Activating your Distributor for a Successful European Expansion

In my experience working with small businesses, the most typical mistake after they pick a distributor, is that they believe the job is over. Activating distribution channels is one thing I help my clients with. By doing this, you are securing your distributor’s attention. Keep in mind distributors have other things to promote, and their salespeople will naturally avoid a challenging pitch. As a new product in their range, salespeople may believe it will be harder to sell than items they are more familiar with.

Here are the five key points you have to consider when activating your distributor:

  • Training the Distributor’s Sales Team
  • Finding Distributor Champions
  • Giving them the Tools they Need
  • Generating Leads
  • Distributor Program

Training your Distributor’s Sales Team

Depending on your distribution plan, you may need to train your sales team for different levels of services and audiences. To give you an idea, here are two examples of the distributor model:

  1. Wholesalers who distribute to a network of retailers. You must on-board both the wholesaler’s sales staff and the retailer’s team.
  2. B2B distributor that targets end-users. Your target audience is your distributor’s sales team.

This investment in training must be highly strategic for a small firm with limited resources, especially if your distributor has over 100 sales team members. You must carefully assess your resources and effectively allocate them.

There are different formats for your sales team’s training program, and if you are not sure how to do it. Here’s a guide that you may want to follow:

  • Introduce the business to the sales representatives of the distributor. Sharing this information will help them market your business effectively.
  • Explain the technical features of your products.
  • Share with the distributors’ sales team your unique positioning in the market and what is your value proposition. 
  • Show them how they can sell your product and guide them so that they focus on  low-hanging fruit: explain which customer segment they should target first and how to sell to them. Share how your product solves problems for this type of customer.
  • Provide them enough time to ask questions regarding your product and learn from them, too.
  • Keep their enthusiasm by supplying them with sales packs at the end of the training. Usually, brochures would suffice. Collateral in their language is a must.

During your training programme, it is also an opportunity to gather as much information about your market as possible. Request that the representatives in the room provide you with further information about their clients. Identify with them who they are going to introduce your product to.

Finally, you must commit to re-training them regularly if you want them to stay motivated. You may deliver the second training session using e-learning programmes, or online videos.

Finding Distributor Champions

We’ve discovered that having sales champions on board and looking after them has worked well for us over the years. It is quite difficult to capture the attention of everyone with very large distributors. There will always be a few distributors’ sales reps who are enthusiastic about your products. These are the ones on which you should concentrate your efforts.

Why? By succeeding, they will demonstrate to their colleagues that selling your product is not hard, and it’s feasible. Ensure that your champions have all they require to market your products effectively.

Giving them the Tools they Need

It might be difficult to give enough help to your international distributors as a small or fast growing high-tech company with limited resources and no local presence in Europe. Nonetheless, you must guarantee that your distributors remain engaged and continue to concentrate their efforts on driving sales for your product.

It has proven to be difficult for our clients who can not provide multilingual marketing and technical collateral, to convince overseas distributors’ sales teams to market their products. In the end, the easier you make it for them to promote your product, the more sales you will generate for your company.

Brochures or Flyers

Brochures that provide technical information and key sales arguments about your product that are also available in the local language of your chosen country are one of the basic marketing collateral you can provide to your distributors.

Case Study

Another thing you can provide is a case study. It is tremendously encouraging for a client to hear from others who have purchased your product and are pleased with it. 

Samples and demo products

In terms of your champions, provide them with samples or kits so that they may showcase the product. It will make it easy for them to present your product systematically when they have a customer visit. You will stay top of mind.

Generating Leads

In every business, generating leads is one thing you have to do before converting them into sales. When distributors or channel partners see their client has requested the product, they are more willing to take it on. You would hope that the distributor would find clients for you in an ideal world, and that’s why you pay them the margin. However, generating sales leads for them can help you get to where you want to be faster and make sure your distributors sell faster.

Take advantage of trade shows and digital congresses

Always remember that the goal of attending any industry trade event is to create leads for your company. As a result, your strategy should be sales-focused to maximise your investment. Be strategic in the choice of the congress, and focus on the ones that your target customers typically attend.

Collect leads efficiently

Anyone who comes to your booth should leave their contact information. A very effective old-school method is to use an old-fashioned notebook in which you staple business cards you’ve gathered and put the person’s enquiry and the next action you need to do with this contact alongside each card. Scanners are my favorite tools, they are usually available to collect contact details electronically. You can even sometimes add notes next to scanned contact details, which is a huge time saver.

Don’t forget to follow up on your leads

The work begins with cultivating the fresh leads you’ve discovered. The first thing you should do is write a thank-you email to everyone who stopped by your stand. In general, it should complete this within the first several days following the trade exhibition. It might be a generic email with the same wording for everyone. You may thank them for their visit and will get back to them soon with their request. It buys you a bit of time before following each lead individually and your product will stay fresh in their mind.

Distributors Program 

If you work with a major distributor, you may take advantage of the programmes they run. The distributor will qualify their primary suppliers to be invited to take part in their sales and marketing campaign. These programmes are often not free. Instead, you may have to allocate a budget to take part or grant additional rebates for these marketing services. To keep your margins under control, first determine how much everything will cost.

Giving a realistic sales target is one of the most important things you can do when you work with a distributor. Initially, make it easy for them to achieve this target, gradually enticing them to work harder for you. You can create a marketing program together, such as attending trade shows together or developing a specific lead generation strategy for your industry.

Activate Your Distributor - Distributor Series Part 4

It is also something that you can request from them. Afterwards, it is up to you to determine what financial incentives to offer them about achieving specific goals, marketing campaigns, and sales targets. Keep the program simple for your distributors to use and easy to track for you.

For your business to have a successful expansion in the European market, make sure that you are activating your distributors. You don’t need to have the most sophisticated program to do this effectively.

You may also download our tools at which will help you choose the right distributor for your business when exporting to the European market.