Episode 5: Manage your distributors
Now you have engaged your distributors on a plan for the year. More often than not, then companies forget to manage that programme!
Set the scene
This is very down to earth: formalise the plan in a document, even a simple excel or word document will do the job, whatever the format you want. Once you and the distributor have agreed on the yearly plan, then simply share the plan with them formally, welcome them to the programme, attach the programme itself and set the quarterly performance review from the start. And it means for the European market you will need to start working on it with them from October as a minimum, for the programme to kick-off in January. In Europe, everything starts in January. In some sectors it could be September, you will need to be aligned with your industry.
Schedule performance reviews
In an ideal world, your distributor would roll out your plan beautifully and everyone would be happy. In reality, you will find that everyone, including you, is caught up in their day to day tasks and that the programme gets forgotten. Make a point to plan a strict schedule on a monthly informal update on how things are going for you to detect any issue with rolling out the plan. Then on a quarterly basis, the progress of every element of the plan can be reviewed.
You’re in control
Now the beauty of this is that you are in control! You can’t control everything in the field, but you now have a simple way to track how you are going against your own sales targets. You can easily measure if the distributor performs or not. You now have the information to evaluate if the distributor programme works, if you need to change or adapt it. “Have your targets been unrealistic? Has this leads generation campaign produced the expected results?” are the questions you can ask.
You now have the information to decide whether you will need to increase your support to a distributor, whether you will add a new distributor in the market. In the worst-case scenario, you have the means to terminate the relationship with a distributor, if things go wrong. If your quarterly evaluation of the distributors’ key performance indicators, shows that the distributor is not putting the effort in. Then you need first to understand why of course, then you may decide to let the distributor on and invest not as much time on it or completely discontinue them.
This is what a distributor’s programme is all about, it gives you the visibility on your sales, it shows you if you need to change anything in your approach to better support your distributor, or it also gives you the key information to determine if you will add or let go of a distributor.