify for a trip to a
resort location! Plus, the trip generates
incredible goodwill and all vow to meet
their objective to return “next year.”
7. Market Research
Distributors aspire to appear as category
experts. Access to syndicated data
from Nielsen plus local consumer
research allows them to distinguish
themselves from other vendors armed
with hollow words and broad claims
on a PowerPoint presentation.
8. Invitation to Your Corporate Headquarters
A trip to the USA or Europe is a dream
come true for distributor brand managers
in emerging markets. Treat them like a
VIP, and they will be loyal forever.
9. Lunch for the Support Staff
Order processing, customer service,
and other administrative people form
the hidden backbone of the distributors
team. Buy the group lunch and you can
be a hero for $100-$200. Guess whose
orders will be handled first at the end
of a quarter?
10. Letter of Thanks
Our industry depends on email too much.
How do you communicate sincere thanks
when someone receives 200 emails a day?
Send a personal letter via the post office
recognizing a successful new product
launch, creative promotion,or above
and beyond effort. Extra points provided
for a handwritten note! These letters are
treasured forever.
Ten Things That Distributors Like
Talk to an Expert
Find Distributors in 96 Countries
International Strategy Road Map
Fix Problem Markets
Next Level Sales Management
Export Workshops
Motivational Meeting Speaker
Contact Greg Seminara at (001)-404-255-8387 to
discuss your business development project.
1. Unrealistic Expectations
Category growth ranges from 1% to 5%
in most Western countries. So how can
a manufacturer demand a 10% increase
in sales in a mature market? It’s possible
if the brand plans a major increase in
marketing spending. However, normally,
business growth parallels overall
market conditions.
2. Direct Contact With Their Assigned Retailers
Tricky retailers attempt to bypass a
distributor by contacting the brand
owner. Normally, the retailer has his
hand out for more money or wants to
“buy direct.” Be polite, but ask the buyer
to work with the distributor or schedule
a joint meeting for your next visit.
3. Cut Marketing Budgets
Leading distributors depend on
joint business plans, often created
up to one year in advance. Last minute
squeezes, translating to budget cutbacks
sometimes need to happen, but still hurt.
The distributor is left with delivering the
bad news and also hitting the sales target,
even with reduced support.
4. Short Shipments
Everyone loses due to short shipments.
Distributors could be assessed penalties
by retailers. Store level shelf space may
be lost and need to be recaptured. Keep
the pipeline filled, particularly during
peak seasonality.
5. Price Increases
Rising raw material input costs may
require adjustments in list prices. The
reality is that price increases are brutal to
implement in many countries. Eventually,
they are incorporated after months of
stand-off’s. In many cases, distributors
are forced to accept the price increase
from the brand, but are forced to swallow
the increase until they can negotiate
with the retailers.
6. Endless Reporting
Some brands are guilty of a constant
stream of reporting requests that take
time to complete. Ask: Is the report
really necessary? Legitimate requests are
forecasts, shipment results, major retailer
listing maps, price surveys, and new
product launch status updates.
7. Frequent Market Visits
Your partners require time to accomplish
their objectives without constant
oversight. Distributors appreciate short,
productive visits on a quarterly basis.
More frequently for a big company
and less often for a small brand. Get in,
conduct your business and off to the next
country. Week long visits to small markets
represent a distraction.
8. Margin Reductions
Distributors depend on their margin to
cover fixed overheads like logistics and
cost of their sales team. Often, their net
margin is only 3-5% or lower. Margin
reductions or increased costs challenge
their ability to operate a financially
healthy business.
9. Last Minute Requests
End of the year volume pushes and
rush orders are part of the business.
However, everything functions better
when normal lead times are respected.
Separate “must do” demands from
“nice to have” requests.
10. Delayed Response to Local Ideas
Manufacturers encourage distributors
to create unique local approaches to
brand building. Retailer buyers also call
their favorite distributors with short term
promotional opportunities to participate
in a special event. Distributors need quick
decisions on your ability to support their
idea. Few things are more frustrating for
a distributor than a lengthy wait while
their proposal is debated by numerous
levels of your company management.
Ten Things Distributors Don’t Like
Need a hand? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
Customer Relationship Assessment
All distributors claim strong relationships with their biggest customers. Below is Export Solutions’ template
for evaluating distributor key account relationships. Best way to evaluate distributor relationships? Your
company’s market share and volume growth at the customer versus the balance of the market!
Assessment Criteria Rating: (10 = Best)
Distributor viewed as an important supplier to the retailer/buyer
Open to bringing brand owner to customer meetings.
Ability to schedule buyer/CEO meetings outside the office.
Can negotiate standard listing fees and other program costs.
Pricing: access to price coordinator. Ability to make changes.
Shelf: access to decision maker. Space in excess of market share.
Merchandising Flier/Catalog: Ability to get prime feature space.
Relationship/access to retailer owners, senior executives.
Problem solving: rapid response? Emergency orders etc.
Payment terms.
Access to retailer movement data.
Category captain or “advisor” for my category.
Vendor awards?
Knowledge of retailers systems. “How to get things done.”
Sales results versus overall market and retailers internal growth.
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”
Driving export development requires a balance of headquarter resources and people “waking up”
in the country they are managing. Export Solutions shares 12 key roles required to partner effectively.
Noted: Export managers create miracles, with one person handling many functions!
Who, What, & Where
Role Work Location
VP/General Manager
• Develop export strategy
• Obtain resources for team
• Deliver annual results
New Business Development
• Prioritize expansion countries
• Due diligence on new partners
• Close new business deals
E-Commerce Manager
• Create e-commerce strategy
• Develop export tool kit
• Train distributor teams
Distributor Management
• Establish local priorities
• Train distributor teams
• Distributor customer service
• Deliver annual results
Supply Chain Manager
• Deliver distributor orders
• Manage forecast
• Distributor customer service
• Share best practices
• Support new launches
• Company “missionary”
Digital Marketing Manager
• Develop/distribute content
• Train distributor teams
• Maintain digital portal
Trade Marketing Manager
• Develop local promotions
• Facilitate distributor execution
• Analyze results
Consumer Marketing Manager
• Develop global strategy
• Conduct market research
• Drive new product pipline
Category Analyst
• Analyze Trends
• Identify opportunities
• Calibrate “size of prize”
Finance Manager
• Manage risk
• Monitor receivables, f/x
• Deliver financial results
Compliance Coordinator
• Facilitate regulatory, registration,
trademark, and packaging
What’s the best way to launch a new brand
into international markets? Many of us follow
the worn path of finding a good distributor,
shipping the first order, and then waiting
for news of retailer acceptance and consumer
delight. In some cases, this approach works
and your amazing product and marketing
plan generates immediate traction. The
reality remains that retailers and consumers
are overwhelmed by choices and your brand
will need a spark to pop from the shelves in a new country.
At my export workshops, I compare the expansion of a brand to the birth and
development of a child. A pregnancy lasts nine months where parents carefully plan
for the baby’s arrival. Then, a beautiful child is born, with the mother (and father) rarely
straying more than ten meters away from the baby for the first three months. As time
progresses, the infant develops, gains independence, and matures into an adult.
Export programs frequently do not achieve optimistic year one ambitions. A prime
reason is that the “brand parents” create a solid plan, but leave their new product
“child” in the hands of a distributor “babysitter” for the critical first three to six months
of launch. Export managers wear many hats and can not be everywhere. My experience
reveals that the total family must support a new distributor to promote your brand
effectively in a new market.
I love the story of the owner of a mid-size European beverage company participating
in their Australia expansion. He committed to ninety days in Australia, the majority
of the time spent riding the beverage route trucks, selling “up and down the street.”
Who can match the passion and enthusiasm of a company owner or export manager?
His presence signaled a powerful message to grassroots, influencer retailers, and
stimulated a good start. This entrepreneur was close to reality, sourcing direct feedback
from customers. He maintained the ability to quickly solve problems and capture
distributor focus. I know many would jump at the chance for ninety days in Australia
during their summer, but might be reluctant if the launch was in Moscow in winter!
How can a company adopt missionary zeal during the critical introductory window?
1. Motivational Distributor Launch Meetings: Distributors sponsor sales team meetings
on a regular basis. Create an exciting module with plenty of product samples, brand
gifts, and a sales contest. Everyone is always happy at a “Baptism” party.
2. Customer Call Blitz: Dedicate a week (or two) to participate at initial retailer calls.
Skip major retailers if they will only use your visit as an opportunity to extract more
money. In this case, visit smaller customers to secure first hand feedback and
demonstrate that you are part of the team.
3. Temporary Assignment for Company Brand Manager: Consider sending a brand
manager or other company employee for a short term role to help the distributor.
Assignment may last one month or one year.
4. Monthly Visits – First 3-6 Months: Nothing replaces a personal connection. Your
distributor will be motivated to perform if he is aware of your commitment to visit
monthly. Trips must focus on in-store availability and consumer offtake, not boring
PowerPoint meetings in conference rooms.
Export success is directly proportional to your financial commitment. Marketing is one
critical element of your plan. Of equal importance is the costly investment of your own
time “human capital” to support the launch. A dedicated missionary can inspire success,
store by store.
Good luck!
Greg Seminara
“Spend Time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
Who is Your Company Missionary?
Strategic Services
Contact Us for
Export Solutions
1. Identify Best in Class Dis-
tributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market Prioritiza-
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor In-
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 Dis-
tributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market Prioritiza-
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor In-
96 Countries
7. Walmart International
8. Distributor Contracts,
Margins, and Fees
9. Meeting Speaker
10. International
Strategy Expert
Elite teams require training. This applies
to sports, military, and the international
road warriors who manage export
departments. Many companies claim a
deep commitment to training and people
development in their mission statements.
Two years of Covid-related travel limitations
and the emergence of Zoom tools has
created an efficient new forum for training
our internal and distributor teams.
Education For All
A lot has changed in the last two years.
Everyone can benefit from an updated
course in winning requirements for
2022. This should apply to your
distributor network and international
team, as well as your own personal
development plan. Another opportunity
exists to teach colleagues in your home
office on the unique dynamics of export
and the enormous potential available
in the global market of 7.9 billion people.
Portal – 24/7 Resource
Leading companies implemented a global
export portal. This gateway provides
instant access to brand facts, digital
images, and success stories. Expanded
portals allow order placement, sales
forecasting, and other export reporting.
A must for best-in-class performance
this year.
Distributor Training
Zoom allows you to connect with large
groups instantly. I have participated in
global distributor meetings linking sales
teams from around the world. Other
export managers have used web tools
for new product launch meetings, to
kick off a retail sales contest, or to manage
a planning session with the entire key
account team. The goal is to make the
meetings entertaining and engaging
for your remote audience. One
beverage company’s web meeting
featured a surprise appearance by
a Euro Vision winner!
Functional Experts
Each company features deep functional
expertise at their headquarters. Overseas
distributors appreciate access to these
professionals. Why not schedule a web
meeting featuring your digital marketing
manager, supply chain VP, or IT guru?
Another option is to develop a session
for your global team managing a common
customer such as Carrefour, Walmart,
or Metro AG.
E-commerce is the primary growth
channel for all companies. However, most
managers’ fundamental training focuses
on brick and mortar principles. Consider
hiring an external expert to speak about
“doing business with Amazon.” Focus
on the practical operational requirements
such as supply chain and search strategies
versus a speaker who tells you “how fast
e-commerce is growing.”
Personal Plan
What are your personal development
plans for 2022? The new year is a
great opportunity to allocate time to
attend a leadership development class or
a session on managing teams. Evaluate
options early and receive management
commitment before budgets are cut!
Self-Paced Programs
Frequently it is a challenge to sync
everyone’s schedule for a training event.
An alternative is to record training
webinars and share them for review
later. Multinationals frequently offer
individual training via self-paced
modules to indoctrinate new distributors
or brand managers.
Export Solutions Workshops
Each year Export Solutions offers more
than 10 export workshops throughout
Europe and the Americas.
There are eight topics offered in
45-minute sessions. Highlights include
Distributor Sear
ch Best Practices
How to Gain Mor
e Distributor Focus
Distributor Economics: "How they
make money!"
e in the Store: Shelf Tactics
Handling 25 Critical Export Pr
Next Level Distributor Management
Export Strategy: A World
of Opportunity
Client References
Workshop delivery can be via Zoom or,
in many cases, on-site programs. Clients
have included Barilla, Tabasco, Church &
Dwight, Lorenz, Bolton Group, Seeberger,
Manner, and others. Contact Greg
Seminara for more information.
What is Your 2022 Training Mission?
30 Ideas to Help your Distributors
1. Trade Promotion
Share Best Practice Trade Promotion concepts
16. Innovation
Launch new items with successful track record
2. Celebrate Success
Distributor of the Year Awards
17. Sales Contest
Fund contest to incent and motivate distributor team
3. Category Expert
Provide fact based trend updates
18. Thank You Letter
Letter of recognition for team to distributor CEO
4. Logistics Service Level
Target 98% on time, complete orders
19. Event Sponsorship
Support distributor events, especially retailers’ charities
5. Store Check
Periodic visits to understand “retail reality”
20. Distributor Workload
Work proportional to distributor income
6. Billback Reimbursement
Prompt (30 days?) payment of distributor invoices
21. Price Increase
Provide fair lead time for price increases
7. Distributor CEO
Regular (quarterly?) checkpoint web meetings
22. Reference
Write testimonial or volunteer to serve as reference
8. Response Time
Earn reputation as “quick responder”
23. Training
Create Zoom training session for sales team
9. Marketing
Support distributor’s ideas. Invests in creative programs.
24. Portal
Create Portal with presentations, brand facts, digital tools
10. Customers
Do not deal directly with distributor’s customers
25. Social Media
Corporate experts available to help/share content
11. Reports
Stick to basics: sales, forecast, inventory, listing maps
26. VIP Trip Your Headquarters
Introduce distributor to your senior executives
12. Market Visits
Visit, but not too often
27. Samples
Support large sampling programs
13. Team Building
Create team relationship: finance, logistics, administration
28. Corporate Functional Experts
Provide distributor access to your corporate experts
14. Distributor Profit
Respect that a profitable distributor is a healthy distributor
29. Consumer Research
Conduct local research for consumer insights
15. Syndicated Data
Invest in Nielsen data
30. Create Culture of Success
Achieve joint business targets
What is your people strategy for your export business? Companies can’t
claim to be committed to international development managing via remote
control from corporate headquarters. In the past, you could do it all…
one person handling the globe and enjoying a few grand tours per year.
Today the business has changed, with exporters selling to 30, 70 countries
or more and overseas sales accounting for 50 percent or more of growth.
International distributors are allocating their valuable time and resources
to manufacturers with “loud” local representatives. Distributors try their
best for other brands, but “out of sight, out of mind” behavior may evolve.
A challenge is that many companies are reluctant to invest in headcount
in advance of sales.
Listed below are Export Solutions’ tips on increasing your “boots on the ground”
in foreign countries.
1. Regional Hubs – Common Option
Logical choices are Dubai, Miami (Latin America), and Singapore. Other popular spots
include Panama or Bogota for Latin America. Some companies are avoiding expensive
places like London or Hong Kong and hiring representatives based in alternates like
Amsterdam or Manila. Usually the idea of placing your Asia representative in Shanghai
and Latin America manager in Sao Paolo does not work out, as these people tend to
remain appropriately anchored in their home country.
2. Loan a Company Missionary to a Strategic Country
In the past, companies would send brand managers to the field for mandatory sales
training. The same concept applies to overseas countries. Assign a promising young
manager to a 3-6 month project in a new or strategic country, imbedded in the
distributor organization. They’ll learn and you’ll benefit from your “insider.”
3. Hire Inexpensive Locals
In many emerging markets, a $30-$50,000 salary represents a solid, mid-level, career
opportunity. It may be more productive to have four locals in Malaysia, Philippines,
Thailand, and Indonesia than one high paid expatriate in Singapore.
4. Poach Your Distributor Brand Manager
Some distributors may gripe, but many will actually encourage the practice.
The distributor employee knows your business, people, and how to get things done.
Distributor owner likes his former employee on his large manufacturer’s team due to
a strong bond and common understanding of business issues. Multinational suppliers
source a “trained” manager and offer a more attractive compensation package.
5. Export Management Companies
Regional export management companies are an attractive outsourced option.
These companies feature experienced export managers who visit countries frequently,
representing a basket of different brands. Compensation may be via a “fixed fee” or
commission. Look for companies based in your target region versus your own company
backyard. Hire companies that have international branches or travel constantly.
6. China and USA (European Brands) Require a Dedicated Manager
It’s nice to visit the USA or China as top priority export markets a couple times per year.
Don’t expect to accomplish much as offshore guests. Both China and USA are extremely
complex countries, with multiple channels, enormous geographies, and matrix partner
models required. Hire at least one local person if you are serious. The same approach
could apply to other large, high potential countries such as Mexico, Saudi Arabia, or Japan.
Export development is a team sport, not a one man show. The battle for distributor share
of mind has intensified. Signal your support to long term development by increasing
your in-country visibility.
Boots on the Ground
Greg Seminara
“Spend Time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
Strategic Services
Contact Us for
Export Solutions
1. Identify Best in Class Dis-
tributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market Prioritiza-
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor In-
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 Dis-
tributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market Prioritiza-
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor In-
96 Countries
7. Walmart International
8. Distributor Contracts,
Margins, and Fees
9. Meeting Speaker
10. International
Strategy Expert
The game has changed and companies
are accelerating investment in offshore
managers. As home markets mature, export
development is a strategic growth engine
for most companies. In the past, many
would cluster export departments at
the home office. Today, best practice
performers establish teams in strategic
countries and hubs so that their people
“wake up” fresh in their key market
versus arriving jet lagged twice per
year. Investment in local managers may
generate higher returns than increased
trade spend budgets.
Distributor Focus
Historically, distributors served as local
tour guides, hosting a parade of overseas
brand owners. Business review, two store
checks, big promises, nice dinner and then
off to the airport until the next visit in
6 months. Today, distributor attention is
dominated by the brands that staff people
based in the country or the region. Local
export managers feature the capacity
to understand market details and shout
loudly and more frequently. Periodic
visitors suffer from out-of-sight, out-of-
mind syndrome. The “distributor respects
what the brand owner inspects.”
China and USA
China and USA remain the two top opportunities for most
suppliers. Both countries feature an open door to innovative
brands willing to pioneer. These giants contain a multitude of
regional and channel complexities. Winners are establishing
teams in China and the USA. This includes a general manager
with financial control, local sales executives to manage
distributors or USA brokers, marketing and supply chain
professionals. Hiring one person is a start, but results are
directly proportional to your investment. For those electing
to manage these countries from overseas, consider sharing
an employee or hiring an agent. Otherwise skip China and
USA until you can focus with the proper manpower.
Double Your Headcount: Asia, Latin America
Many companies maintain a structure including one manager
assigned to Asia Pacific and another for Latin America. This
represents a good start. Brands with distributors throughout
these regions soon discover that it is a challenge to provide
focus and customer service when your network includes 10
to 20 distributors covering a broad geography. In Asia, some
elect to split the territory into China, North Asia (Japan, South
Korea) and Southeast Asia. For Latin America, a natural
division may be Mexico and Central America with another
manager for South America. South America can be further
split into Brasil, Mercosur (Argentina, Chile) and Andean
(Colombia, Peru, Ecuador) regions.
Inside Work or Outside Work?
Export roles and responsibilities include global headquarter
roles supplemented by field-based market experts. The home
office usually features the international senior executive to
represent the division plus global marketing, supply chain,
finance and administrative help for compliance and labeling
tasks. Regional export managers are most productive when
they are based in their assigned region, close to the
customers, distributors, and consumers.
Regional Hubs and Country Offices
Top export markets like USA, China, Brazil, Mexico, Saudi
Arabia, and Japan frequently support their own dedicated
office and cross-functional teams. These may be
supplemented by regional hubs in places like Dubai,
Miami, Singapore, Hong Kong, Panama, or Bogota.
Manila and Jakarta Versus Hong Kong
Some companies elect to hire three people as country
managers based in Manila, Jakarta, and Bangkok versus one
senior person in a high cost city like Hong Kong or Singapore.
Also note that Indonesia has a population of 280 million, the
Philippines 112 million versus Hong Kong at 7.5 million.
New Business Development Role
There is a specific skill set required to source, evaluate,
and sign new distributors. This is different “work” than the
typical regional export role of managing existing distributors.
Some companies accelerate their export growth with a
People Power: Strong Teams Build Great Brands
continued on next page
manager dedicated to new business development. This
person has individual metrics geared towards establishing
new relationships. Naturally, he works side by side with the
regional managers who will ultimately manage the business.
Cross Training Assignment
Some companies send mid-career functional experts
from marketing, sales, or supply chain to work at important
distributors. This in-house placement delivers a dual benefit.
The distributor provides more focus while your employee
is there and your team member builds personal bridges that
last a lifetime.
Expat or Local Hire?
An expatriate employee serves as a company missionary.
He knows how to “get things done at headquarters.” They
know their brands and often possess a long-term career
outlook with a company. Unfortunately, most expats rotate
on a three year assignment. Year one to get settled, year two
is productive and year three begins the transition home cycle.
Expats may also be an expensive investment when you factor
in housing, schools, travel, etc. Other companies elect to hire
local experts. These experienced managers know country
habits, language, retailers, and how to achieve realistic
objectives. A benefit is their long-term commitment to
the country and their salary structure may be lower than
a European or USA expatriate. Both options can succeed
with proper oversight.
International Distributor Meetings
Ultimately, the idea is to facilitate more contact and visibility
with your overseas distributor network. Many companies
sponsor regional distributor meetings in Miami or Dubai
which include all their distributors in a resort location. These
meetings are popular and productive. Another idea is a group
dinner at SIAL, ISM, or Gulfood. Other manufacturers
establish a distributor advisory panel which invites CEOs
of pivotal distributors to meet with senior management.
Lastly, consider an invitation to your distributors to visit
your company headquarters or factory. Treat them like a VIP
and they will return energized and committed to deliver their
sales objective.
continued from previous page
Looking for Good Distributors?
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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
People Power: Strong Teams
Build Great Brands
Every successful manager has a special person
in their career that mentored them and
promoted their potential to the big bosses at
headquarters. In my case, this was Bill Doyle.
Bill was a crafty veteran, my division manager
at Clorox. Bill Doyle defined “old school,”
having honed his skills on the rough and
tumble streets of New York for Procter and
Gamble and Phillip Morris. USA brokers fearfully called him the “Doctor”
because he usually showed up when the business was sick.
Bill Doyle passed up several opportunities to move up the corporate ladder.
He threw all his energy into discovering exceptional young talent and developing them.
Doyle led by example and created an unprecedented record of advancing his people to
the upper levels of management. Bill Doyle taught me most of what I know about the
fine art of store checks. “What’s measured is treasured.” I guess I impressed him when
he challenged me to focus on a broker’s in-store performance. I quickly produced
analysis based upon checking 300 of the broker’s 400 stores within a six week period.
In the world of export, we are frequently asked to create miracles with limited budgets
and stretched resources. We can not do it all alone. One of Bill Doyle’s many lessons was
to focus on people development and spending time in the trenches. A well written letter
or a timely phone call from Bill could inspire the troops to achieve the desired results.
There are two questions to think about.
What are you doing to promote and develop young talent at your company?
Big companies like Nestlé, Coke, and General Mills sponsor structured mentoring
programs. Smaller companies are more informal, but still committed. Structured or
unstructured, the greatest gift an executive can share is his time. Examples include
participation in a week long market visit to a quarterly checkpoint lunch or an invitation
for a young talent to sit in on a senior management meeting. We all thrive from positive
written communication. I still have “attaboy” letters from my early days at Procter and
Gamble. One of my popular bosses, who later became a CEO, maintained a large stack
of index card notes on his desk. Each day, he dedicated time to draft handwritten notes
to team members, customers, and contacts with a few short sentences of encouragement
or recognition.
What is your export training program?
International development and distributor management is a science. Senior managers
rely on years of experience. Newer people to export are frequently sourced from the
home market organization, with strong industry fundamentals, but are quickly lost
when they step off the plane on a new continent. Each year, I conduct 1-2 day training
workshops for companies focused on export expansion as well as government trade
associations. The sessions are always highly interactive and a form of team building.
Typically, everyone participates from the international leader to the customer service
representatives. Looking back, I always reflect on the positive group spirit and sense
of shared purpose at the companies that invest in formal export training. Will your
legacy be based upon your own accomplishments or a that of a strong pipeline of
future leaders?
I have been fortunate enough to work on export projects from Mexico to Mongolia and
Italy to India thanks to the support of Bill Doyle and others at Clorox (Rich, Joe, Tom,
Glynn) who took an interest in my career. Today, I took Bill Doyle out for lunch to say
thank you. Who is the Bill Doyle who made a difference in your life? Give them a call
today to express your appreciation and update them on your activities to develop your
own team.
Greg Seminara
“Spend Time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
Who is Bill Doyle?
Strategic Services
Contact Us for
Export Solutions
1. Identify Best in Class Dis-
tributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market Prioritiza-
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor In-
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 Dis-
tributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market Prioritiza-
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor In-
96 Countries
7. Walmart International
8. Distributor Contracts,
Margins, and Fees
9. Meeting Speaker
10. International
Strategy Expert
You can usually spot an export manager in the fast track lane at
airport security with the diamond level frequent flyer card and
bulging passport. Many of us spend half of our business lives on
the road, serving as roving brand ambassadors for the companies
that we represent. Our friends envy this glamorous life, little do
they know how punishing it is to take red-eye flights and eat
mediocre airport food. While this lifestyle appears as normal for
most of us, it makes sense to review some fundamental ideas on
how to obtain the most productivity from our companies’
investment in our business travel.
1. Define Purpose for Each Market Visit
Export Solutions identifies seven management roles for
a market visit:
Doctor: visiting to handle a problem
Architect: design new plan for achieving objectives
Coach: trip to teach distributor about your brand
Babysitter: follow up on key priorities
Gardener: cultivate new business and relationships
Fan: cheer good distributor on to great results
Tourist: we enjoy the country
In reality, a productive visit encompasses parts of all of the
above roles.
2. Schedule: Minimum Six Weeks Lead Time
Organize your visit with six to eight weeks lead time. This
guarantees that all key people will be available during your
visit. It also reminds your distributor that you are coming
soon and there is time to fix problems before your arrival.
3. Agenda and Analysis
Send market visit agenda four weeks
in advance. Review progress versus
key initiatives and annual objectives.
Obtain updated “Listing Maps,”
schematics, pricing, and
merchandising plans. Analyze
syndicated data (Nielsen), shipment
trends, and marketing spending.
What has been achieved since
your last visit?
4. Serve as Category Expert
Distributors appreciate brand owners
that share category expertise. What
are the global and regional trends
for your category? Any product
innovation from your company or
competition? Are there success stories
from other markets or common
retailers that you can share?
5. Store Checks: First Priority
I am a big advocate of checking stores
as soon as I get to the market, before
formal office meetings. This allows
me to capture the rhythm of the
market, category and my own brand performance in advance
of philosophical meetings that may ignore “Retail Reality.”
Request that the retail sales manager accompany you to secure
his “pulse” of the market. Visit stores in different parts of town.
Always use the retailer’s schematic as the “official” record.
Beware of stores that look “too good to be true.”
6. Build Relationships with Entire Team
Frequently our visit is concentrated on meetings with the brand
manager and a 15 minute chat with the distributor CEO. Visit
the distributor’s warehouse at least once per year. Actual
warehouse inventory supplies an accurate snapshot of their
entire business. Schedule time with the finance manager. Better
to get to know him in advance of the inevitable problem. Treat
the administrative team to a casual lunch to say thanks. We know
who keeps the ship running! Invite the Distributor owner or MD
to dinner. The best business insights are obtained after 9:00 pm.
7. Customer Visits
Schedule an annual business review or participate in a new
product launch to serve as a category “expert.” Volunteer to
try to solve problems, but avoid situations where the buyer
tries to extort money from you. Meet with other people at the
retailer beyond your buyer. Most retailers have Marketing,
Merchandising, Internet Sales, and Supply Chain managers
interested in sharing insights with overseas suppliers.
8. Brainstorm New Ideas
Allocate some time to think about new ways to achieve your
business results. Too many times we get in the repetitive rut
of offering the same programs year after year. What ideas have
worked in other markets or for other brands that the distributor
represents? Co-promotion ideas?
Charity tie in? How can we generate
positive social media buzz?
9. Distributor Love
See our article titled, “Getting a
Distributor to Love Your Brand.” Each
market visit is a valuable opportunity
to cultivate a powerful relationship.
We want the distributor to maintain
our priorities as “top of mind” after
we are dropped off at the airport to
return home.
10. Trip Report Thanks
The best trip reports are the ones that
are written on the plane ride home
when all issues are still fresh. Say
thanks and send a balanced report
of achievements and opportunities.
Remember that all accomplishments
and problems are a joint responsibility
of both the brand owner and
distributor. A detailed report with
clear and measurable next steps
serves as the official benchmark
for your next trip!
See you in the airport!
Ten Tips: Improving Market Visit Productivity
Export Manager Report Card
Assessment Criteria Considerations
(10 = Best)
Annual Plan Development, Execution, Delivery Aligned, reliable, committed
Export Experience – Food/Consumer Products • New to 20 years +
Ability to Influence Distributors • Focus on your priorities
Pioneers New Business • From concept to containers
Work Ethic • Office time vs. overseas trips?
International Citizenship • Language skills, cultural alignment
Category Knowledge • Viewed as expert: buyers, distributors
Business Leadership • Partners with internal functions
Distributor Relationships • From sales reps. to owner
Thought Leadership • Creates and shares best practices
Export Strategy • Logical vision and road map
Profitable, Sustainable, Exports • Sells profitable cases
Retail Store Conditions • Brand presence vs. market share?
Brand Building – Promotions • Creativity, effectiveness, efficiency
Problem Solving – Response Time • Same day to one week?
Customer Relations • Senior access at top retailers
Analytical Skills: Shipments, Nielsen • Trends, opportunities, plan
Digital Savvy • E-commerce, social media
Supply Chain Management & Forecasting Accuracy and efficiency
Results vs Budget, Market,
Category (CY, PY, 3 Years)
• Flat to 10% +
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?”
Fifteen Tips: Achieve Preferred Supplier Status
A natural goal is to achieve “Preferred
Supplier Status” with retailers and your
distributors. Satisfied trading partners
generate superior results. “Vendor of
the Year” does not mean “Spender of
the Year.” Listed below are 15 tips to
be viewed as a Preferred Supplier with
your distributors and retail customers.
1. Invest in Brand Support
Marketing activities drive incremental
sales and cultivate the health of your
brand and category. Supplier investments
in consumer awareness and retailer
development activities help everyone
achieve their sales objectives.
2. Innovate, Innovate, Innovate
The CPG/FMCG industry is fast paced,
with frequent new product introductions.
Companies which invest in research to
deliver new product ideas out-perform
and lead the category.
3. Keep the Supply Chain Filled
Short shipments cause a chain reaction
of problems throughout the supply chain.
Seek to attain a 98% case fill rate or better.
4. Distributors Need to Make
Money Too!
Retailers, Manufacturers, and
Distributors seek to achieve a reasonable
profit. Distributors ( Importers/Brokers)
are often “squeezed” as middlemen.
Distributor Margin reductions translate
to cutbacks in sales personnel, customer
service, investments in technology, and
ultimately impact results for your brand.
A financially healthy distributor is a
productive partner.
5. Focus on Priorities versus Minutiae
All partners are guilty of getting absorbed
in the details of the business. Maintain
attention on the key elements which
drive business success. Minimize
“non-essential” reports.
6. Serve as Category Expert
It’s a challenge for Retailer buyers and
distributors to master all the categories.
Preferred suppliers provide fresh and
unbiased insights into category trends,
product development, and analysis of
category data.
7. Visit the Market, But not Too Often
Distributors and Retailers welcome your
periodic visits. Insights on market
development and problem solving “face
to face” are
invaluable. On the
other, you need to
provide distributors
the time and freedom
to build the business
without distraction
of preparation and
management of
frequent supplier
market visits.
8. Calibrate Time
Commitment to
A first step is to
evaluate what your
brand represents
to a distributor
(or retailer) in
terms of annual
contribution. Reflect
on the activities
requested to service
your business in
relation to your
9. Keep Your
Preferred suppliers
are viewed as trusted partners. Reliable
suppliers secure more than their fair
share of retailer and distributor focus.
Last minute cutbacks in marketing
support are sometimes necessary,
but damage your credibility.
10. Respond to Local Ideas
Distributors and Retailers know their
markets. Give them the support they
request on a new promotion idea or sales
campaign. Let them build ownership of
an idea and the ultimate results. Good
ideas will build credibility and sales.
11. Pay Bill-backs on a Timely Basis
Many distributors are small businesses
with tight cash flow. It is always positive
to be viewed as a “Prompt Payer” of
legitimate invoices.
12. Support Distributor
with Corporate Headquarters
Many companies enjoy long term
relationships with their distributor
network. The Distributor depends on
you to serve as their advocate with senior
management of your company. Fight for
their ideas and defend their business
performance, where appropriate.
Remember that all organizations
experience a mix of “good years and
bad years.”
13. Share Best Practices
Industry participants are all “students
of the game” and are generally open
to learning about strategies from other
markets/retailers. On the other hand,
we must recognize that all markets have
subtle differences and not all approaches
are transferable.
14. Provide Proper Lead Time
to Achieve Desired Results
The consumer goods industry is relatively
organized with established protocols
and timelines. Exceptions can be made
in case of product recall or breakthrough
innovation. Everything functions better
when timelines are adhered to.
15. Recognize Achievement
Take the time to say “Thanks” or “Well
done.” This acknowledgement may be
in the form of a personal note, phone call,
or public recognition.
Preferred Supplier Scorecard
Distributors deliver their best results for their favorite principals. How do you rank?
Supplier Assessment Considerations
(10 = Best)
Annual Sales Revenue • Percent of total distributor sales
Annual Profit Generated ($)
• Net sales times gross margin
Years of Service • New to 20 years or more
Compound Annual Growth Rate
• Flat to 10% or more
Supplier Investment Level • Zero to 25% of sales
Celebrates Success
Awards, dinner, thank you notes
Shares Best Practices
• Serves as category expert
Logistics Service Level
• Target 98% on time, complete orders
Visits Retail Stores
• Never to full day every visit
Reimbursement of Billbacks • 2 weeks to 3 months
Senior Management Relationship • None to long term partners
Export Manager Experience • New hire to 10 years or more
Response Time • Same day to one month
Supports Distributor’s Ideas
• Invests in local ideas
Good on Customer Calls
Avoids calls to customer favorite
Admin Requirements • Orders only to multiple reports
Supplier Visit Frequency • Never to weekly
Relationship: Entire Team • Finance, logistics, administration
Respects Fair Profit for Distributor • Healthy distributor is profitable
Achieves Joint Business Targets • Creates culture of success
Does Your Distributor Network Need A Check Up?
Export Solutions Can Help!
Distributor Network Assessments
Motivational Speeches
International Strategy
Find Distributors in 96 Countries
Contact Greg Seminara at gseminara@exportsolutions.com or (001)-404-255-8387.
Exporters manage distributor networks extending to 20, 50, 70 countries or more!
Every company has a few distributors that under perform.
“Under achievers” prevent us from attaining our personal objectives.
Distributor Network Check Up
Independent assessment from Export Solutions
Establish methodology for ranking Best in Class distributors and “Laggards”
Supply strategies for recognizing top distributors
and upgrading the bottom performers
Benchmark external brands from your category
Practical and “action oriented” approach
Criteria Rating Evaluation Factors
Shipment Results
Overall growth for our industry in your market?
Distributor company wide sales performance
(all brands)?
Distributor sales results for my brand?
Change vs. benchmarks?
Brand Performance
Key brand performance versus overall category.
Shipment growth, market share, weighted distribution.
New item success.
Key Account Results
Results at top 3-5 accounts (or channels).
Improvements: new items, shelf presence,
Are we getting “fair share” of retailers growth?
What Worked?
Strategies or performance that achieved results.
Ideas that delivered incremental sales.
Key Issues?
Problems or barriers to achieving results.
Pricing, investment, competition.
Performance by key people touching our business.
Organizational changes? Who made a difference?
Distributors financial health. Planned investments.
Efficiency opportunities in Partnership.
2022 Requirements
Resources required to achieve 2022 shipment expectations.
Critical activities, timelines, changes to structure/plan.
Distributor Market Review
Greg’s Ten Tips
1. Good news travels fast and bad news
travels slowly
2. If you want to know what’s really going
on, spend a day visiting stores
3. Pick up the phone and call a friend or business
partner versus email
4. Be positive. Think, “why not?”
5. Results are directly proportionate to your
investment: Marketing, People, Focus, Time
6. A distributor (or Broker) “respects” what
the Brand owner “inspects”
7. Shipment numbers rarely lie
8. Put it in writing
9. If two people agree on the principle of a deal,
you can usually work out the financial terms
10. There is more in common with industry
practices across the globe than differences.
Brand owners everywhere desire more shelf
presence and retailers demand more discounts.
Recognize the differences, but focus on the
universal requirement for superior products,
marketed at a fair price.
1. Quarterly MBO Meeting with Distributor
Senior Management
One of the most effective tools for
increased focus is to create a regular
process for Distributor senior
management engagement in your
business. The Management By Objective
(MBO) system (or similar approaches)
allows you to meet quarterly on a pre-
planned schedule to review past quarter
performance on key initiatives and firm
up plans and commitment for the new
quarter. Discussions should focus on key
business metrics and account specific
results. Meetings can be held via
teleconference if you can not visit
personally 4 times per year.
2. International Distributor
Network Conference
This can include all your global
distributors or those from a specific
continent/region. Program can be 1-2
days in length and can include Corporate
Business Review, New Product Roll-Out,
and requirement that each distributor
give a presentation on a success story
from their home market. Meeting location
can tie in with a major trade fair such
as SIAL or FMI to reduce expenses.
Alternatively, the meeting can also be in
a resort location to serve as an incentive.
Export Solutions is available as a
conference meeting speaker to discuss
a variety of distributor optimization
strategies and retail trends.
3. Sales Contests
Sales contests bring energy, excitement,
and focus to your brands. Sales contests
should be about six weeks in duration
and offer the opportunity for “everyone”
to win. Prizes can range from cash
incentives to trips to merchandise for
the winners. Sync contest objectives and
measures to your key initiatives for your
peak season or a new product launch.
4. Key Account Business Reviews
It is appropriate to conduct key account
business reviews with each of the
distributor’s top 3-5 accounts once per
year. Meetings should include senior level
management of the retailer. This strategy
requires distributor analysis of the
accounts business and opportunities for
mutual growth. This also provides you
with an avenue to develop a personal
relationship with local customers.
5. Retail Audit
Retail execution is critical to the success
of any brand initiative. An important
element in a new product launch or
preparation for your peak selling season
is the pre-scheduled Retail Audit across
a market. The Manufacturer would bring
2 or 3 people from their company and
match them with distributor personnel
for a day in the field checking retail
conditions. In one day, the 2-3 teams can
see 30-50 stores in the market to judge
the markets “readiness” and progress.
Distributor personnel are competitive and
will work hard to make the market “look
good” for the Retail Audit.
6. Plant Visit
Invite your distributors for a plant
visit and/or a trip to your corporate
headquarters. Distributor can be introduced
to members of your senior management
team. Distributors should be encouraged
to bring a large customer as well. This type
of trip can serve as a “bonding” experience
and create a renewed sense of commitment
to your business.
7. Bonus Payment
Incentive pay for performance usually
works well with sales teams. Sync
bonus with your key objectives. Reward
performance on achievement of retail
distribution, profitability, as well as sales
volume objectives. Volume based objectives
alone may encourage questionable
shipments that could be diverted.
8. Distributor Sales Meeting Participation
Most distributors schedule monthly or
quarterly meetings for their entire sales
team. This is a primary format for the
distributor to communicate direction and
priorities. Most distributors allow their
manufacturers to make a presentation
on a new item or key sales drive.
Supplement your meeting presentation
with a small gift for all meeting
participants such as a pen, key chain,
or calculator with your company logo.
9. CEO Market Visit
Distributors appreciate a visit from your
CEO or other member of your senior
management team (CFO, VP International
etc.). This gives them the opportunity to
demonstrate their results and share their
input on the markets development. It is
magical to watch certain market issues
get “solved” immediately prior to
a senior management visit !
10. Share Best Practices
Create a process for sharing best practices
and success stories within your global
distributor network. These can be
communicated via a monthly newsletter
or email. Distributors are proud to share
their achievements or innovative new
strategies that they are using to build
their business. Manufacturers may elect
to reward distributors with the “best
success story” each month with a
“free dinner” or other incentive.
Ten Tips Increased Distributor Focus on Your Brands
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)
Coverage: 96 countries and 2,700 retailers
Drug Store
Natural Food
Club, Cash & Carry
Supplying profiles, store counts, formats,
news and info for Top 100 international
retailers plus all overseas branches
Example 1: Who are supermarket
retailers in Canada?
Example 2: How many stores does Loblaws
operate by banner, in Canada?
Search by Retailer NameSearch by Country
Combo Search
Search By Format
Retailer Search Made Simple
Canada Example
Why did you create the retailer database?
Export managers dedicate a lot of time
to researching countries, retailers and
preparing business plans. A standard
KPI measure is tracking product listings
for key customers. I believe that our
industry could benefit from a global
retailer database to instantly locate
retailers and their store counts in
96 countries. The retailer database
is a logical extension of our leading
distributor database which has helped
more than 3,000 companies build export
sales during the last 10 years.
What is your geographic coverage?
96 of top 100 GDP countries worldwide.
This includes most Asian, Middle Eastern,
and European countries. Our database
covers every country in the Americas.
In Africa, we cover South Africa.
What is your format coverage?
Excellent coverage of chain supermarkets,
hypermarkets, clubs, cash and carry,
and convenience formats. Solid initial
coverage of drug stores, natural food
stores, and e-commerce channels.
Our database does not cover
DIY/hardware, toy, office, liquor,
or sporting goods channels.
Retailer database: featured info
Profile – Retailers profile and link
to their internet home page.
Formats – Retailer’s stores segmented
by format and banner.
We track supermarkets, hypermarkets,
cash and carry, convenience stores,
discounters, drug stores, natural food
stores, and e-commerce retailers.
News – Latest retailers’ news. In some
cases (Asia), we substitute a link to the
retailer’s latest promotional flyer.
Financial – Many leading retailers are
publicly traded. A link is provided to
their latest financial results. We do not
offer estimated financial information for
privately held or family owned retailers.
How is your coverage of global retailers?
We offer total coverage for top 100 global
retailers. This includes all of their
branches and banners. Searchable!
Use filters to research Walmart, Costco,
Carrefour, Tesco, Metro, Casino presence
by country. Database covers retailer’s
total store outlets as well as a breakout
by banner and format.
What can I use the retailer database info for?
Obtain an instant snapshot of an
average of 24 retailers per country
for 96 countries.
Track presence of global retailers like
Walmart, Carrefour, and Metro AG.
Create country specific listing maps
where distributors measure brand
authorization by retailer.
Conduct home office based
international category reviews
and price checks from retailers’
e-commerce sites (not all retailers).
Prepare annual reviews and reports
with up-to-date information on
leading retailers and channels.
The database offers filters allowing you
to search by country, format, or retailer
name. You can also use a combination
of filters for your research.
Can I get a free sample
of the retailer database?
Sure! Check www.exportsolutions.com for a
complete profile of United Kingdom retailers.
Do you provide retailers annual sales
or market share information?
Accurate annual sales information is
available through the financial link for
publicly traded companies. We do not
provide estimated financial information
for privately held and family owned
retailers. Channel blurring occurs
between supermarket, convenience,
e-commerce, and even natural food
operators. We do not provide market
share due to difficulty to accurately
isolate and define channel market share
information, particularly with so many
privately held retailers.
How accurate is the retailer data?
Export Solutions’ retailer database is
updated weekly, so information is highly
accurate. Retailer names, web sites, and
formats rarely change. This makes the
database 99% accurate at the company
level. New stores open every day,
resulting in store counts that may be 95%
accurate. We intend to update store
counts on a regular basis.
How much does retailer database access cost?
An annual subscription to the retailer
database is $975. This supplies one year,
unlimited access to more than 2,700
retailers in 96 countries. Special offers
available for our distributor database
customers. Note: special pricing for
government trade organizations.
How do I access the retailer database?
Visit www.exportsolutions.com and click
the retailer database page. You can place
a subscription or individual continent
(i.e., Europe) into a shopping cart.
Register and check out via credit card.
The process takes two minutes and we
automatically send you an invoice.
About Export Solutions
Export Solutions was founded in 2004
and is based in Atlanta, Georgia in the
USA. Export Solutions serves as a leading
provider of business intelligence to the
food and consumer goods industries.
Our distributor database covers 9,200
distributors in 96 countries and has been
used by more than 3,000 clients. Our
Export Express newsletter has a circulation
of 9,900 and is viewed as an important
source of insights, strategies, and
templates for international development.
FAQ’s Retailer Database
Year One Scorecard Example
Brand owners and distributors enter new relationships with great expectations.
Most partnerships succeed, but some under deliver leaving both parties disappointed.
Export Solutions Year One scorecard helps both parties align on KPI’s.
Objective Goal Results
Shipments to Distributor
Distributor Sales to Customers
Top 5 Customers
Region: Sales Split by Area
Channel: Sales Split by Channel
Market Share
Listings: Top 5 Customers
Retail Pricing
Shelf Positioning
Shelf Space
Social Media
Manufacturer Investment
Brand Manager Performance
Create Your Own Export Library
Looking for a fresh point of view for your
next event or training workshop?
Contact Greg Seminara at
All guides available free at www.exportsolutions.com.
Export Strategy Guide
Distributor Search Guide
Export Handbook
Selling to USA Handbook
Distributor Management Guide
Finance & Logistics
300 Tips for
Export Managers
Idea Guide:
New World New Business
Export Treasure Chest
My Favorite Templates & Forms
People Power
Strong Teams Build Great Brands
New Distributor
Cooperation Model
Is your distributor (or importer) network
“Best in Class”? Alignment with a strong
partner will deliver superior results for
your brand. Export Solutions evaluates
and analyzes hundreds of distributors
per year. Frequently, our point of view
is requested to establish criteria for
selecting the best distributor candidate
for a brand owner. Recapped below are
points for consideration for evaluation
of your existing distributors or potential
new partners.
Size Counts!
Critical mass translates to the ability to
offer broader services and deeper sales
coverage at a competitive rate. Retailers
are dependent on large distributors,
creating a “two way” street on tough
negotiations. Larger distributors leverage
their scale to obtain benefits for the niche
brands in their portfolio. In times of
financial turbulence, larger distributors
get paid first. Bigger is not always better,
particularly if you are a small brand. An
important metric is distributor rank in
terms of sales revenue to key retail
customers within your category.
Countrywide Coverage
All distributors normally feature good
presence and contacts with major retailers
and stores within the capital city. Best in
class distributors offer superior coverage
countrywide. Look for distributors that
maintain sales offices and warehouses
outside the capital city. Request a map
pinpointing where the distributor’s field
sales people are based. Typically, the
major cities represent only 50 % of a
countries volume. An opportunity exists
for best in class teams to obtain higher
brand development outside the major
cities where second tier brands do not
have coverage.
Information Technology – Reporting
The sophistication of a distributor’s
information technology platform creates
a statement regarding the distributors
commitment to future growth. Best in
Class distributors offer online portals
where their suppliers can log in to view
sales trends, inventory levels, invoice
status, and results versus key sales
initiatives in “real time.” Leading
distributors supply their field sales teams
with handheld computers to transmit
time sensitive information on orders,
pricing, in store conditions, and
competitive activity. Other key areas for
evaluation include a distributor’s supply
chain management software, ability to
handle multiple EDI transaction sets, as
well as data security and back-up plans.
People – Multinational Expertise
Many distributors trace their origins to
family run operations. The most success-
ful entrepreneurs recognize the necessity
to bring in professionally trained talent
to bring their organization to the next
level. Best in class distributors hire
executives with experience with strong
companies such as Procter & Gamble,
Nestle, & Unilever to manage key
departments. Progressive distributors
incent these senior executives with
a route to gain ownership shares in
return for their services.
Sell to 96 Countries
9,200 Consumer Products
Free Sample Country List
continued on next page
“Best in Class” Distributor Standards
Multi-Channel Focus
Global brands source sales from multiple
trade channels: convenience, food-
service, discount, pharmacy, cash and
carry, natural, gourmet, and wholesale in
addition to traditional supermarkets and
hypermarkets. Best in Class sales teams
offer coverage of all trade channels and
deploy dedicated specialists with channel
specific expertise. Similarly, small shops
still represent 50% or more of food sales
volume in Latin America, Asia, and the
Middle East. Leading teams feature
focused programs for reaching “down
the trade” retail outlets.
Marketing Department Creative Ideas
Is the Distributors owner the “marketing”
department as well? Your primary point
of contact at the distributor has the
greatest ability to impact brand
results and influence the distributor’s
organization to achieve your priorities.
Strong distributors establish full- fledged marketing
departments with experienced university graduates filling key
roles. Successful marketing managers bring new ideas to your
business and adapt your brands marketing message to the local
market. Look for an energetic marketing team that adds value
and creativity and avoids the mistake of simply passing
through your standard presentation and plan.
Brand Presence at Point of Sale
The retail store is a showcase for our brands. Best in class
field sales teams “own the store” and can obtain more than
“fair share” of shelf space for the brands they represent.
Are your brands at eye level, with share of space in excess
of their market share? Or are your brands buried on the
bottom shelf, with only one facing per item? Strong distributors
maintain excellent store level coverage to insure fundamental
focus on correcting out of stocks, price tag placement, correct
pricing, off shelf display, point of sale placement, etc. Speed to
shelf timing on new products is another key metric to evaluate
distributors. Always request the retailer’s official schematic
(layout) to measure the authorized shelf space and positioning
for your brand.
Financial: Cost to Serve
The last 12 months reinforced the priority to be aligned with
a financially solid partner. Savvy manufacturers are requesting
new credit information and running Dun & Bradstreet reports on
all distributors in all markets to preempt the difficult situations
that transpired in other countries. Best in Class Distributors offer
competitive margins and provide ideas to generate cost savings
in your mutual business. The best distributors pay on time,
promptly submit promotional reimbursement requests, maintain
good financial tracking systems, and secure reasonable payment
terms from retailers.
Logistics: Service Level 98% +
Logistics represents a core component of a distributors
service offering. Advanced distributors promise 24 – 48 hour
delivery countrywide and maintain sophisticated inventory
replenishment systems. In large countries, look for distributor
warehouses outside the capital city. In some instances,
distributors may outsource logistics operations to another third
party special-izing in logistics only. This strategy normally works
well as long as the logistics company delivers excellent service
without incremental costs. Remember, most distributors were
founded as sales and marketing special-ists that provide logistics
services to satisfy the needs of their brand owners. My opinion
is that the distributor dedi-cates more focus to brand building if
the distributor can find another company to effectively manage
logistics. The key metric is 98% + service level and minimum
out of stocks at store level.
Best in Class distributors (large or small) deliver results in excess
of total market and category growth year after year. The best way
to measure topline distributor performance is to compare total
retailer growth and total category growth (excluding your brand)
with your brands performance in a country or at a retailer. Are
you getting your fair share of growth? Best in Class suppliers
recognize that there are substantial costs in investing and
developing a best in class team. Suppliers must recognize that
distributors are also in the business to make a reasonable profit.
The “Best in Class” relationship allows both parties to grow and
prosper from a sales and profitability standpoint.
continued from previous page
“Best in Class” Distributor Standards
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.
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 Distributors 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
Distributor Performance: 20/20 Business Analysis
The start of a new year is an appropriate time to review distributor performance. This process starts with the evaluation of the usual
metrics such as shipment results, market share, and success delivering new item placement. Normally, distributor performance ranges
across the spectrum from outstanding results delivered by top distributors to under-achievers who fail to meet their shipment budget.
Each scenario warrants a different approach in terms of managing for the future.
Distributor Segmentation Analysis
A valuable exercise is to segment your existing distributors into
the three groups: Leaders, Performers, and Laggards. Look at
the organizational models of your “Leaders” and Laggards.”
Are there consistent threads between the business specialization
of your distributor network? For example, do you find that your
“Leaders” are all Large Distributors (versus small), Big Brand
Distributors (vs. niche), Category/Ethnic specialists (vs. all types
of Food), technologically savvy versus “old school”? A similar
analysis should cover your “Laggard” distributors. Are under
performers small organizations that fail to meet your
requirements? Or alternatively, large distributors where your
brand is too small to gain sufficient attention? Your analysis may
reveal that one type of model works well for large or adjacent
countries while another approach works best for smaller or
remote countries. Look for the trends!
Lessons Learned
Completing the distributor segmentation exercise described
above should yield some important conclusions on the best
partner models to pursue for your brand. For example, an Italian
manufacturer of candy may confirm that his best performing
distributors are international confectionery experts, versus
distributors specializing only in Italian products. On the other
hand, an ethnic Asian food producer may find that the best
candidates to represent his brand are Asian channel specialists
versus distributors that represent all types of fine food categories
such as Tea & Olive Oil.
Next Steps
Honor your leaders and drive them to higher levels. Recognition
such as Distributor of the Year, visits with your company CEO,
or requests to deliver a presentation on their “success story” are
inexpensive motivators. “Laggards” impact our own ability to
achieve our personal objectives. We often like the people who work
at “Laggards”, but at times, you must act to protect the long term
interests of your company and pursue a change in distributors. It
is important to recognize that all companies have distributors that
are “Leaders” and “Laggards.” Proactive attention to fix the
“Laggards” will only improve your results versus suffering
through another year with a poor performing partner.
Export Solutions Can Help
Our industry leading database has been used by more than
3,000 brands to locate partners in 96 countries. This includes an
average of 85 unique distributors per country. There are always
many alternatives to consider in every country when you have
access to the Export Solutions database.
Export Solutions serves as a consultant to European and
American brands of all sizes. Our work includes analysis
of distributor networks and development of strategies for
motivating, measuring, and rewarding distributors. Export
Solutions has helped companies identify, interview, and
sign distributors on every continent. Contact Greg Seminara
at gseminara@exportsolutions.com to discuss your project.
Our motto is “Spend time Selling to Distributors vs. Searching
for Distributors.”
Distributor Segmentation
Results Next Steps
20% of total
Shipment increase of 10% or more.
Growing Market Share.
Innovative Strategies.
Recognition: Public & Financial.
Invest in team generated ideas.
Share learning with other markets.
60% of total
Shipments + 5% and in-line with
overall market growth.
Consistent results over
many years.
Support current growth trajectory.
Challenge to reach “Leader” status.
20% of total
Flat/declining shipments.
Poor results for 2+ years.
Low energy/innovation.
Probation status for existing partner.
Evaluate different representation options.
All markets have alternatives!
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.
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 5 C’s: Category Review, Calculation,
Cost of Plan, Compliance, Contract
There are 5 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