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Ten Tips: Distributor Interview Preparation and Insights

By: Greg Seminara, Export Solutions
Topics: Distributor Interviews

Distributor interviews can be compared to a first date. There is no second date after a bad first date, even if both parties are interested in each other. On the other hand, a good distributor first interview can lead to a lifelong relationship. Listed below are Export Solutions ten tips on enhancing the productivity of your distributor interview process.

1. Schedule Interview with four to six weeks lead time
This allows you to program several candidate interviews on your preferred timeline. Long lead times enhance the chance of distributor senior management availability and provide sufficient time for motivated distributors to research your category.

2. Meeting Agenda
Send a meeting agenda three weeks in advance of meeting. Typical discussion topics include Distributor credentials, organization model, coverage by channel, success stories, category insights, and distributor margin philosophy.

3. Store Visits - Pre -Interview
Export Solutions always conducts independent store visits prior to our distributor interviews. This supplies a snapshot of distributors performance for international brands they represent.This permits us to quickly become familiar with local category dynamics, competitive activity, and pricing.

4. Distributor Assessment Grid/Questions
Prepare an assessment grid template highlighting and weighting core assessment areas prior to your first interview. Create a list of potential questions to be asked during the meetings. Export Solutions provides free sample Distributor Assessment grids and " 10 Questions for every Distributor Interview" on our web site.

5. Distributor Presentation: Template or Tailored ?
A key indicator of distributor enthusiasm is whether they created a personal tailored presentation for your meeting or swapped brand logos and provided their "standard pitch". Best in class presentations alloocate equal time for Distributors CEO,functional heads, and your proposed first point of contact.

6. Your Company Presentation
Be prepared to share a 10-15 page presentation on your company credentials. Stick to the key facts:company metrics, product point of difference, export success stories, and plans for the market.Bring plenty of samples for everyone to try. Note that the distributor will ask for your presentation, so keep it brief as you do not want a lengthy strategic presentation in the hands of a distributor that is not selected. Read Ten Tips: Your Company Credentials Presentation for our insights on telling your story.

7. Tour Distributors Office and Warehouse
Would you buy a house without visiting it ? Distributor offices and warehouses offer valuable clues to distributor activity, head count, size, and professionalism. Your quick inspection will validate that the distributors activities match claims from their presentation.

8.  What's their Plan ?
A core question in a positive interview is "What would the distributors plan be, if we awarded them the business starting next Monday ?" This provides insights on their plans, timelines, and process for transitioning and building new brands.

9. What do you Like About Us ?
A good way to measure distributor interest is to ask their feedback on your opportunity towards the end of the meeting. Framing the question from a positive point of view allows the distributor to express interest or concerns.

10. Provide Homework Assignment
Conclude each positive meeting with a request for distributor to provide a deeper category assessment and a suggested entry or transition plan. Distributors should supply references for five of their existing clients.An important insight will be the quality and response time for completing the "homework".