For a distributor to be successful long-term, the days, weeks, and months following signing an international distributor are crucial. I share a piece of advice with clients about new distributors:
- Be ready to help them get started.
- Make sales.
- Gain market share from the beginning.
What can you do to ensure a distributor has the best chance of success and help build a foundation for long-term success.
These are the three strategies I use personally to help international distributors succeed and remain in our distribution network over time.
Spending time with them will make a huge difference in your international distributor’s confidence, performance, and overall well-being.
Here’s the onboarding schedule I use, and some of my clients have modified it to help their international distributors launch their brands in their countries.
- Send a “Welcome to the Family!” email to the distributor.
- Email your distribution network to announce the new distributor. Copy the distributor’s name. This email can be sent to your staff or domestic distribution network if you do not have international distributors.
- Send your distributor a certificate. These are some examples: APG Enerpac Mincon.
- You can send them the schedule of activities for each week (see below). They must be aware of the upcoming onboarding activities.
- Send promotional materials to your new distributor. I used to send a package with t-shirts, Polo shirts, hats and pens that were company-branded.
- The International Distributor Training Manuals should be sent to them (see the next section). Ask the distributor to review them at their own pace and take notes of any questions that may arise for future reference.
- Schedule sales, marketing, and other training sessions.
- For the distributor, set up a website account.
- Include the distributor’s information on the distributor locator page on your website.
- Ask them to look at the product lines and help you choose models for your first order.
Training sessions should be conducted. Make sure that the distributor is using the International Distributor Training Manuals.
Here are some key things you can do now:
- Your distributor can help you prepare a promotional calendar.
- Demonstrate to them how to place orders and plan their first order.
- Plan for the brand’s launch.
One common mistake that I have seen is for exporters to assume new international distributors are familiar with how to launch their brand, increase market share, and grow sales year over year. Training is essential for success and can also provide a competitive advantage for your business.
My experience has shown me that exporters are reluctant to provide training for new distributors. It is easy to create a training program. Exporters and their teams usually know to develop a distributor training program. However, this information is not always documented.
A training program was not available at the company I used to work at. I identified five training areas that I thought would be useful for new distributors. Next, I interviewed employees from our company who worked in these areas. Finally, I compiled the information into a training manual. I created a formal training program that addressed the critical areas.
- Administrative Duties
- Product Knowledge
- Installation and maintenance
The following items were covered in each section:
- Placing orders
- Warranty claims
- Requesting replacement parts
- For promotional materials, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us
- Staff gear purchase
- Accessories for your store
- Catalogue review
- Product models
- Safety features
- The best-selling products
- Recommendations for promotional channels
- Promotional activities
- Develop a promotional calendar
- Soft openings
- Grand opening of a store
- Promotional materials and advertising materials
- Interacting with clients
- Prezentation des produits
- Proper follow-up
- After-sale service
- Referring people
Installation and maintenance
- Installation teams will need to have a list of tools
- How to prepare for installation
- How to proceed during installation
- What should you do after installation?
- Maintenance checklist
To reassure new international distributors that you are there every step of their journey and that you appreciate their decision to become your distributor, it is important to keep in touch with them often. It is not a good idea to be silent. The first few days or weeks are crucial in setting the tone and expectations for your relationship.
Communication doesn’t have to be complex, but it does need to be consistent and regularly scheduled. Clients should use multiple communication channels, including email, phone calls and video conferences. In-person visits are also a good idea. Establish a communication schedule. Here’s an example of a communication schedule that I used:
- Weekly: Monday Morning Email Update
- Biweekly Marketing/sales highlight emails
- Biweekly: Phone call
- Quarterly Newsletter and Performance Review (see reporting below).
- Annually: End-of-fiscal year personal visit or conference calls
- Personal visits: Ad-hoc
International distributors should also be able to give feedback. Distributors should feel free to give feedback at any time. However, I have a quarterly report that allows them to offer thoughtful and candid feedback and suggestions.